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UHM’s Theatre and Dance Association is proud to present a staged reading of War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Script, by Howard E. Koch, based on the 1897 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. This radio play about a cataclysmic invasion of aliens from Mars, which became known for the confusion and panic it caused when it initially aired on October 30, 1938, arrives at the Kennedy Theatre Main Stage in time for Halloween. It also arrives during a year when, particularly after the January 13th false missile alert, who we trust for information and how we respond to fear are eerily relevant questions. The staged reading, produced by UHM Theatre and Dance Department students, runs at 7:30pm on October 26 and 27, and on October 30, the 80th anniversary of the original broadcast.
The radio play was first performed by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre Company, whose weekly radio program, Mercury Theatre on the Air, adapted works of literature for 60 minute radio performances. When Welles first suggested using War of the Worlds for their next project, he proposed that they introduce much of the action of the story through fake news bulletins. Welles and the company were worried that audiences would be bored with what they considered relatively dry source material, so they wanted to place the action in real time for listeners and did everything they could to make the story sound as real and as terrifying as possible. Little did they know the nationwide uproar and scandal that would follow their broadcast. The story depicts a spacecraft from Mars landing in a small town in New Jersey; events then quickly escalate into a full-fledged invasion, as Martians wipe out most of the United States.
This UHM Theatre and Dance Association staged reading will bring audiences an authentic, yet updated, experience of this classic radio play. The dramatic readings will be recorded for future radio broadcast, but, as director Kat Altman describes, “Live audiences will also get to experience visual elements that aim to enhance both the scary and the fun of the evening, from projections, to live Foley sound effects, to the occasional sight gag.” The production also draws contextual connections between the original broadcast and today. “Radio was a relatively recent household staple and site for communication in the 1930s, and people were asking questions then about its purpose and ethical obligations. We see people wrestling with similar questions today when it comes to social media and other modern technologies. Are these forms of communication obligated to serve the public good, to inform? And who can we trust to tell us the truth about the world around us?” asks Altman, who adds that the parallels between individual responses to the original broadcast and to the ballistic missile false alert in January are striking.
The Theatre and Dance Association is a student organization whose mission is to offer artistic and academic support for students of the Department of Theatre and Dance at UHM by providing performance opportunities and supporting independent student projects.
Tickets for The War of the Worlds are available 24/7 online at eventbrite.com. Cash only door sales will be available from 6:30pm on performance nights.
War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Script
UHM Theatre and Dance Association
October 26, 27, and 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy Theatre Mainstage
1770 East-West Road, 96822
$5 General Admission
Advance tickets are available online at eventbrite.com. Tickets will be sold at the door, CASH ONLY, from 6:30pm on performance nights.