Thursday, February 28, 2013

Play inspired by Ray Bradbury

Without Whom is a one-act play by R.J.Downes, inspired by Ray Bradbury and his wife Marguerite. It will shortly be seen in a new production at the Springworks Indie Theatre & Arts Festival at Stratford, Ontario.

"This play is not a biographical work," says its author, "but rather a fantastic tale with veiled elements of [Bradbury's] life and my own".

Downes first put on the one-act play in 2008, when Ray Bradbury was still alive, but Maggie Bradbury had passed away. It was Maggie's passing that indirectly provided the trigger for Downes, who was inspired by Sam Weller's appreciation of Maggie published on the official Ray Bradbury website.

Downes says he was unable to find anything that Bradbury had himself written about his wife's passing, which made him think one of two things: "Either he is too self-absorbed to bother to say anything or her death hit him so hard that it actually silenced the man."

The latter would seem to be the truth, as in the introduction to The Cat's Pajamas (2004), Bradbury's first collection of short stories to be published after Maggie's death, he wrote:

During the last six weeks a strange and surprising thing has happened. My wife became ill in early November, wound up in the hospital, and passed away just before Thanksgiving. During her illness and in the time since, for the first time in seventy years my demon has lain quiet within me. My muse, my Maggie, was gone, and my demon did not know what to do.

As the days passed, and then the weeks, I began to wonder if I would ever write again; I was unaccustomed to waking in the morning and not having my private theater acting out its ideas inside my head.

Playwright Downes says that "the play was my attempt to fill that silence. The marriage depicted in the play is a guess at best." His Ray and Maggie MONARCH spend forty years bickering, but Downes says "the bickering and fighting [...] is actually based on the relationship of my [ex-]girlfriend’s father and his third wife (who incidentally and quite ironically are also named Ray and Maggie)."

Ray Monarch is described as "a stubborn and opinionated man. Very smart in many ways but lacking in the emotional side of things. Having lost his wife (both his life partner and his sparring partner) he now finds himself at a loss for how to move forward."

Maggie Monarch is "a strong willed and independent mature woman who has lived a life she is proud of, caring for the man she loved in both the good times and the bad."

Ray and Maggie have a daughter,  Susan Monarch. Ray's agent is Harlan, whose "personal stake in his client requires him to worry about the fact that Ray seems more and more lost with each passing day."

Quotes from R.J. Downes are from 2008 when he talked about the first version of his play in this interview for Weird Tales. The character biographies and casting call for his new production are here. News about the staging of the new production can also be found here.

The photos of the real Maggie Bradbury that inspired R.J. Downes.

No comments: