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Sugar Skulls and War of the Worlds

on November 6, 2012 - 9:41am

Who says Halloween is over?

This past weekend I didn't feel like going straight home after work. Instead, I went down to the Harbourfront Centre to catch the end of the Day of the Dead Festival with everything from sugar skulls, to Mariachi Bands, to traditional altar displays. Sadly, I got there 20 minutes before it all shut down, and did a quick tour of the lot. I was disappointed to arrive so late, but soon realized all was not lost.

Turns out there was a theatrical performance of Orson Welles' famous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds by the Art of Time Ensemble. Instead of having 11 voice actors, there were 3: Sean Cullen (who has done many things, but I always think of Corky and the Juice Pigs), Nicholas Campbell (who you might know from Haven, or the classic Da Vinci’s Inquest), and Marc Bendavid (The Border).

It was a simple set, leaving the props and costumes to give the impression of time and setting. The main actors stood to the right with microphones in front, scripts in hand. To the far left was live Foley sound effects artist John Gzowski who was fascinating to watch. In the middle were musicians who, in classic form, spent their free time smoking and reading magazines.

Hanging above the cast was an "On Air" sign and a clock, counting off the hour. 

As someone who loves to listen to stories, and also enjoys a glimpse of history, I was completely captivated. 

You could understand why people tuning in partway into the program might believe the news broadcasts were real. And how, if they didn't stick around to listen until the last quarter, they wouldn't  understand that what they were listening to was a theatrical production.

Even the poster for the event (pictured top left) appealed to me.

And that was just the second half of the show. There was more.

The first half of the show was what they called a Herrmannthology, "featuring a suite based on the scores penned by the legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann. From Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver, Psycho to Cape Fear, and Vertigo to North by Northwest, Herrmann’s dramatic themes are performed by an orchestra and accompanied by Tess Girard’s live montage of the brilliant films they underscored." 

As someone who is whistle-impaired, I was delighted when they played Twisted Nerve and Les Allt, who plays flute, whistled the intro. I am always mesmerized by people who can whistle so well.

I can honestly say it was like being transported back in time, watching the actual event unfold in front of me. 

If it ever comes back to Toronto, or to a city in your neck of the woods, I highly recommend going to see it.

Here's a link to the 2011 production teaser with Don MacKellar as Orson Welles.



Alison's picture

I have a "copy" of the original 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. Great listening.

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