Three benefit performances of a stage version of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" will be presented by the Bountiful High School Drama Club on Friday, Saturday and Monday, May 10, 11 and 13, with all proceeds going to the Utah Literacy Coalition, an organization focusing on helping illiterate people gain the reading skills they need.
Matthew Uhl, a senior at Bountiful High, is directing the play, which he said is entirely student-produced.Based on Bradbury's 1953 novel (made into a movie in 1966), it portrays a fireman in a future society whose job is not to put out fires but to burn books. Eventually, the fireman joins an underground group devoted to memorizing the classics in order to preserve them.
Uhl said he selected "Fahrenheit 451" because it contains both entertainment and a message.
"All of us are artists and this deals with censorship and freedom of expression," he said.
Uhl also noted that he and his cast first considered giving the proceeds from the benefit performances to local libraries, but they decided that it would be better to assit those who are unable to even utilize a library because they cannot read.
"The show illustrates what the future would be like without literature and knowledge," Uhl said, adding that some of the things Bradbury wrote about in 1953, such as large-screen projection TV systems, are commonplace today.
One message in the production is that while TV screens are getting larger and larger, peoples' brains are getting smaller and smaller due to the atrophy caused by addiction to watching TV for hours on end.
Uhl noted that this is a fear everyone can relate to, with fewer people reading today.
Performances will be on Friday and Monday, May 10 and 13, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m., in the Bountiful High School auditorium. All seats are $3, with tickets available at the door or in advance from the high school office.
Uhl's cast is large, ranging from 40 to 50 students on stage for some scenes.
Uhl noted that the book-burning sequences are powerful, as the firemen make comments about various minority, religious and ethnic groups and the belief that their books are no longer necessary or important, so the publications are tossed on the blaze.
For information on the Utah Literacy Coalition and its projects, call the toll-free Literacy Hotline at 1-800 451-9500.