Just in time for Halloween, local Ray Bradbury fans are in for a treat. The author's stage adaptation of his own novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," has arrived in Orem for performances at the new Noorda Theatre at Utah Valley University.
Bradbury was "haunted" by the story, said Katherine Farmer, director of the Noorda Regional Theatre Center for Children and Youth, as evidenced by the fact that he presented the tale in six different ways through five different media -- as a short story, a film, a book that became a bestseller in the 1960s, again as a screenplay for a Disney film, as a play in the 1990s and as a London radio program in 2007.
"It's a story he can't let go of," Farmer said. "He keeps telling it in different ways."
Bradbury, who was born in Waukegan, Ill., in 1920, drew from his own youthful adventures in presenting the tale. In an era before more modern forms of entertainment such as movies and television became widely available, the carnival coming to town was an important annual event, and the mystical Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show is at the heart of Bradbury's narrative.
Dr. Terry Petrie, director of the UVU production, chose the motif of a playground as the setting for the drama.
"At any moment, our playground set can become whatever we dream it to be: a town, a library, a home, a shop -- even a carnival," he said. "And, with a little more imagination, the characters that come to our playground can be whomever or whatever we want them to be: horses, brutes, townspeople, even carnival sideshow freaks."
From that point, Petrie said, any adventure or scenario that might happen with such a group of characters can be envisioned, making for "a very theatrical and deliciously scary interpretation of Ray Bradbury's time-honored story."
Alex Ungerman is a UVU theater arts major and a student of Farmer's who assisted with implementing Bradbury's stage adaptation.
"I would describe the production as thought-provoking, touching, vibrant, creepy, heart-warming, timeless and fantastical," Ungerman said.
Opening night on Oct. 22 went well, he noted. "The audience liked it, and the ending is really kind of touching. We sold all but four seats, so it was a great turn-out for us."
The stage version has been done in Scotland and Moscow, but only once in the United States, Ungerman said, "so there were not a lot of reference points for us in terms of design and conceptualizing the show." In "tweaking" Bradbury's adaptation, details and descriptions from the novel were referenced.
Since the stage adaptation has been around since the 1990s, Farmer said, there is "usually a reason" it has not been widely done. That reason might involve the "stage to book comparison," and the fact that the story is "shown" in theater, rather than "told." Farmer has had professional colleagues ask her to report back to them on how UVU's production fares.
Wendy Gourley, another of Farmer's students at UVU, had some input into the production of "Something Wicked This Way Comes," by way of a class assignment to do a five-page analysis. But Gourley is also the managing director of Resonance Story Theatre and has created "from scratch" an adaptation of "Tom Sawyer." The adaptation was designed as a "touring show" for area schools, and is part of Orem's Big Read community-wide study of the book this fall.
Gourley outlined the adaptation process as steps, with the first being reading the source material -- multiple times.
The next step is to take notes, she said, analyzing the original work and mapping out themes and the role functions of the characters to make sure that structures and foundations of the original work are not changed.
Since stage adaptations often come from a larger work, another step is to decide the most important themes, and choose episodes that best illustrate those, Gourley said. She added a touch of storytelling to her "Tom Sawyer" adaptation, by having author Mark Twain as a character -- the narrator.
Ungerman said he thinks the production of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" has "a great message of self-acceptance," and aspects of temptation and decision-making that he believes will "resonate" with local audiences.
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" is scheduled to play through Nov. 7. For more information on performances and tickets, call (801) 863-PLAY.