By Ashley Bowden
For the first time, the Post Theatre Company will present a hybrid staged reading and performance as part of the 2019-20 season with “Fahrenheit 451,” presented by the graduate student company.
This hybrid performance is unique in its casting; it will cast underclassmen in addition to graduate students. This aspect of the performance was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s book being the common read for the class of 2023. “For the people in the freshman class, this a just a staged reading, and for the people in the graduate class, it is a full production,” director Melanie Armer said. The entire cast consists of 14 students, five of which are graduate students.
Bradbury transformed his fictional novel into a stage play script in 1979, and the performance will follow this version of the plot. “Fahrenheit 451” follows the story of Guy Montag in his search through a post-apocalyptic landscape of America. Montag works his way through understanding the ramifications of his profession as a “fireman,” where in this world the firemen start fires and do not put them out. Their job is to remove all books from citizen’s reach by burning them in order to eradicate literature from the country’s culture. The title of the piece is reflective of the temperature at which book paper ignites: 451 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Ray Bradbury wrote the story in 1953, in all of this he’s predicting a future that would be something like now, maybe a few years from now,” Armer said. The book covers a theme of how technology plays into the loss of humanity. Concerning the play, “He [Bradbury] talks about people wearing earbuds and not paying attention to the world because the world is just whizzing past,” Armer said. “It made sense to me to leave the language of that technology the same so we can actually hear that this is a prediction, which gives us the room to compare it to what’s happening right now.”
Jennifer Chaney, a sophomore acting major, is cast as a leading role in the show. “I’m an undergrad in a grad production,” she said. “Now I’m here working with a bunch of people I normally would not get the opportunity to.” Chaney submitted a virtual audition in response to an urgent casting email sent out to company members by Heather Drastal, PTC’s general manager, on behalf of Armer.
Chaney plays the roles of Holden, a fireman, and Helen. Holden is unfamiliar with the concept of being able to read freely because when he came into the world, books were illegal, according to Chaney. “Helen is also in the oblivious world of living through the television set and unaware that there is knowledge out there,” she said.
Armer wants to make sure that Ray Bradbury’s message is clearly spoken through the text and through the production. “One of the ways we are excited about doing that is because it is a combined production, we’re looking at the text in two different ways,” Armer said. “One is in a learned and rehearsed process and the other is in a staged reading process which incorporates the books themselves.” There will be seven performances of “Fahrenheit 451” from Nov. 21-24 with shows at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22-24, and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21. The production will be staged in the Little theatre. Tickets are available at www.tix55.com/ptc700, admission is free.