Crafting The “Calm” Before the Storm

Norfolk Community Theatre

When it was originally broadcast, The War of the Worlds caused a type of simultaneous mass hysteria not seen before the advent of radio broadcasts. It taught us that while mass media can be a force for good, it can also be a source of misinformation. It is a lesson that is as important to remember today as it was then. This was one of many factors that attracted us to this production. However, since the script mirrors the original and only gives it’s audience an hour of entertainment, the production team decided that we wanted to add more to the night. This is what led me to write The “Calm” Before the Storm as a companion piece to the broadcast.

We knew that we wanted to accomplish a few things with the night’s addition. We wanted it to introduce characters to the audience before seeing them in action with The War of the Worlds. We wanted it to also introduce the characters to the world of radio broadcasts in the 30’s. Last, we wanted to provide some contrast to the dramatic action of war. With these goals in mind, I set to writing the new script.

Before I put the pen to the page, many hours were spent researching early radio broadcasts. I discovered that soap operas were invented for radio before ever reaching the television screen. I also learned that the style of delivery used in news broadcasts was quite different. Last, I found some great examples of commercials which, as they do today, reflect the culture and values of the time. Using what I learned, I pieced together an outline to take back to the production team.

With the approval of the outline and pile of research, the script came together quite quickly. Opportunities for humor came naturally by playing with the practicalities of the period. They also came through the cultural norms of the time, especially views of gender and tobacco use. Taken in a modern context, these views seem so absurd that we can’t help but laugh at them. With the script complete, all that was left was the title. Since The War of the Worlds can be viewed as a storm (both in dramatic action and in its effect on the psyche of the populace), I felt The Calm Before the Storm to be an appropriate title. However, since the action in my script ended up being anything but calm, I decided to treat the title a bit ironically and placed the word “Calm” in quotes.

It was a lot of fun to write this script and I can’t wait to see it in action. Thanks to everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to practice my creativity. I hope everyone enjoys The “Calm” Before the Storm!