Thursday, October 13, 2005

War of the Worlds Returns

Contact: Alison Donald, (609) 688-0773

Full-Scale Performance Will Mark the 67th Anniversary of Welles’s Radio Broadcast

PRINCETON, N.J., October 13, 2005—Reviving one of the most famous events in American radio, the David Sarnoff Library, in cooperation with the Hunterdon Radio Theatre and New Jersey Antique Radio Club, will host a live re-enactment of Orson Welles’s 67-year-old broadcast, “War of the Worlds,” based on H.G. Wells’s classic story. This family-friendly event, which will benefit the Library’s renovation, is scheduled for Saturday, October 29 in Sarnoff Corporation’s auditorium in Princeton, N.J.; a matinee and evening performance will occur, as well as a special benefit reception.

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater On the Air captivated the nation and set off widespread panic—especially in New Jersey and New York—with a dramatization of H.G. Wells’s late-19th Century fantasy. Thousands of listeners across the country mistook the broadcast for news reports of an actual Martian invasion that detailed meteor landings in nearby Grover’s Mill, N.J. and aliens killing earthlings with death-rays. What resulted was mass hysteria, with residents fleeing their homes or joining to combat the “Martians.”

“David Sarnoff predicted and innovated the power of network broadcasting,” says Alex Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library. “Welles’s broadcast showed how the media could instantly encourage national hysteria as well as national unity. We think that’s a powerful lesson worth repeating. Moreover, the Princeton Observatory and Grover’s Mill, where the Martian launches and landing were reported, are only a mile away from us.”

The “War of the Worlds” broadcast, which was written by Howard Koch and made famous by Welles is “arguably one of the best radio dramas of all time,” says William Spear, founder and president of the Hunterdon Radio Theatre. The group, which will stage the re-enactment with more than 20 actors, is “excited about the opportunity to work with the David Sarnoff Library and present its version of the broadcast.” The sound effects and actors’ voices will be transmitted through 1930s microphones to 1930s radios, provided by members of the New Jersey Antique Radio Club. An interactive discussion, led by Magoun, will follow the program.

Performances will begin at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with doors opening one hour prior to the shows. All tickets for the matinee performance are $10 in advance ($15 at the door). Ticket prices for the evening performance are as follows: adults are $20 in advance ($25 at the door); children (12 and under) and seniors (65 and over) are $10 in advance ($15 at the door).

Library Benefit tickets are also available for $40 in advance ($50 at the door). Benefit guests will not only enjoy the evening performance, but also a tour of the Library and dessert reception after the broadcast to meet the cast. Live music will be provided throughout the reception by renowned thereminist, Kip Rosser. Tickets are limited and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

All funds raised from this event will support the David Sarnoff Library, a nonprofit organization housed within Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton. Incorporated as the David Sarnoff Collection, the Library contains an archives and museum with the state’s largest holdings of RCA historical materials, and is dedicated to the understanding and promotion of electronic innovation. Funds will specifically pay for the design of two new exhibits in the Library—David Sarnoff and the Innovative Spirit and Six Innovations that Changed the World. The Library is open by appointment to individuals and school groups. For more information, visit on the Web.

The “War of the Worlds” re-enactment is made possible, in part, by in-kind support from Sarnoff Corporation; the Howard Koch Estate; Hunterdon Radio Theatre; New Jersey Antique Radio Club; Kip Rosser; and suite6design.

Additional assistance and funding has been provided by the Board of Directors of the David Sarnoff Collection; the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; Panasonic Technologies, Inc.; and an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

For more information about the event or advance ticket reservations, send an email to, call (609) 688-0773, or copy and print the order form below (full-size is 8.5" by 11"): # # #