MartianMuch of what we do as voice talent, as actors, is telling a story and conveying the human experience.  This is often our initial draw to perform. At an early age, Science Fiction writer Ray Bradbury did this for me through his extraordinary short stories, such as “The Martian Chronicles”, “R is for Rocket”, and “The Illustrated Man”, to name a few.

Well, Ray passed away last week at the well-worn age of 91.  He lived a rich, full, remarkable life.  

He was truly the most accessible and generous, well-known author I’d ever met.  Many years ago I read in the paper he was coming to Chicago for a movie premiere, so I trekked through a snowstorm to personally hand him a copy of my radio theatre style adaption of “The Martian Chronicles”. These stories were my favorites when I was a kid and had encouraged me to read and write stories of my own. I had the idea of creating entertainment that would engage anyone from the age of 8 to 80 like he did and I wanted Ray’s blessing.  My adaptation was meant to be performed by a cast of actors rather than a single reader as so much audio book is typically done.

To my amazement, less than a week later Ray called me directly on the phone.  “Honey, I have to say I think this is the greatest treatment I’ve ever read of this text,” his voice stated confidently.  I went weak… in a good way… if that’s even possible. “I wish you were writing the film!”  Okay, now I was near faint, the blood rushed out of my head. “Why aren’t YOU writing the film, Ray?” I asked.  “Aw, they don’t want to hear from the old man, Honey.”  

I was at the same time exhilarated and dumbfounded. We spoke for more than an hour.  He even gave me his home phone number, which I later learned he did with scores of devotees, but we did manage to have numerous (albeit) brief exchanges over the years.

I once asked him what he thought of the 1970’s, Rock Hudson, made-for-TV movie version of “The Martian Chronicles”, which to be honest only served to infuriate and frustrate a purist like me—even as kid in Junior High.  Without missing a beat, Ray said, “I loved it.  I thought they were great!” Well, that to me was an extraordinary statement.  Besides the fact it gave me some honest perspective; his initial compliment to me was now thoroughly diminished.  How could he like that piece of crap?  Hell, I was insulted by that production as a thirteen year old.  I couldn’t imagine if it had been my own work!  I was mortified.

“Are you kidding?” he went on, “I love it when people do my work!”

In that single statement, Bradbury taught me the greatest lesson as a writer, as an actress, as an artist. He was thrilled anyone would think enough of his work to do anything with it.  He told me he created it and put it out there, the piece takes on a life of it’s own from there. He LOVED anyone and every one who ever felt moved enough to create what ever they wished from his stories.  

As a young writer, that was an enormous gift: to appreciate the simple fact anyone cares enough about your work to add their two cents to it is in fact a compliment, rather than the other way around (as so many writers might see it). So, rather than squirm and writhe by the fact that someone took your idea and created something else with it—this new thing should be appreciated for the gift it truly is. We all add to the collective experience as artists, even the audience.  Now, that’s true aesthetic generosity on a whole new level.  

In one interview, Ray said, “You see before you the world’s greatest lover.”  And it was absolutely true. All of the stories he wrote were driven by passion: for each other, for family, for technology and the advancement of mankind, for literacy, and, most of all, for the human experience.

So, this is my small tribute to Ray Bradbury.  Thank you, Ray, for allowing us to explore your incredible imagination and respectfully letting each of us to have our own.  Your legacy is a remarkable one!

Here’s a link to hear a handful of my talented friends play in my humble adaptation of a few selected pieces from Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles

Hope you enjoy it!  

Copyright ©2012 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All rights reserved.