Two years ago, Seanchai library and friends set themselves a towering goal: to re-create one of the most famous radio events in history. One which, legend has it, caused panic across the United States as that great nation, like the world at large, suffered its share of pre-war jitters.
Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G Wells’ allegorical classic, War of the Worlds sits in the annals of history as one of the most remarkable adaptations ever undertaken of a work of fiction – even though it would appear that some of the panic it was said to have caused at the time was perhaps not quite so widespread as later claimed. As such a famous piece, it has down the years frequently been recreated in various forms; not that this popularity has made it any easier a broadcast to recreate in any medium.
Staged in time for Halloween 2011, the Seanchai Library’s adaptation, however, was nothing short of marvellous. So much so that additional performances had to be scheduled.
Now, on Friday November 1st, 2013 at 17:00 SLT, the Avatar Repertory Theatre will be staging a single performance of War of the Worlds at their New Theatre at Cookie. The performance will see several of the cast from Seanchai Library’s 2011 production return to the microphone, together with a host of new (to the play) voices from ART.
As with the Seanchai Library production, the ART performance will be taking place with the blessings of the estate of Howard Koch who, with writing partner Anne Froelich, wrote the original 1938 script.
Caledonia Skytower, who directed things in 2011, will be producing this very special performance to mark the 75th anniversary of Welles’ original Mercury Theatre production, which went out over the airwaves on October 30th 1938. In it, Welles transferred the events of the novel in both setting and time from England in the late 19th century to New Jersey and New York in 1939.
Producing the show as well as performing in it, Welles is said to have deliberately structured his adaptation so that the first “news broadcast” from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, would occur some 12 minutes into the show, knowing full well that it was around that time that those listening to NBC Radio’s The Chase and Sandborn Hour would frequently re-tune their radios to listen to his Mercury Theatre on CBS. Thus, they would immediately be caught-up in the drama as if it were real-life events unfolding before them through their radios – a move which perhaps worked a little too well, as subsequent real life events would demonstrate.
The ART production will feature the voice talents of Kayden Oconnell, Corwyn Allen, MadameThespian Underhill, Ada Radius, Avajean Westland, Sodovan Torak, Em Jannings, Thundergass Menges, and will also include dynamic effects. Because of the latter, and in order for lag in general to be reduced as far as possible, members of the audience are asked to refrain from wearing heavily scripted attachments, to remove HUDS and meters, prior to arrival, etc.
The performance is free to attend, although donations are welcome. I’ll likely see you there!
H.G. Wells and Orson Welles met only once in real life, and that was after the infamous 1938 broadcast. However, in 2008, a group of students from the Vancouver Film School presented a short film which brought the two men together in a fictional 1938 radio interview, the events of which just might have given Orson Welles a certain seed of inspiration. I’ll leave you with it in order to further whet your appetite.
- Avatar Repertory Theatre SLurl (Rated: Moderate)