Exactly 80 years ago — October 30, 1938 — panicked calls about an alien invasion began flooding emergency call centers. They came from listeners of the one-hour program “Mercury Theatre on the Air.” Typically, the hour was structured like a radio drama anthology series, but that night, the show broke form and performed an adaptation of the H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds” with Orson Welles narrating.

Thanks to realistic news bulletins interspersed throughout the program, listeners believed the fictional alien invasion was real — and in the time since, the broadcast has become an indelible piece of American history folklore.

Tonight, Louisville Public Media will present a special broadcast of Kentucky Shakespeare’s recent performance of “The War of the Worlds” across all three stations simultaneously (89.3 WFPL, 90.5 WUOL and 91.9 WFPK) at 9.

“War of the Worlds” was performed in LPM’s performance studio by Jon Huffman, Abigail Maupin, Gregory Maupin, Dathan Hooper, Gayle King, and WFPL’s Laura Ellis, and was directed by Kentucky Shakespeare’s associate artistic director (and occasional 89.3 WFPL host) Amy Attaway. This innovative production combines actors, music, and Foley sound design in creating a new version of a thrilling tale, just in time for Halloween.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.