Washington, DC, April 21, 2016 — The Directors of Scena Theatre present the return of War of the Worlds! for a limited run at the ATLAS Performing Arts Center. WOW! opens May 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm and runs through May 28th. After the ATLAS, the play will tour to the prestigious Prague Fringe Festival in the Czech Republic.
Orson Welles first directed and narrated this live radio play on October 30, 1938. It was a special Halloween episode for Mercury Theatre on the Air, a prominent show that aired on the CBS Radio Network. It began with a musical program suddenly interrupted by breaking news of a "Martian invasion" of Earth. The first two-thirds of this 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins” of the attack, which included mass destruction, military battles, and widespread chaos.
The reports had great authenticity including interviews from an Army General chronicling the destruction and counter-insurgency. The broadcast aired without commercials and it was never introduced as a radio play. Ultimately, it was heard by millions at a tenuous time when threats by Hitler were escalating, and war in Europe seemed imminent. Panic and fear spread among an estimated 1.2 million Americans.
Artistic Director Robert McNamara noted, “Patrons will witness a reenactment of events as they unfolded in the studio during the infamous broadcast.” Our play recreates that night in “real time” and follows the exact script performed by Orson Welles. McNamara gives patrons a voyeuristic view of what transpired inside the studio. Plus, he dramatizes the hysterical reactions that took place throughout America. Altogether this play creates a rich and memorable theatre experience for Washingtonians.
In the days following the broadcast, there was tremendous public outrage at this “hoax”. The program's news format was decried as deceptive by some newspapers and public figures and led to an outcry against its creators. Nonetheless, this radio episode secured instant fame for Orson Welles in American entertainment lore.
Scena Theatre's riveting stage adaptation of WOW! 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 what the media reports as factual “news”. SCENA’s dynamic revival is timely and intriguing given the lack of trust that Americans now has for major media outlets.
Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds 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.

Press Night: Saturday, May 14, 2016 (8:00 pm) – Opening Night; Reception after

$10 Previews: Thurs. May 12 and Friday May 13 (8:00 pm)

Official Run:  May 14 – 28, 2016 (Thurs. – Sat. 8:00 pm; Sun. 4:00 pm;)

Location: ATLAS Performing Arts Center

1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Press Info: Email: 

Phone 571-216-5136 

Press Photos: Click on Press link (at left)

Ticket Prices: $20 - $40 (See ticketing page for specifics)

Box Office: Click on the Tickets link to the left

Visit, or

Call 202.399.7993 x2.

Fun Events: Industry Night: Tuesday, May 24 at 8:00 pm

Actors:  Charlotte Akin, Jen Bevan, Kim Curtis, Gary DuBreuil, Amanda Forstrom, Jim Jorgensen, Doug Krehbel, Steve Lebens, Buck O’Leary, Brian McDermott, Mick McGuire, Ellie Nicoll, Zach Roberts

Designers:  Robert McNamara (Director), Michael Stepowany (Set Designer), Marianne Meadows (Lighting Designer), Meg Holeva (Costume Designer), Denise Rose (Sound Designer), Anne Nottage (Asst. Director), and Simone Baskerville (Stage Manager)

Orson Welles (Original Director / Actor / Producer) is one of the great actors and filmmakers of the 20th century. He is renowned 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, Welles staged Voodoo Macbeth in Harlem in 1935 as well as 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. Yet, Welles died in Hollywood in 1985. He was 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