Just in time for Halloween, Western Carolina University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center hosted their very own faculty rendition of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, simulating an alien invasion that became famous as a radio hoax in 1938.
In order to put together such a large recreation of Welles’ play “The War of the Worlds,” many hands were involved in the production and performance. The Communication, Music, English, Stage and Screen departments played a part in every aspect of “Worlds.” In a lot of ways, it was cool to see familiar faces performing the play’s major roles. Terrance Mann acted as the famous Professor Pierson, Don Connelly read out the CBS radio announcements with the authenticity of a 1938 broadcaster, Peter Savage gave out some bone-chilling screams of humans being destroyed by heat rays, and Terry Nienhuis’ displayed an unfailing ability to give stunning voice performances. Of course, this wouldn’t be complete without Steve Carlisle as the director of the production and Dr. Bruce Frazier’s beautiful music to accompany the actors. Pat Acheson also gave a memorable recreation of “Woofing the Time,” which many people who saw the play will remember quite vividly. For those of you who did not see it, “Woofing” is a countdown to airtime announced every thirty seconds for five minutes prior to “airtime.” Susan Brown-Srauss, who recently joined the Department of Stage and Screen, did a lovely job of designing the costumes for “Worlds.”
Every portion of this production was brilliant. Carlisle and the other performers sincerely recreated the “War of the Worlds” on October 30, exactly 70 years since the night Welles’ original broadcast aired. What I really appreciated about this was the collaboration of so many departments, which is not seen at Western very often. The freshman Honors students in a theater class who helped act as the family listening to “Worlds” on their home radio and gave oral presentations on the history of the show and Niggli Theater prior to the opening. When asked about his involvement as a student in the history of “Worlds,” freshman Motion Picture major Zach Heaton said, “I learned a lot to present the history poster on ‘War of the Worlds.’ It was really fascinating to get to work on it. I really enjoyed it.”
After amazing productions like “Music Man” and “Guys and Dolls,” I was still entirely impressed by this show. I felt like I was there and, despite being a reasoned college student living in 2008, I felt like I was sitting back in time listening to it on the radio. I was truly frightened that aliens would come to earth with heat rays and black smog, which made it the perfect choice for Halloween.