War of the Worlds Arrives Friday

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By Germaine Hupe The Winters Theatre Company presentation of “The War of the Worlds,” which opens a six performance run this Friday, Oct. 5, recalls the golden age of radio in the 1930s and 1940s.  Before television and the internet, families gathered around the radio for the latest news, political opinions, sports events and especially for entertainment. There was something for everyone. Sunday night meant Jack Benny, Charlie McCarthy and Baby Snooks. Later in the week men enjoyed a play-by-play description of a sports event; children hurried home from school to listen to “Captain Midnight and the Secret Squadron” or “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy”; and homemakers enjoyed a succession of soap opera dramas featuring the trials of heroines such as “Ma Perkins” Portia in “Portia Faces Life” and “Stella Dallas.” Ominous characters such as the Shadow and the Whistler stalked the darkened radio streets, and music and special dramatic productions were always somewhere on the dial. One such weekly dramatic presentation was that of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. On Oct. 30, 1938, Welles and his company presented “The War of the Worlds,” a supposed live description of a martian invasion of planet Earth. So realistic was the fictional script, that many people experienced true panic, took to the roadways and the churches and feared for the end of the world.  At the beginning of the broadcast, the CBS announcer explained that this was a radio play, but people who tuned in late and missed the commercials and the explanation, believed that the radio commentators were describing actual events as they happened. These included graphic descriptions of huge serpent-like creatures who crawled out of the space ships, fires and explosions everywhere and victims who were “dropping like flies.” The military was in danger of being wiped out, and there was no place of safety anywhere. At the end of the play, Orson Welles, “boy genius” of 23, took the microphone and joked about his Halloween prank broadcast. However, many people, including terrified listeners and CBS executives, were not laughing. Join the WTC cast of “The War of the Worlds” as they recreate this dramatic radio broadcast using a readers theatre format and learn what made this radio presentation so memorable. The show opens this Friday, Oct. 5, with an Opening Night Gala at 7:30 p.m. at the Winters Community Center. It runs for two weekends, ending on Sunday, Oct. 14. Curtain is at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. For tickets go to http://winterstheatre.org, or call 530-795-4014 for more information.]]>

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