As I’ve never met the folks behind this project, and have no clue as to how good it will be, I probably shouldn’t be promoting it, but, as a huge fan of both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles, and a life-long lover of radio drama, I didn’t feel as though I had a choice. When I caught wind of the fact this afternoon that a fellow Ypsilantian was planning to broadcast a local version of War of the Worlds on Halloween night, I knew that I had to share it. What follows is my super brief interview with Peter Church, the man behind the audio play Jazz Planet, which you can hear, online, for free, starting at 7:00 PM on Halloween night.
MARK: How did the project come together?
PETER: I wrote most of it over a year ago. I listened to a replay of the 1938 Orson Wells radio broadcast, over the radio, about 10 years ago. I thought it was pretty cool, and I wanted to take my own shot at it one day. I knew an indie film would be out of the question, so I thought at first of doing an audio-only play. Then I figured, why not throw in some graphic novel-style illustrations to sort of storyboard the whole thing. That’s what I have done with Jazz Planet.
MARK: Who are the individuals involved?
PETER: I started by looking for an illustrator, and located Ypsi artist Ted Woods. Ted has a great, classic, pencil and ink approach, very contrasty. I took a look at his stuff on the web and knew he was the guy for the job. Then I chose the cast based on telephone interviews, since voices are the characters in a podcast. Here’s some background on the cast:
Mark Bernstein has done a number of shows for PTD productions here in Ypsi. He is Ann Arbor based.
Sara Shouhayib is a communications major, and knows how to do news on the air, which is part of the Jazz Planet plot. She has a great radio voice and she really pulled out the stops for me on this project.
Denene Pollock is from Ypsi and has also done a lot of local theater, some really demanding rolls. Another great voice too.
Jeff Priskorn has done a fair amount of TV and film in the Detroit area, and he is a real character actor.
I hope they all remember to invite me to the Oscars one day.
MARK: I don’t want to ruin the illusion, but my guess is that this won’t be done live, like the Orson Welles version, right?
PETER: That’s right. I would love to do that kind of old-school foley (sound effects) work (I always think of Monty Python and the cocoanuts as horses thing!), but modern studio SFX are just so much more realistic. David Fienup of Soundopolis in Ann Arbor did my sound design.
MARK: As jazz is mentioned in the title, I’m assuming that music plays more a part than in this version than in the original. Do the aliens play jazz? Or are they perhaps killed by jazz?
PETER: Mark, did you call up houses when you were little and ask what kind of candy they were handing out before going there on Halloween night? It’s a surprise.
MARK: Which version would you say yours is closest to… Wells, Welles, or Cruise?
PETER: It riffs off of Wells the most, with a pinch of the George Pal 1953 War of the Worlds movie.
MARK: You mention on your site that there will be no advertising, but will there be subliminal messages?
PETER: I have bad news for your Mark. Modern science has proven that subliminal messaging doesn’t work.
MARK: Wasn’t there a movie in the Halloween series in which all of the kids of America were encouraged to watch a particular television program on Halloween night that would turn their heads to maggot and roach-filled goo? Would I be right to assume that you’re not attempting something similar?
PETER: The citizens of Ypsi are safe, FOR NOW!
MARK: What brought you to Ypsilanti?
PETER: I design car engines, and Ypsi has sole. Ann Arbor, not so much.
MARK: Let’s say aliens do come to earth… Aren’t there places they’d be more interested in than Ypsilanti?
PETER: That water tower can really be a surprising draw to your average ET. They just can’t resist it!
For those of you who would like to listen, just click here on Halloween night.
And, here, for those of you have never heard it, is Orson Welles’s take on the H.G. Wells classic War of the Worlds, as it was broadcast on Halloween night, in 1938.
Oh, and somewhere around my house there’s an audio cassette that I recorded when I was about ten years old, which contains my version of War of the Worlds. Depending on the success of Jazz Planet, I may just have to dig it out, and put it online. I haven’t heard it in at least a dozen years, but, as I recall, it was kind of reminiscent of the early work of Judson Fountain.
[note: I hadn't heard it until this evening, but there's an odd little piece of audio from 1940 of H.G. Wells and Orson Welles being interviewed together, that I think some of you might find of interest. It was recorded just hours after Wells and Welles were introduced to one another for the first time, in Texas.]