On Saturday, October 21st at 2:00 PM, at St John’s United Lutheran Church in Seattle, Washington, David Persson will present a re-creation of The Mercury Theatre’s presentation of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds,” originally produced by John Houseman and directed by Orson Welles.

This program was in the continuing tradition of The Mercury Theatre on the Air of adapting classic works of literature for a radio audience. Adapted by Howard E. Koch from the original story by Wells, this story was deliberately aimed at a modern radio audience by inserting news bulletins and on the spot news reporting into the framework of the story. Also, the story was moved from 19th century England to modern America.

As a self-sustaining show, with no commercial sponsor, The Mercury Theatre and Orson Welles had more freedom to push boundaries in terms of content and style. Welles’ reputation as a theatrical marvel on Broadway had opened many doors for him. His audacious and radical re-styling of Shakespeare’s plays had opened many eyes to the possibilities of re-setting classic dramas in contemporary political and social situations.

Originally broadcast on October 30th, 1938 by the Columbia Broadcasting System, the original script by Koch was rejected by Welles as being dull and tedious. He suggested that it be modernized and put in the format of news flashes and bulletins interrupting regular network programing. The locale was also changed from London to Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Welles assembled a small group of actors – among which included Ray Collins, Kenny Delmar, and Richard Wilson – to play the variety of characters in the story. The actors spent many hours listening to acetate recordings of news reporting to get the right inflections and capture a sense of authenticity for the performance.

When the show was broadcast, a fortuitous event occurred. The Chase and Sanborn Hour was being broadcast at the same time on rival network, NBC. When the show changed pace from the comedy of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy to a song by Nelson Eddy, many listeners started dial twisting (the 1930’s equivalent to channel surfing with television) and came upon the War of the Worlds broadcast, missing the original opening of the show. For those who stayed to listen to the entire show, it soon became evident that it was a fictional show and not a true rendering of an actual event. However, those who missed the beginning of the broadcast were were fooled into believing that Earth was indeed being invaded by aliens from Mars.

For our REPS production of “The War of the Worlds,” obviously we will lack the advantage of surprise to captivate our listening audience. Our goal as a production team and a group of actors will be to deliver an entertaining live performance, as we recreate this well-documented and extensively researched broadcast.

The performance will be produced by David Persson and directed by Monica Chilton. Some of the performers will be familiar to our REPS audience, and others will be new to the club. I hope that many people looking for some spooky entertainment on the eve of Halloween will come to see some great performances and enjoy each other’s company.



Sat, Oct 21 @ 2:00 pm

5515 Phinney Ave N Seattle WA 98103

Free and Open to the Public

The REPS Radio Artists are back and are excited to present the infamous radio drama The War of The Worlds*! The legendary show broadcast in 1938 by Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater On The Air over the CBS Radio Network will be performed live onstage.  Join our cast of actors and sound effects artists as they recreate one of the most famous radio plays of all time – just in time for Halloween!

*Written by Howard E. Koch, The War of the Worlds is produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.