Thursday, July 16, 2009

War of the Worlds - The Public Panics

As I set these notes on paper, I am obsessed with the thought that I might be the only artist to ever have witnessed this amazing journey as simple words on a page are converted into a mysterious and dynamic drama. Toward the end of a rehearsal Aradhana asked the actors who play the parts of "the Public" to all sit in a circle so they could read lines from a book of interviews of people who had lived through the panic caused by the Orson Wells radio broadcast. Everyone insisted I join in this reading circle so I did. Each actor in turn would read a line or paragraph from the interviews and revised excerpts from the readings were incorporated into act 2 of the show. It is surprising what people think of when they assume the end is inevitable. A policeman has to calm callers on one hand while wishing he could escape. A young woman wishes she had lived long enough to have a baby. An impoverished woman is glad she doesn't have to pay the butchers bill and thinks to herself she might as well eat the chicken in the freezer. Some people heard about the broadcast from friends and tuned in as the worst of the Grover's Mill invasion took place. For some it was just important to be with family and friends and accept their fate and trust in God. Sitting in this circle and adding my own voice to the confessions and lost hopes was sobering and magical.
In this sketch the actors are highlighting lines that they will later be asked to recite in the final play. When I saw the second act with these lines added the result is haunting and unexpected. This scene is lit with a ghost lamp. The tradition of the ghost lamp is that in Shakespeare's times the lamp was used to scare ghosts away from the performance. The ghost lamp is left burning in the middle of the stage all night. This superstition continues to this day.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Anthony said...

I love this sketch, the different personalities and poses, and the perspective is great. The "ghost lamp" tradition is fascinating, too; I had never heard of that before.

Thor said...

Thanks Anthony.