Relive the delicious extraterrestrial terrors of yesteryear as Radio Redux presents its version of “The War of the Worlds”

(Above: Sound effects provided an important enhancement to old-time radio shows, and the tradition continues at Radio Redux. Photos by Scott Kelley)

By Randi Bjornstad

Usually, Radio Redux’s staging of old radio shows — with the onlookers taking the place of the studio audiences of the 1940s and ’50s — play just twice in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

Fred Crafts, founder and director of Radio Redux, also acts in some productions
Fred Crafts, founder and director of Radio Redux, also acts in some productions

But “due to popular demand,” as they say, Radio Redux founder and director Fred Crafts and his crew have added a third performance this time around, to accommodate all those who want to see and hear their take on “The War of the Worlds.”

That means Radio Redux will be onstage at 7:30 p.m. on both April 7 and 8, as well as the 2 p.m. show on April 9.

“The War of the Worlds,” of course, started out as an H.G. Wells novel that was printed in installments in magazines in Britain and the United States in 1897 and published in book form the following year.

Its examination of conflict between earthlings and invaders from outer space was one thing on paper, but when Orson Welles directed — and narrated — a radio broadcast version of it in 1938, the realistic nature of the presentation caused great consternation, and some panic, among listeners who took the account of the extraterrestrial invasion seriously.

Part of that happened because of the ingenious format of the one-hour radio show, presented as a music program frequently interrupted by “news” bulletins chronicling the progress of the invaders and the terror of their victims.

Actor Dan Pegoda has appeared in many Radio Redux broadcasts
Actor Dan Pegoda has appeared in many Radio Redux broadcasts

“ ‘The War of the Worlds’ is one of the most discussed works in the science fiction canon,” Crafts said in announcing the show. “It has never been out of print, has prompted numerous films and stories by other authors, and has inspired scientists like Robert Goddard, who invented the rockets used in the Apollo 11 moon landing.”

In fact, “It is the gold standard for science fiction,” Crafts said.

Radio Redux’s presentation will take its familiar form, with actors dressed in period clothing taking turns at a row of old-style microphones as they portray various characters — some actors adopting several distinct voices for different characters — during the performance.

The actors read from scripts in the same manner as the original broadcasts, and the cast also includes the same type of sound-effects crew common to early radio shows.

Actors in “The War of the Worlds” include Radio Redux veterans Dan Pegoda, Ken Hof, Achilles Massahos, Rebecca Nachison and director Crafts. Sound effects are created by Jonathan Ward.

The War of the Worlds

When: 7:30 p.m. on April 7 and 8; 2 p.m. on April 9; a behind-the-scenes lecture by radio-film historian Patrick Lucanio takes place 45 minutes before each showtime

Where: Soreng Theater in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Seventh and Willamette streets in downtown Eugene; the pre-performance talks are in the Jacobs Community Room on the Hult Center’s lower level

Tickets: $15 to $22, available at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at radioreduxusa.com or hultcenter.org

Randi Bjornstad

Has more than 30 years' journalism experience after a previous stint as a land-use planner. Got first rejection slip at age 11, but the editor wrote an encouraging note. Lives in Eugene, Ore., with husband-and-photographer Paul Carter, adorable dog Tallulah and quirky cats Pearl, Audrey, Garbo, Harry and Ozma.

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