Mars attacks!

Its minions will be coming to Athens on Oct. 13, and a crew from a fictional public radio station will be on hand to bring the audience the grisly march of aliens across the landscape. The new invasion is a radio play, which will be staged at the Classic Center in Athens before a live audience, bringing back the days of radio drama, complete with sound effects and acting from a troupe of UGA theatre students.

This time around it’s not Martians per se, though Orson Welles, who terrified America with his classic radio drama War of the Worlds in 1938, would recognize the story. Instead, the invaders in this new adaptation of the story are simply from “out there,” and they’re not coming to New Jersey where Welles had them land, but to Athens, Atlanta and the world at large.

“Seeing the show live, you have the advantage of either listening with your eyes closed, imagining the alien creatures devouring the earth as you know it or watching the controlled chaos on stage that serves to create this imaginary world,” says John Kundert-Gibbs, an associate professor in the department of theatre and film studies at UGA who wrote the adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel and will direct the production for the University Theatre.

War of the Worlds, which also will be aired live on WUGA-FM, will be performed one night only at the Classic Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, with audience seated by 7:30 p.m. No late seating will be available. Admission is $10 for orchestra, $7 for parterre and $5 for balcony seating. Tickets are available at the Classic Center box office.

Orson Welles’ adaptation of War of the Worlds, which aired on radio on the night of Oct. 30, 1938, set off panic across the nation. Though the broadcast began with an announcement that it was fictional, many people tuned in late, and the stunning recreation of “Martians” landing and wreaking havoc on New Jersey and then elsewhere scared Americans witless.

Kundert-Gibbs completely re-imagined the story using the original book and the script for Welles’ Mercury Theatre production from 1938. The result is a present-day story that takes place around the Athens area and deals with a subtext that isn’t funny at all (terrorism), just as the encroaching threat of World War II wasn’t funny in 1938.

Actors for the show include graduate students Amy Roeder and Brandon Wentz, along with undergrads Kim Fasone, Bradley Golub, Anna Wilensky, Katelyn Foley, George Akers and Martin Smith. Sound design is by Brian Arnold.

The special, one-night-only performance will also mark the University Theatre’s first collaboration with Athens public radio station WUGA, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Part of the joy of the new production of War of the Worlds for the live audience at the Classic Center will be just watching the story unfold.

“You can see the actors racing from mic to mic, changing characters as they do,” says Kundert-Gibbs. “Or you can watch the sound effects people hitting fans or spinning kitchen appliances to create eerie effects or explosions as the creatures take down tanks and helicopters right before your ears.”