A Murder of Crows

Halloween, 2003
Sponsored by McMenamins Theatres and Pubs

Once again the Willamette Radio Workshop presented a live radio theater event at three of our favorite venues. First a tantalizing preview of our full show, presented by our director Sam A. Mowry, Tuesday, October 28th, 2003 on Stage & Studio, KBOO 90.7�s Arts and Entertainment show hosted by Dmae Roberts and Emily Young. (Stage & Studio and all KBOO�s other fine shows can be found on its webcast by visiting http://www.kboo.fm/index.php.)

Then on Halloween night, Friday, October 31st, 2003 @ 7pm & 8:30pm, we presented an hour of original stories, written especially for the Workshop, at the McMenamins Kennedy School. Saturday November 1st was the anniversary party for the famous White Eagle Saloon and we were there once again. Each show featured a different hour-long combination of stories.

An article featuring Murder of Crows appeared in Horizon Air Magazine.

A Murder of Crows featured the literary talents of Kris Armetta, Carole Dane, Mark Homayoun, William E. Gregory, William S. Gregory, Mary Robinette Kowal, Robert Kowal, Cynthia J. McGean, Chris Porter, Phil Rudolph and Douglas Watson.

John Martin Gallagher was once again doing our sound design and Sam A. Mowry was our producer.

Dracula — Halloween 2002

A live radio re-creation of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air’s first broadcast.

Sponsored by McMenamins Theatres and Pubs

The Willamette Radio Workshop presented a live re-creation of the Mercury Theatre of the Air‘s first radio broadcast, Dracula, by Bram Stoker adapted by Orson Welles. This was the latest installment in a series of performances, started on Halloween, 2001 with the wildly successful War of the Worlds presented at CoHo Theatre to standing room audiences.

2002 found the WRW bringing the ultimate story of the supernatural to the McMenamins Empire. First published in 1897, the novel Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker has never been out of print. It has been reissued in over 300 editions, including dozens in foreign languages. The figure of Count Dracula has dominated twentieth-century culture, from movies to cereal boxes to radio.

Cast: Mark Homayoun, Scott Jamieson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Bryan Mackey, Atticus Welles Mowry, Sam A. Mowry, Chris Porter, Mark Twohy and Emily Young

Sound Design and Live Foley:
John Martin Gallagher, Robert Kowal and Amy Gray

Read the Script!

Radio Free Frights! — Portland Tribune

Radio free frights

Willamette Radio Workshop gets ready for some Halloween broadcasts of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”

BY PAUL DUCHENE Issue date: 10/25/2002

The Tribune

Orson Welles’ radio career is inextricably linked with “The War of the Worlds.” This 1938 production of the H.G. Wells sci-fi story caused widespread panic when its broadcast was thought to be actual news bulletins of an alien invasion.

But “Worlds” was actually Welles’ 29th show with the Mercury Theatre of the Air. He’d been doing radio dramas since 1936, and for a year he was the main character voice in “The Shadow” radio serial.

He would go on to produce and act in more than 100 additional dramas before Hollywood beckoned in 1940.

Sam Mowry’s Willamette Radio Workshop group successfully revived “War of the Worlds” last year at Halloween, filling the CoHo Theatre in Northwest Portland for a midnight performance.

“We had 50 no-shows, and it was still full — thank God they didn’t come,” he says.

This year, Mowry’s crew is tackling Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” which Welles adapted in July 1938. They’ll perform it live at the White Eagle Saloon, McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove and the Kennedy School in the days leading up to Halloween.

“Welles got the rights to it at the last minute — he was going to launch the season with ‘Treasure Island,'” Mowry says. “He and John Houseman sat in an all-night cafe cutting up seven copies of the book and gluing pages together to make the script. They argued around the clock for 36 hours, eating and drinking the whole time, then dropped off the pages at the typing pool and left Welles’ secretary to pay the bill.”

Mowry follows up with a prize-winning piece of trivia about English theater manager Bram Stoker, who wrote the story in 1897 and made vampire a household word. Vampires continue to enthrall 100 years later, immortalized in movies and television.

“Bram Stoker was (actor-impresario) Henry Irving’s stage manager, and one of the first things he did was offer Irving the play of ‘Dracula,'” Mowry says. “Irving wouldn’t touch it, and many people believed that it was because the character of Dracula was based on him.

“Think about it,” Mowry says. “We accept the idea of vampires, but when the story was written, nobody knew what they were. Here’s this great story: Basically, a real estate salesman goes to close a deal in Eastern Europe — and instead this evil is loosed on the world!”

Welles’ script runs 55 minutes and can be heard online at http://www.scifi.com/set/playhouse/dracula/ though it’s not a high-quality recording. But the adaptation rushes along, with foley sound effects creating the atmosphere of doom.

Radio drama is a very mobile production, Mowry says.

“It’s not like theater, where you have six weeks of rehearsal and a six-week run,” he says. “Here we can do five shows with a cast of 12. It takes a half-hour to set up a one-hour show and a half-hour to break it down. The sound equipment is the biggest thing.”

And Halloween horror stories are perfect for radio drama, Mowry says. “It’s the power of suggestion. Everybody carries their own private hell with them.’

Contact Paul Duchene at pduchene@portlandtribune.com.


When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26

Where: White Eagle Saloon, 836 N. Russell St., 503-282-6810

When: 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 27

Where: McMenamins Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave. Forest Grove, 505-992-9533

When: 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31

Where: The Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. 503-249-3983

Cost: $3 at Grand Lodge, other performances free

War of the Worlds — Portland Tribune

Martians ready to invade

Willamette Radio Workshop brings back “War of the Worlds”

BY PAUL DUCHENE Issue date: 10/26/2001

The Tribune

You might find it hard to believe as an adult that you were ever scared of things that go bump in the night.

But if there’s a little flicker in the back of your mind, you might enjoy Willamette Radio Workshop’s live re-creation of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast from Oct. 30, 1938, of “The War of the Worlds,” which takes over CoHo Theater on Saturday.

Welles’ Mercury Theatre managed to overamplify the story of Martians invading Earth by presenting it as a series of live news broadcasts. The resulting panic among listeners led to a front-page story in The New York Times and subsequent federal restrictions on radio broadcasts.

The very idea of radio terror seems far distant from the present, only a month after millions of viewers watched close to 5,000 people die on morning television when the towers of New York’s World Trade Center were destroyed.

But radio is theater of the mind, and the hobgoblins we create can be scarier than reality, however awful it is.

Portland actor Sam Mowry staged a reading of “The War of the Worlds” last Halloween with such success that he resolved to re-create Welles’ production.

“I did it last year with radio and TV people, and we were going to repeat it but it fell through because of conflicting schedules,” Mowry said. “Meanwhile I’d started Willamette Radio Workshop and everybody said: “Why don’t we do it?”

Twelve actors sound off Mowry aims to duplicate Welles’ hourlong CBS production with 12 actors and live Foley sound effects (named for Jack Foley, the technician who developed them).

Welles’ production, based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 book, was announced as a drama before it started, but the problems began when people switched to the 8 p.m. show in progress.

Starting with a news flash about explosions on the planet Mars, bulletins and scene broadcasts followed, describing a meteor hitting a farm at Grovers Mill, N.J. The meteor was then revealed as a metal cylinder from which strange creatures emerged firing death rays.

Meanwhile, large numbers of listeners had been listening to “The Chase and Sanborn Hour” with Edgar Bergen and dummy Charlie McCarthy on NBC, and many changed stations at the first musical break, rather than listen to Dorothy Lamour sing “Two Sleepy People.”

What they dialed into was Frank Readick as newscaster Carl Phillips describing the scene at the meteor as the Martians emerge. Police can be heard shouting in the background as Readick gradually loses his cool. Readick said later he based his delivery on the reporter who had witnessed the destruction of the Hindenburg only 18 months earlier.

Terrified voices can be heard as the din increases and the death ray guns are firing. Then abruptly, there’s dead silence. After Readick’s “death,” bulletins and news reports describe the Martian advance across New Jersey and nerve gas attacks on New York City.

(Those who listened to more of the show might have wondered exactly how the Martians managed to wipe out the 7,000-member-strong New Jersey National Guard and march clear across the East Coast in 15 minutes.)

Panic reigns At the break, the station announced that the show was a drama   but the damage had been done. Even though The Associated Press and New York and New Jersey police announced there was nothing to worry about, police stations and newspapers were swamped with calls, and panicked listeners rushed into the street. The New York Times alone received 875 calls.

Analyst Hadley Cantril estimated in a 1966 study that 20 percent of the audience exhibited signs of mass hysteria. Phone calls to friends and relatives spread the terror across the country, leading to scenes like the man in Pittsburgh who returned home to find his wife in the bathroom holding a bottle of poison and screaming, “I’d rather die this way.”

“The War of the Worlds” is seldom aired, though there is an original tape. Station WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y., successfully updated the play using its news staff and DJs and local settings in 1968.

“We won’t be broadcasting this one either,” Mowry said, recalling a 1950 broadcast in Caracas, Venezuela, that was so successful an angry mob stormed the station and burned it down.

Contact Paul Duchene at pduchene@portlandtribune.com.

“The War of the Worlds”

What: Live re-creation of Orson Welles’ broadcast

Where: CoHo Theater, 2257 N.W. Raleigh St.; 503-295-3565

When: 11 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $5

“War of the Worlds” on OPB — Transcript

OPB Radio’s news magazine airs Tuesday-Friday afternoons at 4:30
New “War of the Worlds” – Colin Fogarty
October 26, 2001

This weekend, a radio theater troupe in Portland will recreate a Halloween production from 1939. The “War of the Worlds” was Orson Welles’ early claim to fame. At a time, when the nation was preparing for world war, the “War of the Worlds” sounded real to many listeners. The modern production wouldn’t confuse anyone. But as Colin Fogarty reports, it could have some relevance for today’s audience.

You’ve heard Sam Mowry. But you likely didn’t notice him.

Commercial: The aggressive aerodynamic style of the Mitzubishi Eclipse will get you as much attention as you want. At a 16-valve engine and rack and pinion steering. And you my friend will be the total package. The GI Joe’s take it to the extreme 14-hour sale this Friday. We still have the sales. Grab the gear and seize the season.

Mowry’s got what in the business they call “great pipes.” But commercial voiceovers are his day job. He’s really a stage actor, playing every part from Henry the 8th to Henry Higgins. But Mowry’s latest project takes place in the theater of the mind. He plays Orson Welles in a radio theater production of the “War of the Worlds.”

Mowry voice: We know now that in the early years of the 20th century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s, and yet as mortal as his own”.

Welles voice: We know that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

Saturday night, Mowry?s Willamette Radio Workshop is staging a live performance of “War of the Worlds” in the worlds at the New Coho Theater in Northwest Portland. He hopes, in part, the revival will change people’s perception of Orson Welles.

Mowry: What they’re used to hearing from Orson Wells is the “Yes, we will sell no wine before it’s time.” And that’s what most people go, “Oh yeah, Orson Wells, the wine guy.” But when he was doing this, he was 21, 22, he’s actually much higher.

Mowry listened to old-time radio as a child, back when stations ran reruns of programs like “The Shadow.” As an actor in Portland, he found that there was a great deal of interest among fellow actors.

Mowry: What I love about it as an actor is that you can be anything you want to be. And my Dad, and I think everybody has this story, when my parents asked him whether he liked radio or TV better, he said, “Oh, I like radio, the pictures are much better.”

By re-producing the “War of the Worlds,” the Willamette Radio Workshop hopes to raise money for a series of original radio theater productions. At a time when foreign correspondents report by videophone and the Internet is more common than the newspaper, radio theater seems antiquated. But Mowry believes radio can forge a closer tie with the listener.

Mowry: And it is that intimate connection between a person and a microphone and that microphone and somebody’s ear, and you’re talking to them and you’re sharing an idea or love or hate or envy or any kind of human emotion that you’re sharing with them in a very intimate, very personal way makes for a tremendous connection.

Mowry says the production of “War of the Worlds” has special significance for our time. Just as in the radio play, the nation has been under attack’by hijackers using airplanes as weapons and by bioterrorists, sending anthrax spores through the mail. Some listeners of the original “War of the Worlds” panicked thinking Martians were really invading.

Mowry: And one of the things that we learned is that we do need to think before we act. And I think that’s as much of a good lesson today as it was back then. And even more so now because I think we’re a little more on par with the Martians ourselves in terms of having weapons of mass destruction that maybe we can and cannot use wisely.

Mowry hopes the re-production of the “War of the Worlds” doesn’t scare its audience during a delicate time. Rather the play is meant to comfort.

Mowry: It all comes out in the end. Humanity does survive and humanity does survive because there’s an innate plan for us to survive.

Welles voice: This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, to assure you that the “War of the Worlds” has no further significance than the holiday offering it was intended to be.

Mowry: So, good-bye everybody and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight: that grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an invader of the pumpkin patch. And if your doorbell rings and there’s nobody there, that was no Martian, it’s Halloween.

Copyright 2001  Oregon Public Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.