The Avila Room at the Monarch Dunes clubhouse will be the site of one of the most historic moments in broadcast history Tuesday: a martian invasion.
But don’t get out your pitchforks just yet. The entire thing is a work of fiction.
Monarch Radio, KTGY-LP 107.9 FM, is broadcasting a live re-creation of Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” radio program at 7 p.m. from the Nipomo clubhouse.
“We’ve been doing some old-time radio drama the last few months, and experimenting, and we thought, ‘What could we do around Halloween that would be very cool to do?’ ” said Catherine Kitcho, who volunteers with the radio station. “We thought it would be really cool to go back to the original 1938 broadcast and kind of do something scary.”
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Welles’ now infamous radio program was first broadcast Oct. 30, 1938, as a Halloween special based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name. It told the story of a supposed alien invasion through news reports, “eyewitness” accounts and breaking news bulletins.
Urban legend says the program created widespread panic among listeners who tuned in late to the broadcast and reportedly missed the opening disclaimer declaring it a work of fiction. They took it as a genuine newscast, prompting panicked calls to local police, government representatives and newspapers, as residents prepared for what they thought was an actual war.
(Later investigations into the broadcast say much of the “panic” was likely exaggerated.)
Every time we do it, we are getting better and better and better, and we’re looking for new people, too!
Howard Wishner, director
Tuesday’s broadcast will begin with preshow commentary about the history of the program at 7 p.m. followed by the actual hourlong program at 7:30 p.m.
The program includes about 23 speaking parts, making it one of the largest and most difficult shows the local radio station has undertaken since first coming on air in April.
“It’s been a beast of a project,” producer Mike Stephens said at the station’s final rehearsal before the live show. “There’s some herding cats aspects to this because of the 23 people that are retired or semi-retired and, you know, have their own agendas.”
Adding to that is that this will be the first live show the station broadcasts — in the past they’ve prerecorded the majority of their programming, such as other dramas and talk shows.
“What’s nice about this is you have to make it work in real time,” he said. “There’s no going back, you have to just keep on going if you flub.”
Members of the Monarch Dunes Media Club at Trilogy-Monarch Dunes in Nipomo will perform the speaking parts from the radio program, complete with sound effects like lasers, opening doors and clapping.
For Director Howard Wishner, the program will cap off about two months’ worth of work finding scripts, preparing and rehearsing with the cast, but it’s all been worthwhile, he said.
“Every time we do it, we are getting better and better and better,” Wishner said. “And we’re looking for new people, too!”
Listeners can tune in to 107.9 FM to hear the live broadcast, or visit www.MonarchRadio.org to listen live.