How Bill Oberst Jr. and VFX Guru Christopher Cooksey Brought RAY BRADBURY LIVE to Life
“Working with Christopher Cooksey on this project has been, for both of us, an almost religious experience.”
That’s indie horror icon Bill Oberst, Jr. talking about his one-man stage production, Ray Bradbury Live (forever) now touring theaters nationwide. In many ways, this has indeed been a spiritual journey for Oberst, who explains how a sad moment during a career-high gave him cause to pause and reflect. The actor explains:
“After Take This Lollipop won the Emmy and led to Criminal Minds and Scream Queens and all, I got into the LA red carpet culture pretty heavily, and for a while there, I’m ashamed to say that I kind of lost my guiding light. I only cared about being ‘bigger.’ One particular red carpet, I passed a homeless man on the sidewalk, living on a piece of cardboard and asking for food, without a second glance, on my way to the glamorous world behind the velvet rope. He wasn’t 15 feet away from us hugging and preening on the damned carpet. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and it brought me crashing down to earth. That despair sent me back to Bradbury. I dug out my old Ray books, and I started thinking, ‘Bradbury because he speaks to our humanity. We need him. I need him.’ And three years later the show is a real thing. So, in a way, I have the heartbreak of Hollywood, which broke Ray’s own heart so many times, and the emptiness of celebrity culture, to thank for the joy of riding a bicycle onstage to play a man who dreamed of Mars. Thank God for that bad red carpet trip.”
And thus, Ray Bradbury Live (forever) was concieved. About the show:
“The multimedia show was conceived and developed in Los Angeles. It is performed entirely in Ray Bradbury’s own words. Besides drawing from the writer’s vast body of work (including selections from A Sound Of Thunder, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes) and humorous and sharp observations on humanity taken from his speeches and interviews, the production uses large-screen visuals by Christopher Cooksey and an original music score by Brian Lee to capture in word, sight and sound the ideas of a man hailed on dust jackets for decades as ‘The World’s Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer’ (a blurb Bradbury hated).”
“Christopher’s visuals really opened up the world of Ray’s ideas in a way that words alone could not. It’s like there are really three characters onstage at all times: Christopher Cooksey’s visuals, Brian Lee’s score and ‘Ray’ himself,” Oberst tells us. “In the shows we’ve done so far (Los Angeles and Indianapolis) people have made a point after the show to tell me how much they like having the visuals and the music to go with Ray’s words. Got performances coming up in Charleston SC, Walla Walla, WA and Atlanta, GA so far and booking more as we speak. 2020 will be the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth.”
Cooksey uses a mixture of old school techniques like forced perspectives and miniatures with modern technology to create some truly stunning backdrops for Ray Bradbury Live (forever). For an insightful and enthralling peek behind the curtain, give the video embedded at the top of the article a spin: A Nursery Of Visuals – The Effects of Ray Bradbury LIVE (forever). It also goes to show just how much creative minds can accomplish through inspired and meaningful collaborations.
While Bradbury is most often lauded for his works of science fiction, the iconic writer was no stranger to horror, a fact Oberst emphasizes:
“Ray was a superb horror writer and that aspect of his work doesn’t get covered enough. It’s covered plenty in this show, I’ll promise you that! I put a nice, big hunk of Something Wicked This Way Comes in there. Mr. Dark rules the world of darkness, in my opinion. I go out into the audience in character as Ray playing Mr. Dark when he’s looking for the boys in the library, and people just squeal. I hope Ray is smiling about all of this from somewhere. People sure loved him.”
Are you a fan of Ray Bradbury? Does Ray Bradbury Live (forever) sound like a production you’d like to check out? What do you think of the amazing backdrops created by Christopher Cooksey? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!