Orson Welles’ Martians are coming

| October 15, 2013

Sweet Briar College’s Performing Arts Division is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” with a dramatic reading of the infamous radiobroadcast at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in Babcock Fine Arts Center.

Admission is free and tickets are not required. The performance is sign-interpreted.

The reading will be accompanied by a full, live orchestra on stage and fun sound effects, says the show’s musical director, Jeff Jones. Jones, director of the Sweet Briar Chamber Orchestra, has composed and arranged the music — 26 movements — in the style of interwar Modernism to heighten the drama and evoke the feel of 1938.

Artwork from a 1906 Belgian edition of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” by Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corréa depicts Martians destroying an English town. Orson Welles based his 1938 radiobroadcast on the book.

Jones says to expect “Stravinksy-esque octatonicism, Schoenberg’s polytonality, Berg-like atonal ciphers and surrealist juxtapositions.”

Between the cast, musicians and stage crew, about 40 students, faculty and staff are involved in the production, which Jones notes is an opportunity for theater and music students to collaborate. It was also a chance for Babcock box office manager Shelbie Filson to try out for a part. She says she loves performing and loves this show.

“I was raised watching and loving old black-and-white sci-fi movies alongside my dad, and the original ‘War of the Worlds’ was one of my favorites,” Filson says. “Plus, it’s fascinating — though frightening — to think of the widespread panic caused by Orson Welles’ original broadcast. …

“The broadcast was even re-mounted at different times and locations after that, and panic ensued then, too. I think the story plays on many people’s beliefs and fears that we are ‘not alone.’ I’d hope that if there are life forms way out there on distant planets, they would be kind and peaceful. Yet how can we know — until they introduce themselves?”

Filson landed a significant role as Professor Pierson, but says she auditioned hoping just to be a part of the project.

“It’s such a great idea, and will be so much fun to perform with the SBC Orchestra. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the script and starting rehearsals!”

For more information, contact Filson at (434) 381-6228 or sfilson@sbc.edu.

Jennifer McManamay

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Category: Dance, Music, Performing Arts, Theatre Arts