“October Country” pays tribute to the legacy of Ray Bradbury on Oct. 26 at Waukegan’s Genesee Theatre

On a brisk and eerie autumn evening, Ray Bradbury’s favorite time of year, storytellers will perform celebrated Bradbury stories to pay homage to the colorful, penetrating, and spooky characters and stories of Ray Bradbury at the Seventh Annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m., at the historic Genesee Theatre in downtown Waukegan.

Professional storytellers will take the stage as Bradbury characters from well-known stories such as 1951’s “The Screaming Woman”, “Lime Vanilla Ice” from Dandelion Wine, and many more. Hosted by the Waukegan Public Library, the award-winning festival presents two performances every year on festival day, a scary evening show for listeners age 12 and older, and a 10:30 a.m. matinee for school kids. Tickets are $17 for the evening show and $5 for the matinee, on sale starting September 7 at the Genesee box office or www.ticketmaster.com. Library patrons can present any library card and receive $1 off at the box office.

Megan Wells serves as the artistic director of the festival and appears each year in the persona of various nefarious characters, from Dracula to Mr. Dark. She holds an MFA in theater arts and numerous theater awards including the Joseph Jefferson Award for directing.

The festival emcee, Jim May is co-founder of the Illinois Storytelling Festival. He earned the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network in 2000 and continues to perform on stages worldwide. He’s the author of several books, including a collection of original stories named “Best Book” by the Public Library Association.

The first storyteller to perform with the Philadelphia orchestra, Charlotte Blake Alston holds two honorary PhDs and received the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Association. Blake Alston was one of four Americans selected to perform and present at the first International Storytelling Field Conference in Ghana and was a featured artist at the Second International Festival in Cape Town, South Africa.

Hollywood actor and Ray Bradbury fan, Bill Oberst Jr. will make a special guest appearance and present an excerpt of his favorite Bradbury short story, “Pillar of Fire.” “It’s a hymn to Halloween,” Oberst says “I have loved it and known it by heart for 30 years. To speak Mr. Bradbury’s words in his hometown in the shadow of a late October moon will be a highlight of my career and of my life.” Oberst is an Emmy award winning actor for his performance in the Facebook application, “Take This Lollipop” and was labeled “an emerging horror icon” by CNN.

Honoring Waukegan’s famous writer-offspring, the Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival has entertained fans of storytelling and classic literature for the past six years. In the past, each festival celebrates a unique literary theme such as “Literary Monsters” or “Literary Ghosts” or last year’s theme, “Literary Witches.” This year’s theme “October Country” celebrates the time of year Bradbury loved best and the countryside he grew up in.

“Bradbury became a household name largely because of the oral tradition of storytelling,” said Richard Lee, executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. “He first captivated his fans when his stories aired on old-time radio shows.” Lee said the library created the festival not only as a tribute to Bradbury’s genius but also to showcase storytelling as an art form.

Winning entries to the 29th Annual Ray Bradbury Creative Contest will be on display at the Genesee Theatre on the day of the festival. Entries include short stories, poems, and fine art created to express how Ray Bradbury has been an inspiration to the life or work of each entrant.

New this year, attendees will be invited to take a Haunted tour of the Genesee Theatre before the performance. All attendees are welcome to dress in costume as their favorite Bradbury character.

For more information or to order festival tickets, call or visit the library at www.waukeganpl.org or (847) 623-2041.