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The Mercury Theater on the Air

The Mercury Theater on the Air

This site provides a collection of radio dramas from The Mercury Theater on the Air series in the 1930s. The show featured Orson Welles and John Houseman. One of the most memorable radio dramas from The Mercury Theater on the Air was Orson Welles, War of the Worlds. It is at this site, but so are many others. The 1988 interview by Leonard Maltin with surviving members of the Mercury Theater on the Air (found at the very bottom of the page under the Theater of the Imagination link) provides some wonderful history and backgound information for these radio dramas.


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lkkcdrb lkh vtfvko
lkkcdrb lkh vtfvko (Faculty)
16 years ago
Today, when radio has almost no presence in our life and we get so much information from visual images, it is quite an experience to listen to radio drama from previous decades, specifically the 1930's form of audio storytelling. In comparing the experience of the modern viewer to that of the "old-time" listener, the latter is much more active processing the information because he himself has to visualize the text. Radio storytelling has faded and lost its popularity and its audiences in the 1950's with the arrival of television. This site is an opportunity to create a learning object to generally familiarize the learner with the golden years of radio and with its grand priest Orson Wells. In particular, I would like to select the War of the Worlds, which he produced one day before Halloween (1938) in which he changed the drama to sound like a news broadcast about an invasion from Mars. I am convinced that today's passive "couch potatoes" will have some difficulties in the beginning to concentrate on an audio message, and will have to get use to comprehend a message that is not dissected MTV style, tailored to a short attention span. Yet, once they get the "swing of it," they will become active participants in a different, more imaginative way to understand reality. Another intriguing learning object could be built around the subject of the ability to move the masses with demagoguery, and the power of persuasion of the media.
Alayne MacArthur
20 years ago
I downloaded three of the audio files in this series and listened to all of
them. I used the War of the Worlds file to design a lesson for 12th grade
students on the role of mass media in 20th century American history. This site
presents many opportunities for interdisciplinary use of the materials. As I
was designing my lesson it suggested an entire course on the relationships
between history, literature, performing arts, and media technologies. This site
provides core material for team teaching across disciplines.

The content is of high quality and there is a diversity of subject matter in the
radio plays that lends itself to exploring and surveying adaptations of
specific works into other media.

The potential effectiveness of this material for enhancing teaching and learning
is found in the flexibility of its application across disciplines.

This material is probably not suited for learners who do not have abilities in
extended attention and comprehension through listening. However the experience
of listening to a radio play is in and of itself substantial content for
facilitating discussions about media, history, and popular culture.

Technical Remarks:

At two plus hours, even with DSL or cable modem, down load times are quite slow
so it is advisable to download the file prior to using it for a lesson.

Accessing the files was quite easy as long as Real Player or MP3 audio streaming
is available.
Cris Guenter
Cris Guenter (Faculty)
22 years ago
This site provides a very good information about The Mercury Theater on the Air
from the 1930s. Teachers and student teachers with whom I work are delighted
with the selection of old radio dramas that are found here and many get ideas
for K-12 classroom lessons from listening to selected shows. The 1988 Leonard
Maltin interview with surviving members (found at the bottom of the page under
the Theater of the Imagination link) provides a solid cultural and historical
context for radio dramas in America in the 1930s. I would rate this site a 5
instead of a 4, but some days the server where this site is housed is down. The
actual content of the site is excellent.

Technical Remarks:

You need RealAudio or RealPlayer or a MP3 Player to effectively use this site.
The old time radio dramas are available in streaming audio format or can be
downloaded for RealPlayer or MP3 players.