The Willamette Radio Workshop in conjunction with CoHo Theatre presented Orson Welles’ production of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds The 1938 “Panic Broadcast” This was a live recreation of the original broadcast that shook a nation on the brink of war. The script, a loose adaptation of H. G. Welles SCI-FI classic by Howard Koch (who went on to write Casablanca) tells the story of Martians invading the Earth.
The program was presented as a series of live news feeds that created a touch of realism by breaking into a placid evening of dance music. Although the program clearly stated at the beginning and at the half way point that it was a radio drama, most of the country was tuned into the Chase and Sandborn Hour with Edgar Bergen and Charley Macarthy, the most popular radio tandem in the country. However, Nelson Eddy was the musical guest that night and when he began to sing a couple of not-too-popular songs, the radio audience began to spin those dials, coming into the War of the Worlds broadcast after the disclaimer. The subsequent panic, from listeners who took the radio play for real, traumatized several cities across the eastern seaboard. It is important to note that no one was killed or killed themselves, but rumors of such activity spread as fast as the rumors of Martian invasion. The ensuing notoriety made Orson Welles a star and showed the devastating power of radio in the new age of mass communication.
WRW’s 12 actors, using live foley sound effects, live music and a plethora of old school analog audio magic sought to reproduce the excitement and drama with a production faithful to the spirit of ” live Radio.” The sell-out crowds to WRW’s production of War of the Worlds enjoyed take a look at a vibrant entertainment medium and this opportunity to look back at the best Halloween prank ever pulled on the American Public.
If you haven’t seen live radio, you ain’t heard nothing yet.
Willamette Radio Cast and Credits
Sam A. Mowry – Orson Welles / Professor Person
Chris Porter – Carl Phillips
Mary Robinette Harrison – New York Announcer
Solomon Grundy – Announcer #2
Amy Gray – Wilmuth
Margie Boule – Announcer #3
Mark Twohy – Operator # 5
Mark Homayoun – Stranger
Tim McKennie – Announcer #4
Jodi Eichelberger – Mercury Announcer/Captain Lansing
Sound Design – Marty Gallagher, Amy Gray
Lights – Sally Lawson
Box Office – Alyson Ayn Osborn
Producer – Robert Kowal
Director – Sam A. Mowry
Special Thanks: CoHo Theatre, Gary Cole, Liane, The Cast and Crew of Spinning into Butter, Amy Gray, Marty Gallagher, Cindy McGean, Atticus Mowry, Michael Gandsey & T2 Audio and all our family and friends that make our work possible.