University, community partners create month-long exploration of “Fahrenheit 451”

Posted 09/03/13

Fitchburg State University has long operated as a cultural resource for the region, bringing national and international performers to the stage, celebrated authors for readings and lectures and talented artists to its galleries.

All of these disciplines will merge this fall, when the CenterStage at Fitchburg State University arts and culture series with community partners will present a multimedia exploration of the ideas and issues behind Ray Bradbury’s celebrated dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 on the 60th anniversary of its publication.

Film screenings, live performances, art exhibitions, panel discussions and a community-wide read-aloud of the novel will form the spine of this unique partnership between Fitchburg State, the Fitchburg Public Library, the Fitchburg Historical Society, Fitchburg Art Museum, Rollstone Studios, the Fitchburg Cultural Alliance, Fitchburg Access Television (FATV) and WPKZ AM-1280. Partner schools include the Fitchburg Public Schools and North Central Charter Essential School.

“It is thrilling to bring national artists as well as cutting-edge, emerging artists to our stage and to the community,” said Director of CenterStage Mary Chapin Durling. “That part of my work is exhilarating. My heart and passion lie in the community aspects of CenterStage’s mission and vision—when I can bring an artist and have that artist authentically connect with the community, or expand a single performance into a month-long, multi-faceted project as we are doing with Fahrenheit 451.”

In his novel, Bradbury created an imaginary world that would come to pass in our daily lives today. From the technology of flat screen monitors, interactive devices and ear buds to the blurry line between censorship and apathy, Bradbury’s work was stunningly prescient.

The month-long Fahrenheit 451 project begins with a marathon read-aloud of the novel on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fitchburg Public Library. FATV will record the read-aloud, and the audio track will be broadcast and WPKZ AM-1280.

There will be screenings of Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of the novel on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. on the university campus and Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the public library, to be followed by conversations about the film and the topics it explores.

Discussions of the novel will be held at the Fitchburg State library on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 23, at 12:30 p.m., hosted by the library staff. Discussions will also be held at the Fitchburg Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 19 and 26, and Oct. 3, 10 and 17, all at 12:30 p.m., with community members reading aloud from the book followed by discussions. Participants are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch and beverages will be provided.

The acclaimed Aquila Theatre company of New York will perform Bradbury’s own stage adaptation of his novel on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at Weston Auditorium. Using multimedia, the nationally renowned company ignites Bradbury’s world where firemen burn books and refugees secretly memorize them. All the while, we are invited to examine that world and our own. The performance is sponsored by Fitchburg Federal/Webster First Federal Credit Union with additional support from Mass Humanities, the New England Foundation for the Arts and the Amelia Gallucci-Cirio Endowment at Fitchburg State. The 7 p.m. performance will be preceded by a spotlight talk at 6 p.m. with members of the Aquila Theatre company. There will also be a performance for school groups on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 10:30 a.m. Tickets for the performances are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $7 for students 17 and under. Tickets for the school performance are $5. The Weston Box Office, located inside Weston Auditorium at 130 North St., is open Thursday and Friday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and can be reached at 978-665-3347.

The series will also include presentations about burned books and banned books with Fitchburg State faculty at the Fitchburg Historical Society, as well as workshops on altered books at Rollstone Studios and the Fitchburg Art Museum. A panel discussion on the role of censorship – formal and informal – in today’s society will be held Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Fitchburg Historical Society, moderated by Fitchburg State faculty emerita Shirley Wagner.

The art museum, historical society and Rollstone studios will also host a progressive art exhibition on Saturday, Oct. 19. A full schedule of events relative to the Fahrenheit 451 project will be found online at www.fitchburgstate.edu/f451.

For more information, contact Director of CenterStage Mary Chapin Durling at 978-665-3709 or by email at mdurling@fitchburgstate.edu.

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