Bradbury's 'The October Country' to Take Stage at the Zodiac

Oct. 6, 2010


FLORENCE, Ala. – Tickets are on sale now for the Pillar of Fire stage production “The October Country,” a collection of four Halloween-themed tales of the macabre, eerie and supernatural by master fantasist Ray Bradbury. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 7-9 and 2 p.m. Oct. 10.

Proceeds from the production – part of the “Bradbury 90: Journey to Far Metaphor,” Pillar of Fire’s yearlong celebration of the author’s ninth decade – will benefit the John S. Cassimus Endowed Memorial Scholarship at UNA.

“Ray turned 90 in August, on the final day of our production of his science-fiction collection ‘The Machineries of Joy,’” said Cassimus’ grandson, Pillar of Fire founder and longtime Bradbury collaborator Terry Pace, who teaches English at UNA.

“‘The October Country’ takes us on a weird and wondrous walk through the dark, sinister and phantasmagoric side of Ray’s contributions to fantastic fiction,” added Pace, who frequently incorporates the author’s essays and stories into his college composition and literature classes.

The four short plays performed in “The October Country” include an offbeat vampire thriller (“The Man Upstairs”), a strange story of lost love and romantic obsession (“Cistern”), an unearthly blend of gothic horror, science fiction and literary rebellion (“The Exiles”) and a chilling tale of emotional manipulation and ghostly retribution (“Banshee”).

“These are classic tales of vampires, witches, ghosts, ghouls and demons, but they’re by no means conventional,” Pace said. “Each story adds an imaginative Bradbury twist to the traditional trappings of dark fantasy, gothic horror and old-fashioned gooseflesh. It’s an ideal way to welcome the month of October and celebrate the haunted season of Halloween.”

Most of the titles collected in “The October Country” date back to the 1940s, when Bradbury was writing penny-a-word stories for the influential pulp-horror magazine Weird Tales. The magazine featured classic chillers by Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce as well as all-new tales by H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard and up-and-coming talents like Bradbury.

“I am, for better or worse, the illegitimate son of the Opera Phantom, Dracula and the Bat,” Bradbury once wrote. “My proper home was Usher, my aunts and uncles descended from Poe.”

In addition to directing all four of the plays performed in “The October Country,” Pace adapted two of the Bradbury tales especially for the Pillar of Fire stage production.

“Two of the plays presented in this collection – ‘The Man Upstairs’ and ‘The Exiles’ – are scripts I adapted from original Bradbury tales. I thought these two classic Bradbury stories from the Weird Tales era would work particularly well on stage, and Ray agreed. This production marks the world premiere of these authorized adaptations.”

The cast of “The October Country” – which combines UNA alumni, faculty and students – includes Pace, Rob Koch (director of the UNA Center for Writing Excellence), Brooke Perry, Kyle Weir, Lily Holly, Anna Eastep Gibson, Carol Pace, Drew Rutland, Don Grace, Sara Biddle, Ken Lawson, Stewart O’Bannon, Thomas Beane, Steifon J. Passmore, Suzie Shoemaker Yarbrough and Forrest Harlan.

Opening night of “The October Country” will be Pay What You Like Night, where any amount will be accepted for admission. Tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $10 for adults and $5 for students (cash and checks only). Advance tickets are available at Rivertown Coffee Co., 117 N. Seminary Street, downtown Florence, and ColdWater Books, 101 W. 6th Street, downtown Tuscumbia. For details, contact Pillar of Fire at 256-366-4512 or pillaroffire@bellsouth.net.

“The October Country – that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist, where noons go quickly, and midnights stay. That country composed of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries, faced away from the sun. That country whose people are Autumn People, thinking only autumn thoughts. Where people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.” – Ray Bradbury (born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill.)