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Guild presents ‘War of the Worlds

Posted on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 10:36 am

Fake news didn’t start with Facebook. “Aliens” isn’t just a meme with a guy and a funny haircut.

The Morristown Theatre Guild is returning to a time in which a radio play about little green men can set off a panic in the real world.

“War of the Worlds: The Panic Broadcast” adapted by Joe Landry is debuting at the Rose Center tonight and will run through Oct. 19.

“It’s a great theater experience featuring the entire original script from Orson Welles and Howard Koch, as well as additional material detailing the turmoil and hysteria the broadcast created,” the Guild says on its website.

It’s a play within a play that pays homage to the golden age of radio that serves as a reminder about what blind fear can do to a society.

The original Welles’ play, which tells a story of an alien invasion like a typical radio play but is frequently interrupted by “new bulletins.” Broadcast 80 years ago this month, it was the news bulletins that created the ensuing panic, which itself may have been fake news as modern scholars dispute the number of people who believed the broadcast to be real.

The play, which recreates the broadcast word for word, goes further introducing a narrator who leads the audience into 1938 America and the effect on the country by the power of radio. The radio play is followed by a series of vignettes that explore the aftermath and the impact of the original play on the real world.

“Basically, it’s talking about the power that media has over the people,” said David Horton, the Theatre Guild’s artistic adviser. “It comments a lot on media in general, talks about the panic. The original broadcast still registers as one the most famous, and infamous, radio broadcasts in history.”

Horton said it’s been a challenge for the 12-member cast because it is essentially a pair of plays in one. First, it is a radio play that concentrates on telling the story through the power of the voice. Secondly, it presents the traditional vignettes in which actors use their physical selves to help convey the emotion.

“We’ve got a great cast of 12 people on stage ranging in age from 18 to 62,” he said. “It’s just a really good effort of great community people coming together and putting on a radio play. It’s been really cool working with it and putting it together and everyone should come out and see it because it’s great.”

The show will be produced October 11-19 at Rose Center.

Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 13. There will be shows next week, Oct. 18 and 19 at 8 p.m.

For more information or tickets call 423-586-9260 and tickets will be available at the box office.