THE WAR OF THE WORLDS live at the Roxy for Halloween

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on October 28, 2011

Orson Welles apologizes in a news reel on November 1 for the chaos and panic his radio broadcast of Halloween 1938 caused. But it’s a little too coy, and his feigned sorrow is obviously insincere. In fact, he appears even pleased with himself. Three years later, he will create even more turmoil with his first film, Citizen Kane, but that will not push his career forward as The War of the Worlds will do.

Welles was my idol, growing up. I had heard all about Citizen Kane, but had never seen it, long before high school friends Mike Zanone, Ross Gilson and David Cutliff let me know that it was being broadcast on The Late Show one Saturday night. I’ll never forget the night those three boys invited me over. We only had a black-and-white television, but that was alright, for the film is in black-and-white.

I remember David’s folks were out of town, which made staying up late permissible. Not that we were up to any trouble. I’m sure they didn’t give a hoot nor holler for Kane but were fascinated by my fixation. They were interested in football, grades and girls, not necessarily in that order. But in their revelry, they made a space for my adoration. Although it was almost fifty years ago, I still revere and remember their unbridled attention and their fraternal kindness.

Years later, a friend got me an interview at the Juilliard School to assistant direct John Houseman on the Verdi opera Macbeth. Houseman and Welles were responsible for the Mercury Theatre, an incredible and awesome venture presenting a weekly live radio show. While producing and performing various classics on Broadway for the WPA, sometimes Welles took an ambulance from the radio studio to the theatre to expedite travel from studio to stage and back again. When I interviewed for Houseman, the first words out of my young, untutored mouth were, “Oh, Mr. Houseman, I’m a great fan of Orson Welles.” What I didn’t know was Houseman ended up hating Welles. I didn’t get that job.

So far, ten elementary schools — including Barksdale, Burt, Byrns Darden, East Montgomery, Glenellen, Hazelwood, Montgomery Central, Norman Smith, Sango and Woodlawn — have large water jugs collecting “Pennies for Plays” for the new center for arts and education. Already, Sango Elementary has filled one and is working on its second, the first jug having brought in $463.73. Norman Smith has an anonymous donor who is going to match whatever amount is collected, engaging young people to get involved.

Tonight at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, we present a recreation of Howard Koch’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells invasion from Mars, The War of the Worlds, featuring Ryan Bowie, Ashton Crosby, Brianna Hertzberg, Travis Kendrick, Michael Mizwicki, Phil Perry, Linda Speir, Joylene Taylor and Jonathan Wexler.

Don’t forget “Fright on Franklin,” with trick-or-treating and costume contests, this Saturday from 4pm until 8pm on Franklin Street.

See you at the theatre!

[John McDonald]

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