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January 9, 2013

Bill Oberst Jr. returns to Georgetown for one-man show

It might as well be Halloween year round for Bill Oberst , who savors the spookier side of storytelling.

It might as well be Halloween year round for Bill Oberst , who savors the spookier side of storytelling.

The Los Angeles-based actor known for his various solo stage shows will premiere “Weird Tales” on Saturday at the Strand Theater, in his native Georgetown. In the production, at 4 and 7 p.m., he will recount stories by Edgar Allen Poe, H.B. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury.

Calling last month after performing his 45-minute, one-man adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” at Brookgreen Gardens’ “Nights of A Thousand Candles,” Oberst shifted from yuletide cheer to a more overcast tone in describing his new show.

“Since I’ve gotten known for more gory, darker roles,” he said, “I wanted to play on that.”

Oberst brought up Marley’s ghost from the Dickens classic being “really frightening, yet at the same time, there’s a message.”

He said all the selections he will orate in “Weird Tales” represent an era “when people had a point in the story, rather than just tell it and be scary.”

The trio of authors, Oberst said, wrote about “being human” and that “it’s all imagination.”

Although at the time of this interview he was unsure what Poe work he would read, Oberst spoke, breaking into a character voice, of how “The Imp of the Perverse” moves him with the “human conundrum” it covers, and “things we would not do” in certain circumstances.

Oberst, who likes to play on an image and convey an aura to an audience, said he took part last year in a production in Bradbury’s hometown of Waukegan, in suburban Chicago, attended by 700 people. As folks stopped to chat afterward, he heard about how such authors’ works influenced something in their lives.

“It’s the power of words,” Oberst said.

Unsure whether to credit Mark Twain or Lewis Grizzard, but praising both, Oberst, at age 47, thought about a human’s instinctive desire to spend the first half of his or her life getting away from home, and the second half getting back to it.

Giving two shows in historic Georgetown, and not having “seen Spanish moss in a year,” Oberst said no matter where is working, for him, the Winyah Bayside city – “it’s home.”

Oberst, who moved to California to enter “a business of ‘maybes’ and ‘what ifs?’ ” said he’s enjoyed branching out in his acting work in movies and television in the past two decades, such the “Sherman’s March” documentary, “The Shunning,” and Daytime Emmy Award winner “Take This Lollipop.” He said his numerous current projects include “The Confession,” following an Amish girl, “Children of Sorrow,” and various “silly horror movies,” even if they’re “a bunch of tiny things.”

Breaking down “two crowds you could never have at the same party,” Oberst said his Hallmark movie roles stand apart from the horror work, because fans of each command their own crowd.

Oberst remains glad he’s immersed himself in stage and screen work, but finding long-term success remains hard. He said “once you realize you’re a product,” a barrier is crossed, and that an agent and manager assist in networking. He also said he keeps himself “the guy” separate from “the actor,” and that creating a persona “that’s exaggerated” along with keeping up his pastimes help on both sides with his chosen “workaholic” lifestyle.

Working out, and walking outside and climbing hills “so far you can’t hear sirens” keep Oberst content, especially because he sees living in Los Angeles as “a great experience, headache and sacrifice,” and “the enlightenment of L.A. makes up for all the inconveniences.”

He laughed with his own conclusion that any combination of “bloody, conflicted and moody ... works with my face on camera,” because his look “matches certain moods.”

Admiring Christopher Plummer not only for his role in “The Sound of Music,” but also “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” Oberst never has forgotten a tip the actor gave him, to “no matter where the other actor is, take your look as close to the camera as possible, and look away only slightly,” keeping the power in the eyes.

Oberst, who vows “to try to have as much humility as possible,” said he also ensures he’s familiar with all fellow actors in each production, and he always likes to listen and learn from the director of photography and editor about, for instance, “why they pick a cutaway shot.”

“When you take an interest in other people’s work, they take an interest in yours,” he said.

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