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Campus Martian Invasion

On the night of October 30, 1938 nearly 2 million people listened to the original broadcast of Orson Welles’ adaption of H.G Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” The original broadcast incited a panic among listeners, who believed Earth was really under Martian attack and ran to police stations and newspaper offices seeking ways to protect themselves. On a Wednesday night 75 years later, Kiggins Theatre was packed for the Martians with Mustaches kick-off event featuring Willamette Radio Workshop’s abridged reenactment of the show. There were two among the audience who had heard the original broadcast: Jack, now 82, and Marge, who was four at the time.

This event was a kick-off for WSU Vancouver’s digital technology and culture Digital Storytelling Martians with Mustaches exhibit. This exhibit, which goes on through Novemeber in downtown Vancouver’s Nouspace Gallery & Lounge, showcases the work of four talented students: Morgan Hutchinson, Geoggrey Matheson, Brittany Wouden, and Angela Morrelli, who created transmedial art pieces based on the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast. Amalia Vacca, a DTC and anthropology major curates the exhibit. The students distilled what they felt were the most important points of the original broadcast, then expanded on them in their own direction, using media they felt most suited to their purpose. According to the Martians with Mustaches webpage, the results vary from a proposal that the alien invasion was real, and the radio program a cover up, to astronomer’s notes and to work suggesting that aliens are among us, disguised with mustaches.

The reenactment was performed by the Willamette Radio Workshop, a group who describes themselves on their webpage, as a “Professional theatrical organization dedicated to the creation of original material for presentation on the Radio, Internet, as Compact Disks or whatever audio venues are available or appropriate.”

Like true professionals, when the show ran into some brief technical difficulties one of the actors quipped that mistakes were, “Just like rehearsal,” and moved on. On stage the actors used a variety of props to recreate the spooky effects of the original broadcast: bubble wrap popped to mimic crackling fire, a child’s umbrella opened and shut, clanking rusty chains, and a pair of shoes clomped together.

While the reenactment was certainly spooky and thrilling, no widespread hysteria ensued and theatre goers drove home with bellies full of popcorn, rather than to police stations in a panic.

To experience the ongoing thrill of “The War of the Worlds,” head down to Nouspace Gallery from noon to 5pm through November, and see what our talented students are working on. For more information about the Martians with Mustaches event visit dtc-wsuv.org/martians/.

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