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Eternal Flame

It’s a place that could be as out of reach as the far side of some parallel universe – or as close at hand as the house next door. A place where the words and ideas of the ages die screaming in flames – while a society slowly lulls itself to death in a haze of prescription drugs, earbud headsets, and giant interactive screens.

On the evening of Friday, September 27, The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University welcomes the touring company of New York’s Aquila Theatre, in a dramatization of one of the most controversial and thought-provoking novels of the past century – Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

The American master of fantastic fiction adapted his own 1953 novel for the stage in 2006, incorporating elements of French New Wave director Francois Truffaut’s somber screen version some forty years earlier. The story of Montag – a “fireman” charged with the burning of books, in a dystopian future where literature and poetry are outlawed – comes to the Pollak Theatre in a fully staged 8 p.m. performance.

Bradbury – who identified himself as “Author of Fahrenheit 451” on his gravestone, prior to his passing in 2012 – peopled his tale with such characters as Clarisse, the unorthodox young girl through whom Montag discovers another way of life; Mildred, the fireman’s doped-up and disengaged wife; the disillusioned fire chief Captain Beatty; and the underground society of intellectuals who are determined to keep the storytelling torch from being snuffed out.

It’s a story born of the times in which it was written, the mid-century tilt toward Red-baiting and censorship tracing a direct line to the continued boycotting, banning, and abridgement of many works of literature – including “Fahrenheit 451” itself. And, even in its most fantastic trappings, it’s a story that hits home in numerous ways, to readers in 21st century America.

Bringing the world of “Fahrenheit 451” to life on stage will be the actors of Aquila Theatre, the not-for-profit company founded in London by Peter Melneck in 1991. Performing the Shakespearean canon, Greek classics, and modern literary adaptations in over 50 cities each year – and in venues that range from Carnegie Hall to the ancient Stadium at Delphi – the troupe under the artistic direction of Desiree Sanchez maintains its stated mission to “bring the greatest works to the greatest number.”

Before the show, join the director and members of the cast at 6:30 p.m. for a pre-performance discussion about censorship and the creative process of turning Bradbury’s novel into a theatrical production.

Tickets for Aquila Theatre’s presentation of “Fahrenheit 451” are priced at $25/35 and can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at Tickets for other upcoming events in the 2013-2014 Performing Arts series at Monmouth University – including “A Celebration of Harold Pinter” featuring Julian Sands (October 18), and a new series of high definition broadcasts from the National Theatre of London – are on sale now. To schedule interviews, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.