On July 6, Georgetown native and Emmy-winner Bill Oberst Jr. will bring the imagination of Ray Bradbury to life in a very special production of “Ray Bradbury Live (Forever)” at the Strand Theater.
Georgetown is one of only a few locations that will get the opportunity to witness Oberst’s homage to one of the greatest Sci-Fi writers of all time. He has introduced Bradbury to audiences through this show only in Los Angeles, New York, Indiana and in Charleston as part of Piccolo Spoleto. Georgetown will have the opportunity to witness this theatrical presentation of Bradbury’s genius simply because Oberst grew up in Georgetown and has a great passion for the “master of imagination.”
While Los Angeles and New York are known for their theater and Piccolo Spoleto is an annual celebration of all things artistic, it is the Strand Theater that promises a most amazing, otherworldly presentation of Oberst’s work. It has everything to do with Oberst’s own travels through time.
The manipulation of time and space are cornerstones of the Sci-Fi realm. Sometimes it is a function of technology. Sometimes it is a function of magic and fantasy. Sometimes it is a little of both. Nowhere on planet Earth is the magic stronger than in Georgetown. Oberst is the vessel through which this city was imbued with a magic that has been idling for decades, waiting for this moment.
Oberst grew up in the City of Georgetown. He can recall Front Street when it was inhabited by pool halls, empty buildings and a storefront that presented little more than a slumped-over mannequin from the first half of the 20th century.
“Georgetown back then was sort of a place out of time,” Oberst said. “The place that time forgot.”
In those days, many of the local plantations were closed and left to caretakers. The trees dripped with Spanish Moss and weeds overtook everything. Tombstones and obelisks were clinging points for nature and chipped away.
“This used to be a place that was really rich in metaphor,” he said. The plantation relics inhabited by memories are reminders of the desire for conflict which drives humans to this day. In explaining Bradbury, Oberst said the writer looked to bring people together by giving them a common enemy in space. They could feed that desire for conflict without indulging themselves on fellow humans.
It is this desire that encourages humans to find dividing lines among ourselves, pick sides and conquer each other. It is the reason Oberst has brought Bradbury back to his home.
“I think Ray saved my life,” he said.
Oberst was lonely in Georgetown and unpopular in just about every way an awkward teenager can be.
“I was a sissy kid, the fat kid, the ugly kid because I had really bad acne, the smart kid because I loved school and knew all the answers. I didn’t know how to throw a baseball,” he said. “But I loved books.”
Oberst was a character in a story, divinely written, on the backdrop of this city stalled in time. He would take long walks in the woods. On the day of fate, he was riding his bike along a canal and parked it behind what is now the Walmart to go on a hike. He got deeper and deeper into the woods when he spied something on the ground. He approached and realized it was a book entitled “S is for Space.” Also on the book was an image of the author, Ray Bradbury, seemingly staring up at the stars with the words “Tales of imagination from the master of imagination.”
The first story he read was “Pillar of Fire.”
“It’s very poetic. It’s very dark. It was very good for my angst.
“I was hooked,” he said. From that point on he bought every paperback Bradbury book he came across. The words gave him hope.
Decades later he brings “Pillar of Fire” on stage with him during performances. On June 6, it will accompany him at The Strand Theater. Those in attendance will witness a creative collaboration that not only refuses to insult Bradbury with a “Wikipedia” presentation of a biography but will put the souls of two men within grasp of every human willing to participate in the great communication known as art.
While Bradbury’s art and philosophy drive the production, it is Oberst’s passion that gives it a fire the audience can sit around to ponder the most basic and impossible questions of existence. This is a piece of magic that can only be exhibited in the City of Georgetown as the stars align and the world spins to this most perfect moment on July 6, 2019 when Oberst takes the stage on Front Street and “Pillar of Fire” sits as a bystander to the actor who owes his life to the author.
As the artist and writer cannot help but place some reflection of themselves in the words they pen it is fitting to consider Oberst’s words to prepare for this performance. It is a reflection of the desire for conflict that brings us together and tears us apart only to bring us back.
“Human beings are the same as they were [in the past]” he said. “They just have different toys.”
See for yourself when Oberst dares to bend space and time in order to conjure the genius of Ray Bradbury before your eyes. He will be accompanied on stage by Stacy Rabon.
“Ray Bradbury Live (Forever)” will be presented on July 6 at 4:00 p.m. as well as 7:00 p.m. at the Strand Theater located at 710 Front St. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at www.swampfoxplayers.com or by calling 843-527-2924.