5Q :: Air raid — Grover’s Mill, N.J., is under siege!On Halloween, Rubber Chicken Theater will re-create Orson Welles’ radio version of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” live from The Shack in Superior.
John A. Munson has some big shoes to fill. The Wisconsin Public Radio personality is teaming up with Brian Matuszak and the Rubber Chicken Theater crew to re-create Orson Welles’ (in)famous take on H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.”
When the legendary thespian brought the sci-fi nightmare to the airwaves in the late ’30s, he caused quite a stir.
Why? He did it in such a believable manner that people actually thought it was happening. More specifically, listeners believed the “live newscast” when it was announced that Grover’s Mill, N.J., was being attacked by aliens.
The headline at the top of the Oct. 31, 1938, edition of The New York Times says it all: “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War-Drama as Fact.”
To celebrate this intriguing undertaking — they’re doing it live, after all — we sent a few questions over to the KUWS newsman:
Budgeteer: How were you first exposed to the (in)famous radio telling of “The War of the Worlds”? What were your initial impressions?
Munson: I first heard about the broadcast from my mother and father, who actually heard it on the radio when it happened. I first heard a recording of the original broadcast in the early ’70s while in college. I thought it was a brilliant piece of radio theater, in part because of its simplicity and, of course, the voice of Orson Welles.
Are you guys (and one gal) deviating at all from the original to make it your own?
We’re using the 1938 Howard Koch script as written. We are not updating it in any way.
Teach us something: After the fake-news-broadcast fallout, were any laws enacted to prevent something of its sort from ever happening again in our country?
The broadcast of the original “The War of the Worlds” did not result in any legislation or changes in the law of broadcasting.
The Communications Act of 1934 already contained prohibitions against broadcasting false newscasts. CBS faced heavy public censure, in spite of the fact that the original broadcast carried disclaimers at the beginning, middle and end that it was a radio play.
The network promised never again to use the phrase “we interrupt it broadcast” during a radio play.
Hypothetically, if Martians did come to Earth to burn down our cities, how would you spend your last hours?
If the Martians invaded, I’d be with my family — but I’d also have a good book along.
Finally, what’s next for you? Are you working on any other big projects you’d like to tell our readers about?
I’m working on a re-creation of the Campbell Playhouse version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (from the ’30s) for broadcast next December.
The plan is to have a live orchestra and singers to provide all the music for the show. I’d like it to be a big event. We’ll see if I can pull it off.
I also have some other radio scripts from the “Sam Spade” series from the 1940s that I’d like to produce. Radio drama is a lot of fun — and a lot of work.
I’d like to do more of it.
NEWS TO USE
On Halloween, Rubber Chicken Theater will re-create Orson Welles’ radio version of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” at 8 p.m. on KUWS (91.3 FM). They will be recording it live from The Shack in Superior; if you wish to be a part of the “studio” audience, get there at 7:30 p.m. and have $5.
Tags: budge a and e, arts and entertainment, the war of the worlds, the shack, rubber chicken theater, john munson, brian matuszak, orson welles, hg wells, duluth, budgeteer, radio, 5q, halloween, kuws, superior