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Company Carolina’s War of the Worlds production brings panic to UNC

War of the Worlds
Company Carolina's production of "War of the Worlds" will be performed Nov. 3-5 at the Forest Theatre. Photo courtesy of Susan Ryan.

When you hear "The War of the Worlds," you probably think of Tom Cruise running around the alien-invaded world in 2005, but it’s time to start thinking about Company Carolina’s upcoming production of the show. 

"War of the Worlds" was originally written as a science fiction novel in 1895 by H.G. Wells, but was broadcasted live as a series of interruptions by Orson Welles on CBS Radio, on Oct. 30, 1938. This brought on some hysteria to the American public as many did not know that it was a fake broadcast, and truly believed martians were invading the United States. 

From Friday, Nov. 3, to Sunday, Nov. 5, you can watch the first theatrical production of this hysteria for the stage in Forest Theatre. 

“What’s different about this production is that we’ve taken the 1938 script where it was originally broadcasted and we’ve adapted it to stage movement,” director Susan Ryan said. “We have updated the script so we’re including staging that gestures towards things like drone warfare. And instead of telephone operators, we’re working with bloggers and Facebook live feeds.” 

The show has been put on a live stage before, but only in a radio-broadcast, reading-from-scripts sort of way. Ryan said this production is both new and challenging.

First year actress Briana DeStaffan, who plays Professor Pierson, said that it’s really cool and fun to be a part of the first onstage production.

“Being outside and at night will really set the tone for the production," DeStaffan said. "We have really been working to engage with the modern audience and bring this thing that was written and performed so long ago into a modern context.” 

She said the mass hysteria caused by people not knowing what is going on in the world is still relevant today. 

“It’s important to shed light on the fact that all the things that you hear around you are going to tell you different things all the time,” Destaffan said. “And you really need to focus on what you believe in and stick to that because at the end of the day, that’ll help you survive.” 

The music director, Devin Cornacchio, said that the live musicians help the audience understand the impact of the plot, and as the aliens attack, they help develop a sense of anxiety. 

The music will start out with more happy-go-lucky scores, and then increase in intensity. 

“The scores range anywhere from classical and lullaby all the way to big band jazz numbers,” Cornacchio said. 

The production works to maintain a feeling of excitement, create a sense of vulnerability and cause the audience to think about the show’s hashtag, #FakeNewsRealPanic. 

“It still keeps the same spirit of the show," Ryan said. "What’s different, though, is that the dangers are not being broadcasted, but the dangers are being brought to the audience itself.”

Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for the public, and can be purchased in the Pit this week, online or at the door. 


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