Fahrenheit 451 sparks Hippodrome’s 50th year

Erin Jester, costume shop manager, and the Hippodrome staff created 25 costumes for the 9 characters in Fahrenheit 451.
Erin Jester, costume shop manager, and the Hippodrome staff created 25 costumes for the 9 characters in Fahrenheit 451. (Photo by Seth Johnson)

It was a pleasure to burn for Guy Montag, but for Warren Goodwin, technical director at the Hippodrome Theatre, burning never entered the equation for the upcoming production of “Fahrenheit 451.”  

Live flames present a safety hazard, and in the early 2000s, the Hippodrome switched techniques to show a lit cigarette or engulfed bookshelf. Goodwin said the theatre will use projections to create the effects in “Fahrenheit 451.”  

Working in theatre for 20 years, Goodwin said he’s hard to impress. But the effect team managed it with their work on the upcoming play to recreate the flames and even the play’s infamous Hound. 

A Ray Bradbury classic from 1953, “Fahrenheit 451” will spark the Hippodrome’s 50th season with protagonist Montag and a cast of eight other characters. The show, coproduced with UF’s School of Theatre and Dance, will run from Sept. 2-18 with previews on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.  

Technical Director Warren Goodwin shows the design blueprints he works from to create set designs for productions at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Photo by Seth Johnson Technical Director Warren Goodwin shows the design blueprints he works from to create set designs for productions at the Hippodrome Theatre.

The 50th season will feature eight plays that run along a theme inspired by the theatre’s origin— “Beyond Limits.” 

In 1973, six actors scrapped together the time and materials to start the Hippodrome, and Stephanie Lynge, artistic director at the Hippodrome, said their passion and perseverance continues. 

“They accepted no limitations, and they built a theater from the ground up,” Lynge said in a phone interview. “And that’s part of our mission here is to is to tell stories that challenge us and help us grow.” 

During the pandemic, the theatre faced reduced funding from canceled performances and had to downsize to 10 part-time employees. The Hippodrome had supported around 28 full-time employees before then, and on Alachua County Talks, Lynge said the theatre brought each one back once it received the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.   

Erin Jester, costume shop manager, arranges a Fahrenheit 451 costume.
Photo by Seth Johnson Erin Jester, costume shop manager, arranges a Fahrenheit 451 costume.

Alachua County sits at a population of 280,000, a small base for a professional theatre. But Lynge said the community has proved its support.  

“Having a professional theater . . . survive for 50 years in a city this size is quite amazing,” Lynge said. “And that is a testament not only to the artists that have worked here but to the community that feels that art is important and supports it.” 

After “Fahrenheit 451,” the Hippodrome will transition for “Running Mates” in October. The design work for the next play has already started. In fact, Erin Jester, costume shop manager, said she’s already cutting and sewing the costumes for the next three plays. 

50th Season Calendar 

  • Fahrenheit 451: Sept. 2-18 with previews on Aug. 31 and Sep. 1 
  • Running Mates: Oct. 14-30 with previews Oct. 12-13 
  • Murder for Two Holiday Edition: Nov. 25-Dec. 23 
  • A Christmas Carol: Nov. 26-Dec. 23 
  • The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity:  Jan. 27-Feb. 12 with previews Jan. 25-26 
  • Native Gardens: March 10-26 with previews March 8-9 
  • Silent Sky: April 21-May 7 with previews April 19-20 
  • Summer Musical (yet to be announced): Premieres June 2 

The Hippodrome curated its shows this season to run along the “Beyond Limits” theme. 

“Every single one of the shows this season is about a character, sometimes based on real people, who faces their fear and reaches beyond what they think they can even do to follow their passion,” Lynge said.  

Hippodrome Sign
Hippodrome Sign

For “Fahrenheit 451,” Montag forms the central protagonist who challenges his limits. The Hippodrome has never produced the novel-turned-play before, and Lynge said the themes seem more relevant each month.  

Along with the performances, the Hippodrome will host the “Do Not Read This Book Book Club” on Sept. 9. The theatre has held book clubs in the past for adapted works like “1984” by George Orwell and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. 

Lynge said anyone can read the book and then show up to discuss it. The club will be held at 6 p.m., just before that night’s performance, in the Hippodrome’s lower level and bar. The cash bar will open for the event.  

Along with the book club, the “Fahrenheit 451” performances will include a talkback with the actors after the 2 p.m. show on Sept. 11 and a panel discussion after the Sept. 8 show featuring English professors from Santa Fe College and UF.  

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