“What I find so intriguing about the heated public discussion immediately following the War of the Worlds broadcast – in letters to the FCC and to Orson Welles, in newspaper pages, and in industry trade journals – is not just the way the controversy comments about the power of radio or the susceptibility of the audience, but the way in which the gendered logics embedded in the broadcast system rose to the surface in these debates and informed the popular, industrial, and regulatory discussions about the mass “hysteria” of October 30, 1938 …”
[Reblogged from Antenna]
With Jennifer Hyland Wang‘s terrific exploration of the gendered logics surrounding the reception of the “War of the Worlds” broadcast and its implications for communications regulations, our six month series on the radio work of Orson Welles — From Mercury to Mars — comes to a close.
I have many supporters to thank for helping to bring this project together, but none so much as the Sounding Out! team – Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, Liana Silva-Ford and Aaron Trammell, as well as our co-conspirators Nick Rubenstein and Monteith McCollum who contributed so much to the #WOTW75 project. Also a big thanks to Andrew Bottomley, my counterpart at Antenna and recruited all the authors from that end.
Chiefly, however, I want to thank all our writers for such smart and entertaining work. I think it’s fair to say that the Mercury to Mars project brought more insight into Welles’ radio years than virtually any other body of collected writing. In August, Cornell professor Tom McEnaney started out the series with a detailed study (here) of the role that Latin America played in Welles’ radio imagination and early film projects. Eleanor Patterson of the University of Wisconsin Madison followed up with her take on WOTW as a kind of residual radio (here). In the early Autumn, Professor Debra Rae Cohen of the University of South Carolina took on Welles’ first play in the Mercury cycle – his version of “Dracula” – explaining how it commented on the medium (here). On Antenna, Cynthia B. Meyers from the College of Mount Saint Vincent provided keen insight (here) on her experiences teaching WOTW in the classroom. Soon afterward, Kathleen Battles of Oakland University brought us her fascinating take (here) on Orson Welles’ self-parodies on the Fred Allen show and elsewhere, and in the lead-up to our #WOTW75 event, NYU’s Shawn VanCour made a compelling case (here) for why the second act of WOTW was so much more remarkable than the first.
On the 75th anniversary of the “War of the Worlds” broadcast last October, we organized (or at least inspired) listening parties and collected hundreds of real-time tweets from participants in seven states and three countries all listening at the same time and using our hashtag #WOTW75. The exercise was coordinated with a three-hour SO!-produced broadcast from WHRW at SUNY Binghamton, with comments on the show by a dozen prominent scholars and writers, including Kate Lacey of Sussex University, Alex Russo of Catholic University, Brian Hanrahan of Cornell, John Cheng of SUNY Binghamton, Damian Keane of SUNY Buffalo, Jason Loviglio of the University of Maryland, Paul Heyer of Wilfrid Laurier University and more. We couldn’t be more proud of the depth of the material and the breadth of the event, which stretched from the University of Mississippi to Northwestern University, from Bournemouth University in the U.K. to the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. Here is the navigator page we put up the night of the event, here is Aaron Trammell‘s remarkable audio documentary that aired early that night and here is Monteith McCollum‘s amazing WOTW “remix” that aired later.
After the anniversary, our series continued to grow. Josh Shepperd of Catholic University reflected on what WOTW meant for the development of media studies (here) based on new archival research, and Jacob Smith of Northwestern wrote a terrific article (here) about “Hell on Ice,” Welles’ great drama of sailors lost in frozen wastes. We also commissioned new writing (here) on Welles’ adaptations of Sherlock Holmes by A. Brad Schwartz, who co-wrote a PBS program on the WOTW scandal. We also heard from two of the most prominent media studies scholars out there: Michele Hilmes of Madison wrote about the persistence and evolution of radio drama overseas after Welles (here), while Murray Pomerance of Ryerson University wrote a rich and provocative study (here) of Welles’ voice itself.
Thanks to one and all. For my part, it’s simply been a joy to share my boundless fascination with Orson Welles’s radio work with so many friends, fans and colleagues. Signing out now, on behalf of Mercury to Mars, I remain your obedient servant, Neil Verma.
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If you missed our #WOTW75 event, we will be re-broadcasting many of the key segments in the coming week. So, for a special Halloween treat, tune in to Sounding Out!‘s custom remix of Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds. Here, Binghamton University professor, Monteith McCollum dazzles with a podcast that updates the original into an eerie piece of sound art. Join Monteith as he and his Performative Processes class explore techniques of audio production nicked from the era of live radio theater. These analog techniques have been weaved into a remix of War of the Worlds guaranteed to send chills up your spine. So set the lights low, lock your door, and prepare for a podcast you won’t soon forget.
Monteith McCollum is an independent filmmaker, musician and educator who has taught at various schools in Chicago, Illinois and upstate New York such as Columbia College, Broome Community College and Ithaca College. He has been a visiting artist at colleges including Boston Museum School, Art Institute of Chicago and University of Iowa. You can learn more about his work at monteithmcollum.com.
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Sound Bites: Vampire Media in Orson Welle’s Dracula— Debra Rae Cohen
“I turn down the lights and encourage students to close their eyes or rest their heads on the desks. Then I play the first 20 minutes of The Mercury Theater on the Air 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. Sometimes I play it straight through; sometimes I pause it occasionally and ask students what’s happening …”
[Reblogged from Antenna]
Click here to read the rest of Cynthia B. Meyers’s thoughts on what it means to teach this radio play in the classroom today. And be sure to watch out for Meyers’s exciting new book, A Word from Our Sponsor: Admen, Advertising, and the Golden Age of Radio, which is sure to reshape how scholars think about advertising in commercial culture.
This post is the fourth in our ongoing series in partnership with Antenna, From Mercury to Mars: Orson Welles on Radio after 75 Years. Want to catch up on the series? Click here to read Tom McEnaney’s thoughts on the place of Latin America in Welles’s radio work. Click here to read Eleanor Patterson’s reflections on recorded re-releases of the “War of the Worlds” broadcast. And click here to read Debra Rae Cohen’s thoughts on vampire media in Orson Welles’s “Dracula.”
Also, if you’re getting terribly drawn in by all this Welles material – and, really, who could blame you – why not join our WOTW anniversary Facebook group? You can learn more about a broadcast we are planning for next month to help celebrate and rethink the panic broadcast , as well as about a social media experiment we’re conducting around it. Help spread the invasion!