War of the Worlds – the Radio Play

October 1999
West Bank Cafe, New York City

A staged dramatization of the original Orson Welles & Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast. On the foggy fall evening of October 30, 1938, America went to war with Mars!! Adapted for radio by Howard Koch and starring Orson Welles, War of the Worlds was presented as a Halloween thriller, or as Welles put it: “The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying ‘boo!!’” But for those who tuned in late, “normal” programming appeared to be interrupted by the startling news that there were “explosions occurring on Planet Mars!” Reports followed stating that a “huge, flaming object” had fallen to earth on a farm near Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. More landings were soon reported, and an anxious radio audience came to the frightening conclusion that Earth was the target of a full-scale invasion by aliens!!
“The Radio Play is an electrifying experience, one that grips the imagination beyond the original.” —The Times, Edinburgh Festiva

Note about process:

War of the Worlds is the program that terrified a nation. Thousands fled their homes in panic. In New York City, swarms of curious and frightened citizens crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of a “real space battle.” In the town of Grover’s Mill, the local water tower was pumped full of buckshot as frightened believers fired at what they thought was a “giant Martian war machine.” The true power of broadcast made itself known on this Halloween even in 1938, and no one has forgotten the chilling fear and awesome force of this, radio’s single most famous broadcast.

Now, 65 years after the original broadcast, this radio classic comes to life as performed by the SITI Company. This special staged version of the H.G. Wells/Howard Koch/Orson Welles/Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast, War of the Worlds - the Radio Play is part of SITI Company’s investigation into the life and work of the genius Orson Welles, for our production also titled War of the Worlds, about this extraordinary American artist, written by Naomi Iizuka. 

“A spellbindingly evocative snapshot of America’s most memorable trick or treat.” —The Stage, Edinburgh Festival

SITI Company’s theatrical adaptation of Orson Welles’s legendary radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’s sci-fright did not create panic this time around but was simply loads of fun.” —The Washington Post

Written by Howard Koch

Directed by Anne Bogart and Darron L West

Created by SITI Company

Featuring Akiko Aizawa, J. Ed Araiza, Shawn Fagan, Jeffrey Frace, Susan Hightower, Barney O’Hanlon and Stephen Webber

Lighting Design Brian Scott

Costume Design James Schuette

Sound Design Darron West  

Executive Director Megan Wanlass