OUTLOOK: Relive the 1938 Radio Drama: “The War of the Worlds” Comes Alive in Vicksburg Theatre Guild Production
Published 4:00 am Sunday, March 19, 2023
Perhaps there is no radio show episode more familiar than The Mercury Theatre on the Air’s broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.”
Narrated by Orson Welles and broadcast Oct. 30, 1938, the episode, intended to be a spoof for Halloween, was a fictional reporting of an extraterrestrial invasion. But when some listeners tuned in midway through the programing and heard the performers talking about Martians that had landed on Earth – they mistook the broadcast as real time news reporting and a bit of a panic ensued.
This iconic radio episode that rattled much of the country will once again be performed as the Vicksburg Theatre Guild presents, “War of the Worlds: 1938 Radio Script.”
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Don Hill, who is serving as the director of the production, said local cast members will be using the same script from the original broadcast allowing audience members to step back in time during the Golden Age of radio.
However, while the show was originally intended for listeners only, Hill said there will be a few surprises during the VTG production to enhance the audience experience including recreating the old CBS radio station.
“Being a first-time director, I wondered how this (the play) would look visually, he said, because it wouldn’t be very entertaining to just watch actors read their scripts. Therefore, Hill, along with his production crew, which is comprised of his wife, Lisa, and Jason and Hope King, converted the stage into a 1930s radio station.
And while there are visual elements for the audience to enjoy, Hill said to ensure the actors honed in on the radio performance, he called in a professional – Mark Jones, the local owner of WVBG 105.5 FM and 1490 AM radio.
“I brought in Mark Jones for an evening to listen to us and offer some critique since he has been in the radio business since the 1970s. I thought it would be beneficial for the cast to pick the brain of somebody who had been in radio for a long time,” Hill said.
Cast members for the local production include new-comer Brian Jordon, who will be taking on the role of Orson Wells, Preston Lanier, Nikki Ciciora, Jai Reeves, Shay Dixon, Ashleigh Holliday, Willie Thomas Jr., and Andrew Cochran.
“The War of the Worlds” is an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel of the same name and was written between 1895 and 1897.
Performances of the VTG’s “The War of the Worlds” will be offered at 7:30 p.m. March 24, 25, 31 and April 1 and at 2 p.m. March 26 at the Parkside Playhouse Theatre, 101 Iowa Ave. Tickets are $15, $10 for ages 65 and older and 12-18 and $8 for ages 12 and younger and are available at the box office or online at www.showclix.com/events/10243.
This is bonus play, Hill said, and not part of the membership season. For more information, visit www.e-vtg.com.