Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear perform “War of the Worlds”

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear perform "War of the Worlds" at the Oak Park ArmsThose Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, an all volunteer radio reenactment group, will present “The War of the Worlds,” at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, at the Oak Park Arms retirement community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave.

“The War of the Worlds” was performed as a Halloween episode of the radio drama “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” in 1938. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds.”

The novel is one of the earliest stories that details a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The plot centers around London’s countryside as Earth is invaded by Martians.

The first two-thirds of the episode was presented as a contemporary retelling of Wells’ novel through a series of simulated news bulletins. Because the show ran without commercial breaks, an element of realism was added to the program which later resulted in panic and confusion among the population.

Days after the broadcast some listeners were fearful and outraged, either believing an alien invasion had actually occurred, or upset over the deception of the broadcast. Regardless, Welles’ fame had been secured.

Despite the controversy, or maybe because of it, “The War of the Worlds” broadcast was made part of the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress on Jan. 27, 2003.

The performers

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is composed of Chicagoland actors who share a common interest – to perform old time radio programs for the community. Each actor and technician donates talent and time for free.

Group founders, Ben Dooley and Pam Turlow, husband and wife, established a connection with The Oak Park Arms in September of 2002, when Turlow’s father became a resident. They’ve been volunteering/performing at The Arms ever since.

Dooley and Turlow’s group performs only once every two months due to the considerable challenges involved in creating a show. They browse through thousands of old time radio episodes, select a favorite, listen and type out the script. Many shows are not available in print and have to be painstakingly transcribed. Then they gather sound effect, rehearse and mount the show.

Sound effects were an important part of live radio shows, and the group performs them live. They have a real door for slamming, buzzers, a sound board and shoes for footsteps, and doorbells.

The shows are very popular with residents and people from the community. Some even bring their children and grandchildren to show them what entertainment was like before television.

“Since the entire cast donates its time and energy, we can only do shows six times a year,” Dooley said, “but we strive to make sure that it’s well worth the wait.”

The Oak Park Arms is a rental retirement community which provides independent and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay – a weekend, a week, a month or longer.

The radio show is free and open to the public. For more information, call Jill Wagner at 708-386-4040.


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