What would you do if you thought the world was being invaded by aliens?
An event in American history caused people to believe that an actual invasion was happening: the infamous 1938 Orson Welles’ broadcast of “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells caused a mild panic as people truly thought aliens were ravaging the countryside.
The panic caused by that radio play is at the center of a new production at The Toledo Repertoire Theater. It Came From Mars is a tongue-in-cheek tale of five radio professionals who, after listening to the dramatic reading, barricade themselves in their station, believing it’s real. How will they survive the hoax, and what will they find out about each other?
A Local Production
Written in 2009 by playwright Joseph Zettelmaier, a Michigan native, this production’s director, Aggie Alt, has worked in theater around the country from Colorado to California, received her master’s degree from BGSU, and has previously directed at The Toledo Rep. While she hadn’t seen the play before, she appreciates that “it’s a fun piece with some great characters, and it doesn’t hurt that the playwright is somewhat local.”
Being local is one of the reasons The Rep chose to put on the play. Dave DeChristopher, artistic director for The Toledo Rep, explained that “Zettelmaier is well-known to theatres in Southeastern Michigan, where he lives and his work is regularly done.” The time of year also played a part in the decision: “We chose this slot in our theatre season because it’s closest to the date of the actual ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast (October 30, 1938).”
What Would You Do?
“Farlowe’s Mystery Theater Hour” is the setting of It Came From Mars, a fictional radio program created by the five characters in the play. And what a cast of characters. Locked in the studio, a hack director and his dramatic ex-wife, a hare-brained actress, a German sound effects artist, and a lunk-headed tough guy, these five people’s interaction is the core of the play. Aggie Alt says the play shows “there are great similarities between groups of people in stressful situations.” Alliances are made, lies are revealed, and hilarity ensues.
So, once again, how would you fare if you had tuned into the “War of the Worlds”? Alt, like the play’s characters, “would have believed everything. People accepted radio back then as a believable authority. The times were ripe for a catastrophe.” DeChristopher feels like he would’ve gotten in on the action: “If I had heard the original broadcast, I don’t think I could have resisted the urge to see the Martian death ray.”
$19.75/general. $17.75/seniors 60+.
$11.75/students. $9.75/children 13 and under. October 13-28. 8pm, Thursday-Saturday. 2:30pm, Sunday.
The Toledo Repertoire
16 10th St.
419-243-9277 | toledorep.org