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Students will present Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” livestreamed and on the radio.

More than 80 years ago, Orson Welles pulled the sickest prank of all time: convincing a bunch of people living through the Great Depression they were all going to die. 

Before he was an acclaimed director, Welles funded his film projects with the radio station Mercury Theater. They performed iconic pieces like Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Their most famous broadcast, however, was “The War of the Worlds,” a fake news break detailing an extraterrestrial invasion. When some people tuned in, they believed it to be real and prepared for their doom. 

In honor of Halloweekend, Wood River High School Drama will play an encore presentation of their “War of the Worlds” production on Mountain Country 107.5 at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 30. 

Wood River High School drama teacher Karl Nordstrom grew up loving radio personalities like Garrison Keillor and Dr. Demento. He says it takes a special kind of performer to pull it off.  

“I like how they paint the picture in your mind’s eye for you,” Nordstrom said. “At the same time, it’s very theatrical.”

They originally recorded “War of the Worlds” last year as a way to perform theater while socially distancing. Nordstrom saw parallels between COVID and aliens coming down to Earth. 

“It was these ideas of panic, fear, confusion, chaos and not really knowing what to do because we had never gone through something like this,” he said. 

The recording process grew tedious at points. They could only have three people in the studio at any time. By the end though, they found it rewarding.  

“Surround yourself with good kids and they make you look good,” Nordstrom said. 

John Valenzuela was the sound engineer. Using his extensive stash of sound effects during editing, he made it as accurate as possible. 

“I listen to it, and I think it sounds better than the original,” Nordstrom said. “But, I’m kind of biased.”

Tune in Saturday to 107.5 FM to check it out. Just remember, UFOs are not actually landing on Earth.

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