Prepare for an Alien Invasion

Writers Guild hosts readers theater performance of War of the Worlds broadcast

Katy Macek

What would it be like to experience Orson Welles’ radio drama, War of the Worlds – to feel the fear the nation felt in 1938?

Most of us can’t know for sure.

But the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild and UW-Eau Claire’s NOTA are sure going to help us try. Or, at the very least, give us an excuse to don our best 1930s-era garb and have a good time.

In honor of Halloween, and the 78th anniversary of Welles’ classic radio broadcast, these groups are holding a reader’s theater version of War of the Worlds on Friday, Oct. 28, at the Volume One Gallery. (If you’d like to experience the show on the radio, tune in to Blugold Radio 99.9 FM at 8pm Sunday, Oct. 30, or steam it online at BlugoldRadio.org.)

UW-Eau Claire professor and CVWG founder B.J. Hollars wanted to get the community together around Halloween and enjoy a fun fall activity. The idea started simply as “a bunch of folks in a room listening to a record of War of the Worlds,” but about a week later it turned into a full-fledged production with scripts and costumes.

“I’ve always been interested in War of the Worlds from a nonfiction standpoint, how Orson managed to create this drama that literally took over the nation for a few weeks’ time,” Hollars said. “Seventy-eight years later people still remember that night. It had a major impact on a lot of folks.”

The event features Rob Reid, Ken Szymanski, Katie Hennen, Jason Splichal, Debbie Brown, and Jim Rybicki as readers, James Johonnott doing lighting, Scott Morfitt doing sound effects, and Hollars himself “directing.” 

They’ll all be dressed up, and Hollars encourages everyone in attendance to dress up in suit coats and flapper dresses, or whatever 1930s-esque piece of clothing speaks to them.

He’s looking forward to experiencing an alien invasion with the people of the Chippewa Valley.

“It’s certainly well worth watching. With the readers, the lighting, and the costumes, it’ll be quite a show,” he said. “In addition to all of that, just getting 100 people in a room to sit at rapt attention to listen to words really reinforces the power of writing.”

While it’s a great Halloween event, Hollars said it really is an opportunity to bring folks from all over the Valley with similar interests together to highlight the talents they possess. That’s what he enjoys most about seeing the variety of projects and events going on throughout the region, from something as small as the Ask a Scientist lecture series to the Writers Guild’s craft talks.

“It’s so fun that even an alien invasion has the potential to bring some folks together and have a good time,” he said. “Any chance to showcase the skills of the folks in this region is a worthy project, and I’m excited to bring aliens to the Chippewa Valley.”

War of the Worlds Reading • Friday, Oct. 28, 7pm • The Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire • FREE • (715) 552-0457