Center for the Arts Features War of the Worlds Tonight

Posted: October 29, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

On the foggy fall evening of Oct. 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.'” Now, nearly 65 years to the day of that original broadcast, the Center for the Arts presents this classic brought to life in a special, staged version by the SITI Company tonight at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall.

Listeners who tuned into the broadcast late that evening in 1938 discovered “normal” programming appeared to be interrupted with the startling news that there were “explosions occurring on planet Mars.” Reports followed that a “huge, flaming object” had fallen to earth on a farm near Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Anxious radio audiences came to the frightening conclusion that the earth was the target of a full-scale invasion by aliens.

In this campy, mayhem-filled re-creation of the original radio play, the script that prompted mass hysteria in the ’30s is re-created by the “precedent- and expectation-shattering SITI company,” according to the CityPaper.

War of the Worlds was the first fully staged theatrical production of the Kennedy Center’s Millennium stage, and it utilizes the sound effect techniques Welles invented for the original broadcast.

Tickets are $32, $24, and $16. Charge by phone at (703) 218-6500 or visit

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