'War of Worlds' invades Laurel

The world is ending, aliens are invading and you can hear all about it from the safety of the small Laurel Theater Oct. 30.

It's "The War of the Worlds" presented by the Tennessee Stage Company in a theatrical production inspired by old radio broadcasts, Halloween, Orson Welles and that Mayan prediction about the current world's end.

It was Welles who frightened America's radio listeners in 1938 with his Oct. 30 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds." His story over the airwaves was based on H.G. Wells' science fiction story but many who tuned in missed that this was a tale, not reality. Soon rumor spread with the idea that warlike aliens really were invading. The hour-long theatrical broadcast caused lots of panic and landed Welles in the middle of a controversy. But there's no debate that his broadcast was an amazing piece of radio theater.

Seventy-four years later, the Mayan calendar predicts the world's end come December. So the Tennessee Stage Company decided why not put on a play about aliens and destruction? The one-time show is 8 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Laurel, 1538 Laurel Ave, in partnership with Jubilee Community Arts.

The company presents "The War of the Worlds" as a re-creation of the famous broadcast. The play is set in a 1938 radio studio as performers once again "broadcast" the pre-Halloween program. The performance will recreate the look of the studio and the era's music and sound effects. (Hint — when the script calls for a sound like the dropping of a sack of potatoes, the sound technician will drop a sack of potatoes.) Cast members include Dan Black, Carolyn Corley, Sean Dietz, Jackie Nunweiller, Steve Trigg, Vania Smrkovski and Allison Warren.

Tickets are $10 for Jubilee Community Arts members, students or senior citizens, $11 general admission in advance and $12 on show day; $6 for children ages 12 and younger. Advance tickets are at www.knoxtix.com or 865-523-7521.

TSC Founding Artistic Director Tom Parkhill says the theatrical production won't be broadcast live over the radio as was Welles' production. It is, however, likely to be part of the local "Live at the Laurel" broadcast and may also be separately on WDVX, said Parkhill.

"We thought this would be a fun Halloween thing to do. And we're always looking for things to shine a little light on the company," Parkhill said.

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