October 20, 2023 Edition
Matt Christian of Conception Bay South has landed another role with the St. John’s Players, this time in a production of H.G. Wells The War of The Worlds at the LSPU Hall.
Christian landed the lead role of Scrooge in the St. John’s Players production of A Christmas Carol last Christmas, a role he initially thought would be his first and last.
“Scrooge was so much fun to do,” said Christian. “And I realized that acting was something that I really liked doing. And Scrooge got pretty good feedback. So, here’s something I enjoyed doing and was something I was pretty good at. So, I thought Scrooge, who was the one character I always wanted to play, would be a ‘one-and-done’ type of thing, and I would have been pretty happy with that. But I went away from Scrooge thinking that, if the opportunity came, maybe I would throw my name back into the ring. And then I saw that the St. John’s Players were doing The War of the Worlds.”
The War of the Worlds, Wells’ sixth novel, was published in 1898, and told the story of an alien invasion from the perspective of an unnamed narrator.
The novel has been adapted several times over the years, including as a rock opera released in 1978 and as a film in 1953 that, along with films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing From Another World, helped kickstart the alien invasion craze of the 1950’s, but it is Orson Welles 1938 radio adaptation that remains to this day that most well-know (and notorious) adaption of Wells’ novel.
In October of 1938, the novel was adapted as a Mercury Theatre Halloween radio special by the then 23-year-old Welles, who would later go on to write, direct, and perform in such Hollywood landmarks as Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil. The broadcast, directed and narrated by Welles, reportedly caused a panic when listeners tuned in part-way through the program and believed the fictional news reports of invading Martians were in fact real.
The St. John’s Players production both recreates the original broadcast in its entirety while also telling the story around the broadcast.
Christian remembers hearing about the radio drama and the public panic it created.
“So, when the opportunity came to recreate something so iconic, and something I thought would be so fun to do, I thought, ‘I’m going to throw my hat in the ring for this one as well,” said Christian, who plays many roles, including a studio announcer, police officer, and radio listener.
He said that, despite the subject matter, the drama is a family-friendly affair.
“It’s not particularly scary — unless you use your imagination,” said Christian. “You hear about aliens invading, but you never see the aliens invading. It really is a theatre of the mind. It’s a really engaging and fun story to come listen to.”
The story’s popularity and relevance over the last century is a testament to mankind’s fascination with science fiction and stories about alien invasions — in 2019 alone, two different television adaptions of the novel hit the airwaves.
“The human condition is to wonder what else is out there and what might be out there, and if there is something out there, what it might look like, and what an encounter might look like,” said Christian. “And that’s something that’s just ingrained in us as humans, to wonder ‘What if? ‘What if there is something out there?’ and this story is an interesting take on what might happen if something from another planet crashed on ours.”
Christian himself, says he’ll admit to believing in aliens the day one of them crash lands here on earth.
“I am by nature a skeptic,” said Christian. “I’m a ‘show-me-proof-and-I’ll-believe’ kind of person. And I’m not saying that I’m correct, that’s just how I operate. I’m a skeptic until proven otherwise.”
He added that he is glad to have the support of his wife Brenda, another St. John’s Player’s regular, who will be taking in the production as an audience member.
“My wife has been so supportive of me,” said Christian. “She’s the actor, and I really kind of stumbled into this because I happen to be married to her and last year at Christmas time she said, ‘You know what, you should give it a try.’ She’s been so supportive, and I really appreciate that.”
The production opened Thursday night, and runs until Sunday evening at the LSPU Hall. Tickets can be purchased online.