Washington, DC, October 13, 2010 — The Directors of SCENA Theatre are thrilled to announce the first production in their 2010-11 season: The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles and Howard Koch first produced this masterpiece as a special Halloween episode for Mercury Theatre on the Air, a prominent radio show. The broadcast featured breaking news of a "Martian invasion" that seemingly interrupted the regularly scheduled music program. 

A series of frightening and very realistic news bulletins followed, lending credibility to the purported alien attack. These radio reports were heard by millions of Americans at a tenuous time when threats by Hitler were looming and war in Europe seemed imminent. As a result, panic ignited among an estimated 1.2 million Americans.

SCENA's riveting stage adaptation of this great American classic explores the masterful exploitation of the media by Orson Welles—as well as the media’s crafty propensity to manipulate the public. The central underlying issue is America’s readiness to blindly believe whatever the media reports as factual “news”. SCENA’s dynamic revival is timely and intriguing given the current controversy over the trustworthiness of major American media outlets.

Artistic Director Robert McNamara also believes The War of the Worlds is perfect for the Halloween season due to its terrifying nature. He noted, “The audience will witness events as they unfolded in the studio during the original broadcast on that fateful October eve.” This show recreates the original broadcast, as it is set in “real time”, and follows the exact script. However, McNamara provides patrons with a voyeuristic view of what transpired inside the studio and dramatizes the hysterical reactions that took place within many American homes. Altogether this creates a rich and memorable theatre experience for Washingtonians.

The War of the Worlds was performed on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the special episode was an adaptation of a novel of the same name by H.G. Wells in 1898. Scriptwriter Howard Koch reset the novel in 1930s New Jersey for Welles, a young aspiring actor. The first two-thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins” of an alleged Martian invasion.

Widespread panic ensued across America and in the days following the broadcast there was tremendous public outrage at the “hoax”. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. Still, the episode secured instant fame (or infamy) for Orson Welles in American entertainment lore.

Press Night: Thur. Oct. 28, 2010 (8pm); Reception after

$10 Previews: Oct. 22 & 23 (8pm), Oct. 24 (3pm), Oct. 26 & 27 (8pm)

Official Run:  Oct. 28 – Nov. 28 (Thur. – Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm)*

*Special Times:  

Sat. Oct. 30: 7pm & 10pm (8:15 Mixer);

Sun. Oct. 31: 3pm & 8pm (for Halloween!).


1365 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Press Info: Email

Phone 410.627.4454 or

Click on Press link (at left) for Photos

Ticket Prices: $25 - $40 ($18 on Thurs. for 30 & under)

Box Office: Buy tickets here (click on Tickets link) or

Reserve by Phone 703-683-2824.

Fun Events: “Martian Mixer” is a Halloween costume party with food, beer, wine & music included:  

• Sat. Oct. 30th (72nd anniversary of the broadcast) between the 7pm and 10pm shows. 

• Sat. Nov. 20 (Patron 'Thanks') after the 8pm show; patrons can meet the cast & director.

“Thirsty Thursdays” introduce great international works to a new generation. 

Those 30 & under get a discount $18 ticket plus a free drink at any Thursday show.

Actors & Designers: this production features the best talent available in the Metropolitan Washington region. Starring: Regen Wilson as Orson Welles, John Tweel, Lee Ordeman (AEA), Theo Hadjimichael, Steve Lebens, Robert Sheire, Colleen Smith, Kathryn Cocroft, David Paglin, Mick McGuire, Elizabeth Jernigan, Leigh Anna Fry, Chris Mrozowski, Sissel Bakken, Ellie Nicoll & Ian Blackwell Rogers (u/s). Designers: Michael C. Stepowany (Set), Megan Perry Holeva (Costumes), Erik Trester (Sound/Imagery), Marianne Meadows (Lighting), Sissel Bakken (Vocal Coach), Caitlin Gillespie (Assistant Director), Emily Morrison (Assistant Director), Brandy H. Wyont (Stage Manager), and Seth Finkle (Production Manager).

Howard Koch (Playwright / Adaptor) is most noted for his adaptation of The War of the Worlds in 1938 as broadcast by Orson Welles and Mercury Theatre on the Air. Koch’s well-known film credits include: Casablanca (Academy Award 1944), Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Sea Hawk, Sergeant York with Gary Cooper, The 13th Letter, and The War Lover. Koch got into deep trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee for writing the pro-Soviet Mission to Moscow (1943). He spent several years as an exile in Europe only to return to the U.S. in the 1960s.

Orson Welles (Original Director / Actor / Producer) is one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century. He is recognized for his debut film, Citizen Kane (one of the “Top Ten Films of all time”, American Film Institute). Equally adept in theatre, film, and radio he staged the Voodoo Macbeth in Harlem in 1935, plus groundbreaking reinterpretations of classics such as Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, Julius Caesar, and The Shoemaker's Holiday for the Mercury Theatre. Other films include: Macbeth, Othello, Journey into Fear, The Stranger, The Trial, Chimes at Midnight (based on Falstaff and the Shakespeare History plays), and F is for Fake. His last announced project was to be a new film version of King Lear. However, Welles died in Hollywood in 1985 and is buried in Spain.

SCENA Theatre brings the best international theatre to Washington, DC and stimulates cultural exchange between theatre artists, locally and worldwide. Founded in 1987 under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert McNamara and Managing Director Amy Schmidt, SCENA produces an annual season of plays, seasonally staged readings, as well as a Workshop Series aimed at developing new works from around the globe. To learn more about our mission or past stage productions, please visit