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Ray Bradbury’s Shining Legacy Springs to Life at the Library with Bill Oberst Jr.’s Dynamic Performance as the Extraordinary Author

by Steve Fjeldsted, Library Director

Post Date:03/27/2019 8:29 AM

Emmy-award winning actor Bill Oberst Jr., earned a rousing standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience of more than 175 at the dynamic conclusion of his virtuoso performance as legendary author and visionary Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) in the Library Community Room last Friday evening, March 22.

The 90-minute characterization of Bradbury presented by the South Pasadena Public Library, the Friends of the Library, the Bissell House Bed & Breakfast, and the Living History Centre Fund contained  delightful helpings of the actual language from the extraordinary author’s books, interviews and essays. The glowing words were delivered commandingly by Oberst as he crouched, climbed, and pointed across the stage before a customized screen that displayed an attractive palette of swirling, complementary images. Dramatic sound effects and original soundtrack music further punctuated the proceedings as Oberst channeled his hero who first inspired him pursue a career as an actor when he was an aimless teenager.

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Oberst's riveting performance was the first public showcase of "Ray Bradbury Live (forever) - photo credit: Joaquin Montalvan

Oberst’s script, which resulted in a dazzling tour de force, was polished through 19 drafts over three years. The result, “Ray Bradbury Live (forever),” was officially authorized for performance by the Bradbury family and Don Congdon and Associates, the remarkable author’s literary agency. This event was the debut performance of this touring stage tribute.

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Amazing actor Oberst never paused or hesitated during the 90 minute tribute - unless it was by design - photo credit: Joaquin Montalvan

Over the years, Bradbury’s plays were regularly performed at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena with the iconic author and playwright often perched in the front row. And Bradbury himself appeared for the Library twice and gave the Library Measure L Committee its slogan: “Without libraries we have no past, no present, and no future. Once, for his 90th Birthday Celebration in the Library Community Room, there was such a large audience that two flatscreens had to be set up in Library Park to allow the overflow crowd to view the event and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” Bradbury’s only directorial effort, a delightful film that is set in a library (of all places) and stars Jason Robards. 

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The next stop for the Bradbury/Oberst show is the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis - photo credit: Joaquin Montalvan

Since Bradbury’s passing, the Library has presented many events to honor him and his enduring works, including screenings of “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” “The Halloween Tree,” and “It Came From Outer Space.”  In addition, the second-floor meeting space overlooking the Library Tree on Diamond Avenue has been renamed the “The Ray Bradbury Conference Room.” The Library is in the midst of adding about 200 rare Bradbury items to the room’s special reference collection with an eye on surprises to come, hopefully during 2020, the Centennial of Bradbury’s birth.

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A special rear projection screen highlighted the back of the stage - photo credit: Joaquin Montalvan

Special thanks to the Ray Bradbury Literary Works , Don Congdon and Associates, Inc., 210eastsound, Orville Houg, Alan Jutzi, Robert Kerr, Sally Kilby, Joaquin Montalvan, Carl Kozlowski, Jimmy O’ Balles, John Tarpinian,  Robert Bravo, Christopher Cooksey, Mark Savage, Bianca Richards, Ray Tatar, David Uwins, and the Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation.

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