Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: A Free Reading by Featuring Neil Gaiman, William Shatner, Susan Orlean & More

Today, the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birthday. And, to mark the occasion, Neil Gaiman, William Shatner, Susan Orlean & many others will host a reading of Bradbury’s classic book, Fahrenheit 451.

The online special, like the book, is separated into three parts, each introduced by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The voices of librarians, notable authors, actors, scholars, and students are bookended by the opening and closing readings from Neil Gaiman and William Shatner. The special includes commentary by Ann Druyan, director and co-author of Cosmos, an afterword by Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book, and a special appearance and reading by former NASA astronaut and administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.

You can watch the videos the reading  the videos above and below. The videos should be available until September 5th.

Part 2

Part 3

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  • Tobias Andersen says:

    I confess that I’m a bit taken aback that I was not asked to be a part of the Bradbury readings. Perhaps you weren’t aware of my contribution as I no longer live in L.A.

    I created the part of Fire Captain Beatty on stage. Produced the play twice more–bussing in students for morning performance followed by discussion periods (this was in Portland).

    Ray and I later wrote The Illustrated Bradbury, a one man play featuring nine of his stories and an epilogue. Reviews included. The play was published a few years ago by Dramatic Publishing.

    An adaptation of Fahrenheit that I wrote in the 90s will be in the 2021 season of Indiana Repertory, virus permitting.

    The two volumes of my correspondence with Ray over the years—including everything from scripts and photos to cartoons and poetry are now with The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, a museum in Indianapolis, connected to Indiana University.

    ‘The Illustrated Bradbury’ at Pasadena’s Fremont Theatre

    Jackie Houchin
    February 22, 2009

    — Theatre Review

    A boy encounters a stranger clothed tightly from chin to wrist, sweating in the heat of a summer´s day. He enquires why the man does not unbutton his shirt. The stranger casts woeful eyes upon the lad and states, “You´ll be sorry you asked.”

    So begins ´The Illustrated Bradbury,´ a play inspired by Ray Bradbury´s 1951 book about a man covered with animated tattoos (“in a forest of chest hair” and “peaking from arm-pit caves”).

    “They´ll tell your future and your death,” warns the man, but the boy cannot tear away his eyes as the figures come to life on the man´s torso like tiny movies. Lucky for us he watches and records…

    There are ten narratives in this “living anthology” selected from over 500 of the author´s stories published from 1944 – 1990. They feature men and women, birds and beasts … even a few extraterrestrials. Some of the tales tickle the funny bone; others predict doom. All are delightfully imaginative.

    But what else would one expect from the master of fantasy and science fiction?

    Celebrated actor Tobias Andersen performs each of these tales (18 characters in all) with such diversity the audience soon forgets it´s a one-man show. In flawless, animated monologues, changing only his facial expression and physical attitude (and perhaps a hat), Anderson morphs from mad prisoner to elderly spinster to talking parrot with the ease of a magician.

    In “The Murderer” a straightjacketed man tells how he systematically, and with glee, destroys the intrusive technology that controls his life. “The silence was beautiful,” he claims, “after I murdered my house.”

    In a creepy moonlit scene, a mariner eulogizes “The Foghorn” and the beast from the deeps that answers its mournful call.

    A merry (and perhaps a wee bit tipsy) Dublin man explains his version of the Irish Olympics in “The Anthem Sprinters.”

    In the delightful “There Was an Old Woman,” a spry old maid argues with a persistent young man carrying a wicker basket (not a specter with a scythe) that she doesn´t believe in death. But the “dark thief” outwaits her, and after a brief catnap, Tildy wakens to discover she´s a ghost. Incensed, she grabs her umbrella and strides offstage to the mortuary to reclaim her body. After a brief intermission, the audience is treated to a hilarious scene, in which the stubborn Tildy blackmails the mortician into returning her body. Bravo, Tobias Anderson, for that astonishingly believable performance as a feisty old lady pulling on her body like a pair of pajamas!

    Anderson continues to amaze the audience in the comic-noir “The Parrot Who Met Papa,” where he plays a private eye, a Cuban bartender, a gangster, a parrot and the inebriated Hemmingway. The story has a delightful and unexpected twist at the end, which he pulls off perfectly.

    His monologue as Fire Captain Beatty in “Fahrenheit 451” is delivered with heat and intensity, but with a mere change of stance and expression, he easily switches to the lighthearted tomfoolery of time-traveler Stiles in “The Toynbee Convector.”

    “The Illustrated Bradbury” is a perfect melding of writing and acting talent from an actor-writer relationship that goes back 30 years. With David Smith-English´s able direction, and Ray Bradbury´s many murmurs of approval of on opening night, theatergoers can be assured of an evening of outstanding entertainment.

    The Los Angeles premier of “The Illustrated Man” runs Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm through March 8, 2009.

    Admission is $20 (seniors, $15 & students, $10). Call (323) 960-4451 for reservations.

    The Fremont Centre Theatre is located at 1000 Fremont Ave, (at El Centro), South Pasadena, California, 91030. There is plenty of parking behind the theatre.

    Caution: One story,”A Graveyard for Lunatics.” may be religiously offensive to some.
    Los Angeles Examiner

    Jana Monji
    LA Theater Reviews Examiner

    “The Illustrated Bradbury”: Two Storytellers Join to Entertain
    February 27, 11:23 AM

    If you’ve been under a rock on Earth or on Mars, then let me inform you that Ray Bradbury isn’t dead–he’s taken to the stage. He’s not on stage, but his plays are. His company has been renting a small South Pasadena theater, the Fremont Centre Theatre, with mixed results. This outing, “The Illustrated Bradbury,” joins two story tellers–Bradbury who adapted the stories and Tobias Andersen, for an entertaining two hours.

    I wasn’t a fan of the last installment, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” but the one-man show, “The Illustrated Bradbury,” making its Los Angeles area premiere is a winner. The humor is gentle and the nine tales that Andersen has chosen are not science fiction.

    “The Illustrated Man” serves as a means of framing the stories. Originally written in 1951, during a time when tattoos were for sailors, drunk dares, yakuza recruits or freak shows, this tale and others illustrate the changes we’ve seen here in America. About a tattooed man, but played un-tattooed by Andersen (in black shirt and pants), the tattoos are not what make the character a freak and perhaps today, an even more alarming tale could be written, riffing off on the story’s conceit.

    More topical is the 1953 tale, “The Murderer,” where a man begins to murder the electronic contraptions that control our lives–beginning with the phone. If you haven’t been annoyed by cell phone usage and users in today’s America, then you might need to take a good long look in the mirror and enroll in a 12-step self-help program to wean you from your cell phone, Blackberry or whatever.

    One story that has a special significance in today’s economy is “The Inspired Chicken Motel,” set during the Great Depression and showing how a family finds cheap lodging and inspiration to be kinder to teach other. There’s also an excerpt from “Fahrenheit 451,” of course.

    If you’re a fan of Bradbury, he always shows up on opening night and at some other performances. All of the stories in this performance as well as all of Bradbury’s writings, according to Andersen who spoke briefly to the audience after the performance, show a total love and optimism Bradbury has for humanity–even during these times or perhaps, especially during these times.

    Under the direction of David Smith -English, the pace is leisurely, but fitting. The set and lighting design by Christopher Whitten is minimal–a black stage with a tree represented by wire. It’s actually a disguised hat stand for the props that help Andersen establish different characters. To one side, Andersen has a table with water.

    “The Illustrated Bradbury,” Ends March 8. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. (at El Centro), South Pasadena, CA. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. $20-$10.

    Daily Sundial
    ‘The Illustrated Bradbury’ is a mesmerizing ride

    Aubrey Canfield / Contributing Reporter

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    You might know Ray Bradbury from novels such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Aside from being an internationally acclaimed novelist he is also an author of short stories, screenplays and poetry. “The Illustrated Bradbury” is a collection of some of his most memorable works.

    Tobias Andersen, creator of Captain Beatty in the original “Fahrenheit 451,” stars in the one-man play and single handedly brings each of Bradbury’s characters to life in mesmerizing wonderment. The Fremont Theatre in South Pasadena is an intimate venue, with no more than 50 seats. The stage was almost completely bare except for a stool and a tree constructed out of iron and chicken wire; adorned with various hats and props. The audience pondered in eager anticipation what might await them.

    Andersen casually strolled out onto the stage, but even motionless he was captivating. He began to describe the illustrated man, and it was as if I could see this character materialize in front of my eyes. His commitment to each of the many characters he plays is astonishing. Andersen believes in his characters and so we the audience believe it – when he casts a mimed cigarette to the floor, one can hear it.

    Bradbury’s stories are fantastic, apocryphal and optimistic. Once of the pieces “The Inspired Chicken Motel” was the story of his family during the Great Depression. Traveling across country, the family struggled to stay afloat. The piece couldn’t be more timely or appropriate for these tough times, embodied by the phrase, “rest in peace, prosperity is near.”

    “The Illustrated Bradbury” is more than a collection of entertaining tales. It is an insightful social commentary and an appropriate homage to one of the most profound writers of our time.

    “The Illustrated Bradbury” is playing at Fremont Centre Theatre Feb. 21 to March 8. Student tickets are available for $10 at http://www.plays411.com.
    Your Low-Tek NewsTM

    Week of February 23rd, 2009 Vol. 14-No. 8

    The Fremont Center Theatre of South Pasadena presents the Los Angeles premier of THE ILLUSTRATED BRADBURY, featuring Tobias Anderson who “illustrates” a selection of short stories and tales written by Ray Bradbury.
    In this show, Tobias Andersen acts out through his storytelling skills a group of ten chronicles and passages that showcases the eclectic world that the author and playwright has created that can be a parallel world based upon the person that experiences each one. Donning a black t-shirt and trousers, he acts out a slice of a life using The Illustrated Man–the vintage 1951 story of a mysterious man whose body is complete with tattoos that speak for themselves, as the focal point. From there, the journey begins where his character morphs into many, from a Irishman that converses about a magical theater, the old lady to springs back to life insisting that the caretakers of her body puts her back in place, the man who “murdered” his phone because the device was taking over his life, a gumshoe that investigates a parrot who knew Papa Hemingway in Havana, a “Prince of Peace” who links a Hollywood connection, and the world where firemen do not douse the flames of burning books, but rather starts them up! These and many others, make up the universe that the playwright had discovered.
    And what a discovery indeed! This show is a multiwork of a masterful actor (Tobias Andersen), a superb director (David Smith-English), and a writer whose work is so creative and downright perfect, it’s almost scary! Even though Tobias is seen on stage, his props and a few pieces of headgear are his tools, and his background is a blue-ish backdrop with a metallic tree (thanks to Christopher Whitten’s scenic and lighting design). It’s really an illustrated radio drama. One can hear and feel the characters speak through Anderson’s voice and emotions. This is a show that proves itself in spades that less is more! One can even close one’s eyes and still feel the emotion that all creative forces placed upon it.
    One special note to this show that Bradbury writes with the notion of using love and positive emotions into every sentence and word. Some of its characters and actions may not expresses such love per se, but in short, every element falls into its one place in its own time. Only a handful or writers came remotely close to this theory, yet Ray Bradbury is the sole body to fully complete this assignment! When the time comes when this writer genius is ready to head off to another world, there will be no successor to his throne! And in this current world no matter how high tech it may be, the spoken and printed word of this man will still live on!

    THE ILLUSTRATED BRADBURY, performs at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena, until March 8th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights @ 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons @ 3:00 PM. Reservations, call (323) 960-4429, or via the web site at http://www.Plays411.com/RayBradbury.
    Visit Ray’s website at http://www.RayBradbury. com

    The Illustrated Bradbury—Arena Stage at Theatre/Theatre—SE Portland
    This one-man show, starring theatre veteran, Tobias Andersen, is written by Ray Bradbury (based on selections from his novels and short stories) and directed by David Smith-English. It will play at 7:30 pm through April 7th at the theatre’s location at 3430 SE Belmont St. For more information and reservations call 503-593-1295.
    Echoes of Bradbury…Running
    All stories start with an idea. But it cannot be browbeaten into existence. “Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies” (Just this side of Byzantium by Bradbury). Technically, most people can write, but not everybody is a storyteller. In this regard then, Bradbury is a storyteller extraordinaire’.
    If you have not partaken of the feast that is Bradbury—shame on you. You are missing something important in your diet. The most recognizable of his writings (mostly because films or plays have been made of them) are The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked Comes This Way and my favorite, Dandelion Wine. And now we have Mr. Andersen, waxing poetic upon the boards, lovingly re-creating the digestible words of this prolific, poetic, progenitor of the written word.
    Like Rod Serling and his Twilight Zone, most of his stories have a moral or message at the heart of them. They exist in the world of Fantasy, as it alone allows a sense of freedom to explore all possibilities of existence. But, as far-out as his stories seem, he has dipped his pen into his heart and writes with blood. We can all identify, if not agree, on his views of life. His writing is universal, as was Shakespeare’s, and that’s what will make him immortal.
    A play, to do justice to all the thousand of stories/characters he created, would take weeks to portray on the stage. But this selection does give a good cross-section of his works. The tales seem to emanate from a tattooed man that a stranger meets on the road. His body, seeming to write prophetic stories on its flesh, of those who stare too long at it. And, thus, these few tales take life.
    The Murderer concerns a man who has committed a great crime, he has murdered all the…electronic gadgets that seem to be controlling his life. This was written in the 50’s, about a future world of constant noise, interruptions into one’s normal life, of electronics that are continually giving information, intrusion and interruption of the natural rhythm of living. Any resemblance to current affairs is entirely…intentional.
    The Foghorn is concerned with the lonely keeper of a lighthouse that, when activating the foghorn, discovers an eerie answering cry out of the depths of the ocean…from the age of dinosaurs. A love-struck animal looking for its mate? The Inspired Chicken Motel is based partly on a true story of his family moving around during the Depression, looking for work. Instead they find a hen that lays an egg with a prophetic message on it for them: Rest in Peace; Prosperity is Near.
    Other stories include an Irishman who finds sport in sprinting from a movie theatre before the national anthem is played; an old woman who refuses to die and promises to wreck havoc on her keepers if she isn’t returned post-haste to her body; and Hemingway’s parrot, who just might hold an unpublished novel of his in its brain.
    More include the Fire Captain (from Fahrenheit 451, a role Andersen originated onstage) declaring that people themselves have rid us of our books because of the MTV mentality of switching ideas so quickly it doesn’t allow us time to think about anyone of them in any depth. A world in which facts give us data, but no meaning behind it. A world where Intellectual is a swear word. A world, perhaps, not of Fantasy anymore, but of reality?!
    Also included is a story about a man who invents a time machine which goes into the future…or does it? And the final conclusion, a religious earthling who, building a Temple on Mars, discovers that the old race has found peace, harmony and happiness by divesting themselves of material connections, so has no need anymore of such trappings.
    The relater/portrayer/inhabiter of this menagerie of Bradbury writings is a theatre icon himself, Tobias Andersen. He engulfs the 15 or so characters he enacts. He slips easily from an Irishman, to an old lady, to a Florida detective, to a futurist scientist, et. al. with such ease that you don’t even notice that it is only one actor creating this smorgasbord of delightful, tempting creations. It is a show, a performance, for the ages. Look, Listen and Learn from the Masters, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Andersen.
    I believe if Tobias peered very closely at a patch of bare skin on the Illustrated Man, he would not only see a reflection of his visage appear, but a blended one with Ray. Bravo! I would highly recommend this show. If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

  • VP of Organically produced books of Paramore Industries says:

    As you have seen my people are going through the third industrial stage in Paramore Industries and no one has witnessed this unfortunate reflection of thus the book censorship neglect. Please write back…

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