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Festival celebrates Bradbury’s eerie tales

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

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‘October Country’

Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan

7:30 p.m. Oct. 26


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Updated: October 25, 2012 4:54PM

“To have Ray Bradbury stories told in the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan is very, very cool.”

Megan Wells, festival artistic director and performer, is looking forward to “October Country,” the 7th Annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival, sponsored by the Waukegan Public Library.

“Ray’s commitment to literacy was in every breath of his being. We are very moved, particularly this year, to have this festival already in place as a way to honor him,” said Wells, a Lindenhurst native.

The author of over 25 novels and 600 short stories, Bradbury, a Waukegan native, 91, died at age 91 on June 5 in Los Angeles. He wrote more than 25 novels and 600 short stories during his life. Bradbury’s legacy will be celebrated this year with performances by a quartet of professional storytellers and actors with selections from his books, “The October Country, Dandelion Wine and S is For Space.”

Wells will join narrator Jim May of Harvard, Ill., in a tandem perform of “Lime Vanilla Ice” at the evening performance. The selection is from “Dandelion Wine,” Bradbury’s recreation of 1920’s Waukegan, which he renamed “Green Town.”

“These are not readings,” said Wells. “Storytelling is a very specific form. You have no book, it is all in your head and your heart. The goal for the audience is a complete experience in their heads.”

New this year will be a haunted house set up in the basement of the Genesee that will open at 6 p.m. and Wells encourages audience members to come in costume for the performance.

Bradbury’s “S is for Space” is the source of “Pillar of Fire,” the Bradbury piece selected by the California-based guest performer Bill Oberst Jr. It’s his personal favorite.

Set in the town of New Salem in the year 2349, the premise is that humans need to be cathartically frightened from time to time. “That’s why we have superstition and that’s why we have Halloween,” said Oberst.

The actor, now 46, first started reading Bradbury when he was 12.

“He saved my childhood. He may have even saved my life. I was an extremely lonely child, fat, with horrible acne which is why my face is so scarred — and so good for horror movies,” he said.

“I started with his Mars stories and it opened my mind and gave me a world to hide in. When the kids would pick on me at school and I would go to the corner of the playground by the fence and read Bradbury.”

Oberst, who starred as Abe Lincoln in the 2011 horror film “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies,” will soon be seen playing a deranged cult leader in “Children of Sorrow.” He credits Bradbury with his becoming an actor, saying “He makes me feel that anything is possible.”

Oberst’s rendition of “Pillar of Fire” is a preview of his 2013 one-man show, “Dark Visions: The Nightmares of Poe, Lovecraft and Bradbury.”~.

Bradbury’s words still inspire the actor.

“I trick-or-treated when I was a kid,” said Oberst. “I knew what the wind howling through an October tree sounded like. When I read Bradbury I feel childhood in me again. And I feel joy and exuberance and possibility. So I’m going to wear a tux, because he deserves it.”

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