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Arts & Music

Stage take on Bradbury's 'Farenheit 451' hits the Straz

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Forget what you may have already read about Jobsite Theater's upcoming production of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." The show was initially billed as being video-heavy and the most technically complex production in Jobsite's history. Although the latter is still true, the visual effects have been killed in favor of audio.

"Bradbury, in his stage version, talks about keeping it simple and bare and allowing things to happen through sound. We wanted to recreate an environment visually, but we realized that got in the way of the work and the words," said David M. Jenkins, Jobsite's artistic director and "Fahrenheit" soundman.

Jenkins made clear that the lack of high-tech doodads would in no way diminish the play's quality or import. Without the distraction of screens and images, theatergoers will be able to experience the story in a more visceral way.

Bradbury wrote the novel "Fahrenheit 451" in 1953, and it was later adapted for stage and screen. The title refers to the temperature at which books spontaneously combust.

In a futuristic dystopian society, where books are burned and television tamps down emotions and independent thought, Guy Montag meets free-spirited Clarisse. The 17-year-old awakens Montag's sleeping intellect, encouraging him through her insatiable curiosity to question the world around him. In doing so, he begins to struggle with his work's validity. How can he, as a firefighter, continue to destroy the materials he now finds himself reading?

Bradbury said his story was about personal complicity and the inaction that TV culture creates. He faulted individuals, not government or society, for trading literature's breadth for the boob tube's distilled information. Television was still in its infancy when he wrote "Fahrenheit 451," yet the story rings true with every decade and technological upgrade.

"It's creepy how prescient he was about reality TV," Jenkins said.

In lieu of decking the stage with TV screens and projecting images onto the actors, which were original concepts, the Jobsite crew opted for an aural aesthetic that is frightening in its starkness.

"I'm inspired by the sound design of the Fallout video game. It has a World War II look with older music that they use throughout the game. The music is slightly sped up with a high amount of crackle. [For 'Fahrenheit'] I'm processing all the voices heavily to sound like computer-automated systems. There's something not quite right about the voice. It speeds up and slows down. There's shifting pitch and playing with which speaker voices come out of. There's a high amount of crackle. I'm going for a darker take, a grungier look," Jenkins said.

'FAHRENHEIT 451'

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday; through Sept. 30

Where: Straz Center, Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; call (813) 229-7827 or visit www.strazcenter.org

Tickets: $24.50

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