‘War of the Worlds’ radio drama adaptation set in space-age Houston

10.24.2013 | By Andrea Vasquez

San Jacinto College War of the Worlds audio drama 2013

Bruce Williamson, Samantha Oser, and Lauren Ayala rehearse a scene from the upcoming San Jacinto College live audio drama, "H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds: Houston, 1968." Photo credit: Andrea Vasquez, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.

‘War of the Worlds’ radio drama adaptation set in space-age Houston

San Jacinto College performance celebrates 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ broadcast

Andrea Vasquez -- October 24, 2013


HOUSTON – To celebrate National Audio Drama Day and the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast on Oct. 30, San Jacinto College students and community members will be performing an original audio adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel “War of the Worlds: Houston, 1968,” set in Houston's booming space age.

With live sound effects echoing classic radio drama and era-defining 60s music, including tracks from the Beatles, Cream, and the Byrds, "War of the Worlds: Houston, 1968" will take audience members back to breakthroughs in science, Cold War fears, and trippy, countercultural radio. Written by San Jacinto College multimedia specialist Patience Wieland and directed by English professor David LeMaster, the audio drama pays homage to Orson Welles, the 1953 cult classic movie “War of the Worlds,” underground radio legends like Alison Steele, “The Nightbird,” and the United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans, who kept broadcasting to Louisiana and Texas’ Golden Triangle in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“The original ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast is a pivotal moment in the history of radio and entertainment,” said LeMaster. “It demonstrated the power of the spoken word and foreshadowed the break from variety/Vaudeville shows in the 20s and 30s that led to the use of radio as a source of news and comfort during the WWII era. I became obsessed with radio as a child and was hooked by baseball games and repeats of the old Vaudeville format. I am proud to have the opportunity to celebrate the power of radio in our adaptation of ‘War of the Worlds.’”

On Oct. 30, 1938, Orson Welles’ broadcast adaptation became one of the most famous mass media pandemonium events in U.S. history. At the time, Welles’ program, “Mercury Theatre on the Air” was a sustaining show with no commercial breaks. His “War of the Worlds” episode, complete with a series of simulated news bulletins and eyewitness accounts, depicted an actual alien invasion by Martians in progress. Given the current circumstances in the U.S. at the time, not only did many think Martians were invading, but also thought Germans were attacking the East Coast.

Today the Internet and social media have made modern audio drama increasingly popular yet again with more independent radio stations, podcasts, and original theatre troupes than ever before. One of the most successful modern audio dramas of all time was the serialization of "Star Wars" for National Public Radio, with 750,000 listeners counted by Arbitron. Great Britain's most popular audio drama, "The Archers," had more than one million "listens" recorded in just one month, making it BBC 4's top downloaded content.

As part of the Veterans in Our Community Film Festival, the San Jacinto College students and community members who are performing “War of the Worlds: Houston 1968” will also be performing another audio drama, “Over Here, Over There” on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. at the South Campus Proscenium Theatre. Over Here, Over There” is based on letters, diaries, and oral histories of modern-day veterans. For more information on the Veterans in Our Community Film Festival, visit www.sanjac.edu/vetsfest.

“War of the Worlds: Houston, 1968” will be performed on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. at the South Campus Proscenium Theatre. The event is free and open to the public with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item(s) for the campus food pantry. The South Campus is located at 13735 Beamer Road in Houston.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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