Run for your lives
May 13, 2001
We now interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special news bulletin.
A cast of Northwestern students will recreate Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" on WNUR-FM (89.3) at 8 p.m. tonight. Familiar voices from the station's news and sports departments will read a mock news program that is interrupted by a mysterious accident on the I-90/I-94 John F. Kennedy Expressway.
The show is a tribute to one of modern media's most frightening and memorable moments.
On Halloween 1938, Welles and members of his Mercury Theater troupe nearly sparked a riot among thousands who believed they were listening to a news broadcast, when a special bulletin interrupted the program to report that aliens had landed in Grover Mills, N.J.
The next day, the front page of The New York Times reported that people across the state had called police, and some even ran from their homes in fear.
"I think it's a clever adaptation that Chicago people will enjoy," said Brian Nemerovski, a Medill sophomore who will participate in the event as a sports anchor.
NU students will imitate the event with a dramatic reading of the script tailored to the people and places of Chicago and Evanston. Roles include journalists, government officials and experts in physics and astronomy.
"Hopefully, people will listen in a little more closely to see if what they are listening to is true," said Ben Harper, Medill sophomore and news anchor for the broadcast.
Harper said the staff has been rehearsing for the last week to time their speech with the sounds of helicopters, gun shots and explosions. The show also will be broadcast from the station's Web site (www.wnur.org) and likely will be re-broadcast later in the year.
Last spring, station members read Homer's "Iliad" for a weekend.
Speech sophomore Mark Gordon came up with the idea for the show. He said the station got permission to change the script from the estate of Howard Koch, one of the writers of the original broadcast.
But no how effective tonight's performance may be, NU students and Evanston residents can rest assured that the show won't send listeners into a frenzy - a law forces WNUR to interrupt the broadcast with a reminder that the events are not real.