Ray Bradbury, who died on Tuesday at 91, will be remembered foremost as a science-fiction novelist and short-story writer whose works “Fahrenheit 451" and “The Martian Chronicles” have transcended the genre to become literary classics. But Bradbury was also an enthusiastic playwright, making significant detours to the stage and bringing his futuristic sensibility to live audiences.
In Southern California, where he lived for most of his life, Bradbury was an active and familiar presence in the theater scene, adapting some of his popular fiction for the local stage while also penning original theatrical creations.
Bradbury had a five-year relationship with the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. The company presented a number of Bradbury productions including a long-running stage adaptation of “Fahrenheit 451"; “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” which was adapted from Bradbury’s short story; and “Yestermorrows,” also adapted from some of the writer’s short stories.
Lissa Reynolds, the co-artistic director of the Fremont, said the company served as Bradbury’s theatrical home. She said the writer liked the small-town atmosphere of South Pasadena, and said that he would sign autographs and socialize with audiences after performances of his plays.
“He would always come on opening night,” she recalled. He was “one of the loveliest people.” The first play Bradbury presented at the Fremont was “Machineries of Joy” in 2006, adapted from his book of the same title.
The Fremont garnered attention in 2010 for presenting the premiere of Bradbury’s “2116,” a one-act stage musical that he originally wrote for actors Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. The musical was presented at the Fremont under the title “Ray Bradbury’s Wisdom 2116.”
Bradbury headed the Pandemonium Theatre Company in Los Angeles for many years. The writer worked with the late Alan Neal Hubbs, Pandemonium’s artistic director, to adapt some of his fiction for the stage and often presented them at the Fremont.
Prior to working with the Fremont, Bradbury and his company frequently produced plays at the Court Theatre in West Hollywood.
Among Bradbury’s other stage credits was “Madrigals for the Space Age,” a work for chorus and narrator, featuring music by Lalo Schifrin. The show was presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1973.