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‘Fahrenheit 451’ burns hot at Prospect Park Bandshell

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decidedly music-heavy series, Celebrate Brooklyn has boasted such talent as Isaac Hayes, Feist and Spoon.

Over the years, the festival also has had a consistent theater presence.

On July 24, one local company, the repertory theater Brave New World, returns to the Prospect Park Bandshell's stage with an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Fahrenheit 451.

"I was always a huge fan of Celebrate Brooklyn," said Claire Beckman, Brave New World's co-founder and artistic director, which employs Brooklyn-based actors, producers, directors and playwrights. "I noticed they do dance and film and musical performance, but didn't necessarily have any theater in their line-up."

Though a lot of companies are hesitant to put time and effort into a one-night-only production, Brave New World accepted the challenge, and returns to the Bandshell for the third consecutive time this summer.

"We wanted to reach a really large audience with something really exciting," recalled Beckman, whose company caused a stir in 2005 with its site-specific production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” where hundreds came out for the performance on a leafy block in Ditmas Park. "We were willing to go out on a limb and do one night only."

After successful theater adaptations of “Great White Hope” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” in the past for Celebrate Brooklyn, the company will work Bradbury’s novel with its all-Brooklyn cast, including Beckman in the role of Mildred Montag, the wife, and her husband and Brave New World co-founder John Edmond Morgan in the role of Guy Montag. Richard Poe will play Captain Beatty, and Susan Heyward the fleeting but important role of Clarisse McClellan. Royston Coppenger is directing.

"It's always been an enormously important book for me," said Beckman. "Because we're a company that's committed to a lot of classic works and celebrates the spoken word and literature, this is a very important piece for us."

To achieve the burning visual inherent in the book's title, the theater production will rely on video design heavily to achieve that effect in the company's biggest budget since forming in 2003.

"They're the greatest partners," Beckman said of BRIC, which organizes Celebrate Brooklyn. "I feel incredibly blessed to be associated with them."

Beckman and Morgan formed Brave New World in 2003 in an attempt to fill what they saw as a cultural void Brooklyn, especially between their home in Victorian Flatbush and downtown Brooklyn, home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM.

“There really was nothing to do but go to BAM or the gallery for theater,” said Beckman. “I felt there was a gaping hole in the cultural landscape.”

The two also wanted to avoid the trek into Manhattan for auditions and shows and concentrate the enormous amount of acting and designing talent already in the borough.

“We felt Brooklyn was really ripe for a Brooklyn-based company,” said Beckman. “We felt it was time for a company of Brooklyn-based artists and designers to come together and claim the borough as a place to work.” Also, she said, “It became more and more clear that there's an enormous percentage of the theater going audience lives here. Why would the audience and the actors leave their home and cost the bridge to see theater?”

You can see Brave New World and the homegrown talent for yourself in their production of “Fahrenheit 451” on July 24 at 8 p.m. at the Prospect Park Bandshell (Ninth Street and Prospect Park West). For more information on the company, go to www.bravenewworldrep.org. For more information on Celebrate Brooklyn, go to www.celebratebrooklyn.org.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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