One of my mentors died recently - Ray Bradbury: a prolific author whose work spanned novels, short stories, screen plays, theatrical scripts and essays. Many of us read Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles and, of course, Farenheit 451 (or saw the '66 film and wrote the grade 10 essay based on Oskar Werner's performance).
I started reading Ray Bradbury in grade six. My dad had a copy of a collection of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays. I was hooked.
When I first became a stage director 10 years later, I asked if I could produce "To the Chicago Abyss"... the production sold out and we sent Mr. Bradbury a fan letter with pictures from our show. He responded - a letter and signed posters of his upcoming movie for the whole cast (Something Wicked This Way Comes). Our show was brought back for a second run (and had an off off Broadway offer!) and also swept the Quebec Drama Festival awards that year. By that time, Ray Bradbury and I were corresponding, albeit sporadically. He always included a handwritten note in his response or package.
By that point I had devoured everything he had written and was a committed fan. My ex got a gig working on the Ray Bradbury Theatre TV series for a season; I was so proud. I was directling a lot of new work that included many speculative/science fiction scripts; my palette finely tuned by Bradbury work. I was overjoyed in the late 80s to be assistant on the combined stage and opera version of "Something Wicked" with Gyllian Raby. Ray Bradbury came to see the show and I finally got to sit down with him in person. I shook so badly I could barely speak to him. I stayed as close to him as I could the whole time he was in town.
His writing set the tone for much of my own early writing. His plays deeply influenced my ear for language and search for the inner life of a character. His letters kept me inspired. The poster, framed, still hangs in my house.
I was at work when the news broke. I could break down our personal relationship into mere hours and a few letters but he is/was undisputably the biggest influence on my creative life.
"Thrash them with licorice whips till they cry 'mercy'" is wisdom by which I run my life.
RIP Ray Bradbury.
with great respect