On the evening of Oct. 30, 1938, panic ensued when the infamous Orson Welles radio dramatization of “War of the Worlds” aired. With Welles as the dramatic narrator, the broadcast was presented by “Mercury Theatre on the Air” as a special Halloween program for CBS radio. Based on the H.G. Wells science fiction story and adapted to a modern setting by Howard Koch, the actors eerily — and realistically — portrayed a Martian invasion of earth.

Presented in a live breaking news format, the dramatization was perceived by some Americans to be real. After initially causing rumors and panic, what quickly followed was a barrage of complaints, anger and apologies when it was discovered that the world was not really coming to an end. The next day, Welles faced reporters at a press conference and expressed his regrets. America, it would appear, had been duped just in time for a Halloween trick.

GreenMan to perform reenactment

This historic broadcast will be brought back to the air waves in March as the Elmhurst History Museum presents GreenMan Theatre Troupe in an online presentation of “War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Script.” Six pre-recorded audio-only performances will be available starting at 7 p.m. on March 19, 20, 21 and March 26, 27 and 28 on the Broadway On Demand streaming platform.

Instead of the radios used in the 1930s, listeners can gather around a streaming device of choice to tune into the show!

Advance tickets may be purchased via Broadway On Demand’s web site at broadwayondemand.com or visit elmhursthistory.org/320/Programs. The fee is $2.95 payable to Broadway On Demand at the time of streaming. Participants must create a free Broadway On Demand profile to stream the pre-recorded program.

More about the exhibition

“War of the Worlds” is presented in conjunction with the Elmhurst History Museum’s current exhibit, “Together We Cannot Fail: Overcoming the Great Depression.” The exhibit chronicles the causes and effects of the Great Depression and explores some of the ways the federal government and local communities responded to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. During this era, the radio was a primary medium for hearing the latest news and entertainment and radio culture is explored in the exhibit. Radio plays and serials played a large role in American family life during this time, offering a welcome respite from the doldrums of the Great Depression. The exhibit is on display through May 2, 2021 at the Elmhurst History Museum, which is located at 120 E. Park Ave. in downtown Elmhurst. Admission is free, and reservations are required and can be made at elmhursthistory.org.

The cast

This GreenMan Theatre Troupe production is directed by Rebecca Easley. The cast includes: Anthony Urso (Stranger), Dave Oberg (General Montgomery Smith, Operator One), Debbie Proska (Gunner, Bystander One), Erin Payton (Wilmuth), Jason Sheldon (Commander Voght, Bystander Three), Jen Collins (Policeman, Operator Four), Jenna-Rose Drea (Announcer Two), Katie Lahey (Observer, Bystander Two), Ken Bartels (Captain Lansing, Operator Five), Kevin Traynor (Orson Welles / Narrator), Lewis Jones (Professor Richard Pierson), Liz Steele (Secretary Of The Interior, Announcer Three, Operator Three), Maurice McNicholas (Vice President Harry McDonald, Officer, Operator Two), Melanie Fagan (Announcer / Announcer One) and Patrick Gallagher (Reporter Carl Phillips).

The program was recorded with technical assistance from Sigi Mueller and Rich Reichert of the E-Town Lowdown Podcast with support from Community Bank of Elmhurst.

For tickets and more information, visit elmhursthistory.org.


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