Bradbury's dystopian 'Fahrenheit 451' to ignite SUNY Oswego stage

The SUNY Oswego theatre department starting Oct. 17 will conjure a society where addiction to technology and a book-burning decree threaten to wipe out reading and books in a play the late Ray Bradbury adapted from his award-winning novel published 60 years ago.

“Fahrenheit 451”—the title refers to Bradbury’s understanding of the ignition point of paper—will preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, and run at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, with a concluding 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday, Oct. 27. All performances will take place in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.

Directed by theatre professor Mark Cole, “Fahrenheit 451” will raise the curtain on a dark vision of banned and burned books that produces the it-could-happen chill of science fiction, yet redeems those who ultimately embrace literate thought and discussion.

Firefighters from Fahrenheit 451 production“The play, like the 1953 novel, imagines a future in which technology dominates to such a degree that humans lose interest in the life of the mind,” Cole said. “So books—that once represented the noblest aspirations as well as the most profound original and creative thinking of human beings—are suddenly suspect and dangerous because they require such intense mental investment and time to understand.”

Book burning

Bradbury’s 1979 adaptation for the stage made some changes for theatre audiences, but kept “Fahrenheit 451’s” premise the same.

“Bradbury wrote the novel at the beginning of the television era, and he saw the new technology as well as the established radio as something that could rule lives, by providing passive entertainment,” Cole said. “In this new world, knowledge merely exists in its most rudimentary sense: as a collection of basic information like baseball scores.”

The play is about a career firefighter, Montag (Keith Gallucci) in a dystopian but unnamed 21st century American city. His job requires rooting out and burning books, all of which are outlawed.

Montag’s rigid world of right and wrong is upended when he meets 17-year-old Clarisse (Clarissa Bawarski) and her grandfather, Professor Faber (Nicholas Cocks). Montag’s marriage to Mildred (Anna Richardson) is falling apart, and he aggressively pursues the very thing he has been trained to mistrust and destroy—reading and books.

His fellow firemen, Black (Dante Giannetta) and Holden (Issack Cintron) hold to the party line, but his boss, Chief Beatty (Tyler Eldred) holds a secret that can mean destruction for Montag.

The cast also includes Miranda Coll as Mrs. Hudson and Rebecca McCarthy and Alyssa Otoski as friends of Clarisse. The final scene of the play, inhabited by what Bradbury terms “Book People,” features Aristotle (Dan Frohm), Tolkien (Tim Bowman), Bronte (Taylor McCown), Rostand (Morgan Rae Noone), Tolstoy (Alyssa Scruton), Wilde (Ben Rebstein), Lewis Carroll (Kelci Schlierf), Plato (Nick Williams), Melville (Jackie Shikora), Dostoevsky (Kevin Caraccioli), St. Exupery (Matthew Caraccioli) and Stevenson (Richard Harris).

Scene and lighting design is by Ola Kraszpulska, in her first year with the theatre department faculty. Costume design is by Kitty Macey and sound design by theatre major Patrick Ostwald. The stage manager is theatre major Kellie McMenemon. Film director/cinematographer is Jacob Dodd of the cinema and screen studies faculty.

“We are fortunate to have Jacob Dodd on the production team, as he will create a film of the final scene that will be integrated into the stage action,” Cole said.

All tickets for the preview of “Fahrenheit 451” are $5; run-of-play tickets are $12 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students) except for the $10 Super Saturday special on Oct. 19 for tickets purchased online. Tickets are available at all college box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu and by calling 312-2141.

Parking is included in the price of the ticket, and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of and to the east of Culkin Hall.

PHOTO CAPTION: Chilling future—The theatre department will present Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” a play the famous science fiction writer based on his 1953 classic novel, starting with a preview Oct. 17 and run dates of Oct. 18 and 19 and Oct. 25 to 27 in Waterman Theatre. Cast members playing the book-burning “firefighters” are, from left, Tyler Eldred (Chief Beatty), Issack Cintron (Holden) and Dante Giannetta (Black). The Mark Cole-directed play condemns a society of the future addicted to technology and passive entertainment, and celebrates the creative minds who pen books.

(Posted: Sep 24, 2013)

Tags: theatre performance, theatre, theater, science fiction, ray bradbury, fahrenheit 451