By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
Thursday, October 9, 2014
When The War of the Worlds was first broadcast on the radio on Oct. 30, 1938, it reportedly caused mass hysteria among the millions of listeners who thought the tale of a Martian invasion was real.
To fool listeners, the hour-long radio play -- narrated by Orson Welles, adapted for radio by Howard Koch from the H.G. Wells' classic novel -- used news bulletins to interrupt what people thought was regularly scheduled programming.
Of course, it wasn't, and the show would became one of the most famous radio broadcasts of all time.
Now a local theatre group, King's Town Players, will offer its version of the classic radio drama -- although it won't be broadcast over the airwaves, on Monday night -- almost 76 years later.
It won't be the first radio drama King's Town Players has performed. That was It's a Wonderful Life, which they performed as a fundraiser during the holiday season.
"We did a couple of Christmas ones as fundraisers, and I think people really enjoyed that, they liked the inside peek into radio dramas and the practical sound effects," explained King's Town Players co-founder Krista Garrett, who added that she has no idea from where the original idea of performing a radio drama came.
Those sound effects will come courtesy of a device dubbed the "Miami Sound Machine" (Gloria Estefan, anyone?).
"It's basically a big box with bells and whistles on it, and a little door, something that makes creaks," Garrett chuckled. "We built it for the radio plays."
A radio drama also gives its actors a chance to do something different.
"The luxury of it is that you can spend time on voice work, but you don't have to worry about memorization or blocking or any of that kind of stuff," Garrett said. "I think that's what makes it a lot of fun for the actors in the community, too. You get a lot more people willing to volunteer their time because it's only five or six rehearsals, and you get to have fun. Even if they do mess it up, the audience will laugh, more likely."
Just like the radio play troupes of old, there will be just fewer actors than parts.
"So that generally means multiple roles, which also adds to the frenetic nature of it and the fun of having to go back and forth between different characters," Garrett said.
And more than a few things have changed since the drama's broadcast in 1938.
"It's a bit dated, but that's part of the fun, right?" Garrett suggested. "So you get to do your intrepid reporter voice and things you don't normally get to do, which is fun."
King's Town Players did, however, did have to tweak one thing in their version, particularly since Garrett will be one of the five actors onstage upstairs at the Kingston Brewing Company.
"The War of the Worlds presentation didn't have any females initially," she said, "so we changed the name of one of the characters."
The King's Town Players' version of it surely won't set off widespread panic since it's not being broadcast, but Garrett hopes that will soon change, though. The group is hoping to collaborate with a local radio station to broadcast the troupe's next two radio dramas, next month's The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon and February's Casablanca.
What: King's Town Players present the radio drama The War of the Worlds.
When: Monday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Dragon's Lair, Kingston Brewing Company, 34 Clarence St.
Cost: Tickets are $15 at the door, $13 in advance.
For more: Go to www.kingstownplayers.com