Three years after his death, Ray Bradbury’s prose takes center stage in a Los Angeles theater reading opening on the anniversary of the author’s death.
Ray Bradbury’s Pillar of Fire, a solo rendition of his novella of the same name by actor Bill Oberst Jr. presented as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival early next month.
Previews at the Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., will be Friday, June 5, at 8 o’clock, and Saturday, June 6, at 9, before moving to the Hudson Guild
Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., for ) for performances on three Thursdays, June 11, June 18 and June 25 at 8.
When Mr. Bradbury died on June 5, 2012, he left behind millions of what he called “my bastard children,” adults who first read him in high school.
Mr. Oberst says he is one of them. “Ray Bradbury saved my childhood,” says the actor. “I love him. I always will. He gave me hope. He gave me worlds without limitations.
“That is why speaking his words exactly as he wrote them is so important to me.”
Mr. Oberst wanted to be clear.
“This is not my adaptation,” he said. “It is his creation, all Bradbury. It’s a story fantastic in the original sense of that word, spoken just as he wrote it — a breathless 50-minute celebration of skilled language harnessed to wild imagination.
“Masterful,” Mr. Oberst said. It’s a time machine. He never left his bastard children. He never will.”
Pillar Of Fire, first published in 1948 and set in the year 2349, opens in a graveyard on an earth that has been cleansed of all superstition — a place where children are not afraid of the dark.
There’s no Halloween, no dark literature. Burials are banned.
Massive towers of cremation loom over cities.
As Mr. Bradbury’s tale begins, the last cemetery on earth is nearly emptied when the last dead man in the world wakes up.
William Lantry is a 400-year-old walking corpse filled with hate for the living and intent on teaching a sensible world the illogical meaning of fear.
Mr. Oberst, who presented an excerpt from the novella at a Halloween tribute in Mr. Bradbury’s boyhood home of Waukegan, IL, the year the author died, says the prose can be hypnotic for those who grew up on Mr. Bradbury, but stupefying to those whose ears aren’t used to such soaring sentences.
“He was in love with the world and with the wonder of the world, and the pulse of that wonder flows wildly through these paragraphs” says Mr. Oberst.
“Ray Bradbury’s words are like a roiling river. All one can really do is grab the sides of the raft and prepare to be thrilled.”
Mr. Oberst may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org