By Brandon Kesselly, Staff Writer
Imagine a time where the Internet was inconceivable and television had yet to become the norm. All of your entertainment and other information came from word of mouth, newspapers and the radio.
You turn on your radio one evening, checking the stations for some music when you hear a story from a Carl Phillips in New Jersey speaking with a Princeton professor about a strange object that fell from the sky.
Phillips describes the scene, a creature emerges from the object and attacks everyone – civilians and police alike. You curl in a ball and worry as you hear the screams of death and strange noises. The pleading of the innocent falls on deaf ears. Only the professor survives, but out of cowardice, and he eventually begins to describe the creature as well as the incoming extraterrestrial invasion.
This very scenario is what Orson Welles put many listeners through on Oct. 30, 1938 when he debuted his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells‘ The War of the Worlds. For just over an hour, Welles had placed a spell on his audience, captivating listeners as they slowly heard the end of the world and the aftermath of the invasion as told by Princeton professor Richard Pierson.
Initially, Phillips interviewed Pierson about a series of strange explosions on Mars, but he denied the possibility of life on the big red planet. After receiving reports about the object, the two rushed to the scene of the brutal massacre by “heat ray”. Pierson is the sole survivor, and after a short interlude he begins to describe his life months after the initial invasion. The people he meets and with whom he interacts are interesting characters with thoughts of rebellion or submission, representing the schools of thought that would be expected to occur after an apocalyptic event.
On Oct. 31, 2013, the Regent Theatre hosted a live re-enactment of the original Welles broadcast, and it was one of the most interesting things to witness in this post-Google age. A projector was set up on a stage behind the cast members, who sat at their chairs with music stands, microphones and many hats. The sound crew was stage left, handling the volume and the effects as well. There was something oddly charming about the event even before it began. And then the broadcast occurred.
The performance of the broadcast was brilliant. The theater had an aura of a lecture hall, and the scenes were projected onto the screen as the cast splendidly performed their roles. A few changes were made from the original, such as reporter Carl Phillips being changed to Carla Phillips to reflect the voice actress.
The passion, comedy and overall delivery of every line and use of every sound effect made the show incredibly entertaining. It was funny when it needed to be, and creepy when the time was right. The effective acting was enough to make one forget that it was only an audio performance.
If you have never heard of War of the Worlds, I encourage you to find out as much as you can and to try to experience it as close to the original broadcast as possible. It was a worthwhile experience that was perfect for the Halloween festivities.