Monthly Archives: October 2014

Balancing Light & Shadow: A Southern Californian’s Love Affair With All Things Edgar Allan Poe

Poe Me

{Myself, and Mr. Poe; Westminster Burial Grounds, Baltimore Maryland}

For as long as I could recall, I have adored Edgar Allan Poe. I was born and raised in a Los Angeles suburb in Southern California. Surrounded by Skaters, Surfer Dudes, and eternal sunshine, I often felt like a bit of an outsider! I longed for gloomy weather, ancient cemeteries, and all things dark and Gothic! However, I was given, brightness, glamor, laughter, and totally gnarly waves -bro! Although I never fully embraced my Gothic side, it was always there. I worked hard to balance the dark with the light. Like a Polar Bear at a SoCal Zoo, a person of the Gothic persuasion feels out of place and awkward in the Golden State! But we endure. So many find creative ways to express their dark senses! Some find it in dress, others in art, and many in the books we read. Thought I dabbled in all, I mostly found dark release in the books I read. My first memories of Mr. Poe were as a child in elementary school! They read The Raven to us around Halloweentime. I remember it so well because I felt an instant connection to the Poet’s beautiful words! Each Halloween I excitedly awaited our lesson plans involving Poe. It’s strange that I can look back over my schooling and I can only recall with distinct clarity these wonderful times! I was a child of the 80’s so I, naturally, adored The Simpson’s! When they aired their first “Treehouse of Horror” episode, I was SO excited to see them do “The Raven”!! I remember being dressed in my Halloween costume {I was Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz that year!} and watching the episode as I ate my candy. As I grew older, I began to read R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series, then moved on to his “Fear Street” books. In High School I enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, while my fellow students read much lighter classics for our book reports. I also dove full force into Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Poetry and writing became a beautiful part of my life around this time. When I went of to college, I found a few kindred spirits. I noticed something fantastic about every Southern California Gothic heart that I met, we all had a wicked sense of humor. So many saw life as one giant satire and, that, was a breath of fresh air for me! Into my adulthood, I found myself coming back to Mr. Poe and his beautiful works. I decided to read about his life. He almost felt like a favorite Uncle to me. He had been with me my whole life, yet I knew very little about him. He made me smile and find peace, but I didn’t really know him. So I set out to learn about him. Upon reading the first Biography that I could get my hands on, I found many shocking revelations within the pages. The largest being that -I didn’t know him at all!! I was told that he died penniless in a gutter. He was a drunk. Crazy. Mad. And obsessive. I found out that he was none of these things! And he did not die that way! As this truth washed over me, I decided to make it my mission to help dispel these rumors about him. I read more Bios and visited Poe locations on the East Coast. On my first “Poecation” as I like to call it, I decided to write a novel about his life. To make the truth of my hero known to the world in an easy and accessible way. Each time I met new people on my Poecations I feel both connected, yet totally foreign. My being raised in Sunshine and laughter makes me different. The fans of Poe who were raised out West are unique. We see him differently. We know him in another light. …A light that can be as blinding as the Summer sun, or the spotlight on a stage. He is dark and from a very different place than us. His world is something many of us wish for, yet we love what we have come from. I feel like so many California Poe fans have a troubled relationship with their native land. Yet we must find peace in it. And accept that it is what made us who we are today. Perhaps if we were raised out East, we wouldn’t have reached for Poe. Perhaps we would have reached for Surf culture, -bro! I, for one, am beginning to come to terms with my CA roots. I am proud of this fact. My mission in this life still stands firm, I am here to bring Mr. Poe to the world. I wish to take him to the masses. Like the waves of the ocean on an unusually gloomy day, I wish to make Mr. Poe’s California legacy eternal, familiar, and a touch playful. Because that is just how he has been to me my whole life. 🙂

Mr Poe lil stinker

{My tattoo of Mr. Poe. Horns added by a photo app. Isn’t he a handsome devil?!}

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Great Poe Theater Comes to Southern California! A review of “Drama After Dark -An Evening With Poe & Gorey”

poe show signs

Pick one…if you dare!

As a native Southern Californian, I have always longed for great, local, Poe Theater to go to. I have been fortunate enough to have attended great Edgar Allan Poe themed shows in Baltimore and Virgina. But have always felt a void in our local theater scene. Well! My wish has been granted! Last night {October 17th, 2014} I went to The Guild of St. Gorge’s presentation, “Drama After Dark -An Evening With Poe & Gorey” in Rancho Cucamonga. This show presented the heart of Mr. Poe’s works within unique, and intimate settings. This show was more of an event, as there were 11 different performances happen every half hour around the complex! You were given a wrist band and a list of the performances you could select from. It was like a “Chose Your Own Adventure” book come to life! The only unfortunate part was that you could only get in 7 of the 11 performances in the time allotted! The show did feature 2 performances of Edward Gorey’s works. However, with the limited time, my party and I decided to focus only on Mr. Poe!

Show list in hand, we set about our task of enjoying some of our favorite Poe peaces!

poe show info

1. We began with the highly anticipated “The Pit & The Pendulum”. I considered sharing my review on this performance last, as it is my fashion to save the best for last…but, I thought I would error on the side of chronological order! 😉 We entered at relatively small room. And the crowd commenced a nervous chatter, until the star of the short story came on to the stage. The energy was thick with excitement and a touch of fear! Here is a picture of the magnificently foreboding stage:

poe show stage

The actor, Cylan Brown, began the performance. The room was dark, and only the red lights on the red curtains, and the candles were present to keep us from insanity! And then, Brown, put the candles out, -one by one. Darkness descended upon us. For 11 of the 24 minutes were in total darkness. One felt the thrilling, eery, sense that Mr. Poe worked so hard to create in his short stories. Many of us have read this short before, and it was a pleasure to experience it once again as if for the first time! Cylan Brown was absolutely riveting! His energy was intense, believable, and spellbinding! Of all of the Poe shows that I have been to, this was my favorite performance! And the murmurs about those in attendance echoed my thoughts!

2. Next we went to “The Fall of the House of Usher”. This was inside of the actual theater on the grounds, however it was not on the stage! There was a beautiful chair and a table set up in the center of the area where the audience sits. We sat directly in front of the actor and there were only about 2 to 3 rows of people. Finn White played the narrator, and was superb! He recited the whole story with enthusiasm and intrigue! You felt as though you were right there with him as he told the story! It was quite thrilling!

3. In the very same room, on the very same stage, the next performance was of “The Black Cat”. This was equally as thrilling, but the energy about it was quite different! Derek Medina played the narrator, of the short. His performance scaled down the excitement and one couldn’t help but feel as though you were sitting one on one with the man who was telling this tale! His performance was engaging and, well -for lack of a better term- creepy! My favorite part about this whole experience happened the most in this crowd. I heard gasps throughout the audience when he confessed some of the most shocking, and gruesome, acts! You could tell that some were just *that* into the story, and that others had never heard it before! As a person who’s passion is sharing Mr. Poe with the world, I was SO happy to witness new fans being born! Mr. Medina’s performance really brought that about in people!

4. Next we went outside to “The Tell-Tale Heart”. This was a fun, and different experience. Since it was outside, they didn’t mind how many attended. So we ended up standing for it. The energy about the crowd was light and jovial. Kenneth R. Merckx, Jr. played the nutty narrator in this tale. And he played it well! His performance was fun! People even laughed at amusing moments, that many Poe actors do not highlight when they do this short. Mr. Poe did have a wicked sense of humor, and so it was nice to see an actor who got that. It was a very enjoyable experience!

5. We then moved on to a small room inside of the library that was on the complex, to watch “The Oval Portrait” and “The Raven”. This room was very poorly lit and the light of the cars that drove by really did take away from the ambiance that the actors were fighting so hard to keep! The first was “The Oval Portrait” which had Jane Jacobs as our narrator. In a different setting, I know I would have thoroughly enjoyed her performance! More often than not, I couldn’t see her facial features, which took away from the experience. She sounded great, and really put beautiful emotion into the piece. The next performance, in the same room, was “The Raven”. I personally did not care for this actor’s portrayal. However, my friends who were with me loved it! Jeffrey Paul Whitman acted out this poem more as a play than in rhythmic metre. He also played the narrator as a drunk. This is not in the poem at all, and this is the first time I have seen it played that way. Perhaps my own prejudice as a fan of this poem took away my ability to enjoy it in this manor. As I said, my friends enjoyed it very much. 🙂

6. We then rushed through the building to get to “The Cask of Amontillado”. This was in a perfect room which had a small storage space in the back where the actors could…..well…..you know. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg and Michael Cabler played Montresor and Fortunato. This was another fun performance! Both actors brought these characters to life. They had a few props that were perfectly placed and used. The room was lit by candelabras which added to the eery atmosphere!

7. And lastly, we were able to see “The Masque of the Red Death”. I was VERY impressed with this performance! The room was lit by many small candles and the actress who played the narrator, stalked about the stage. This was the last performance of the evening (for all of the actors) but you wouldn’t have known it from the energy that Jodi Skeris put into it! Everyone was pulled into the story which she was telling. There were no props and no other actors. Just her and us. She played to the audience, keeping us all on the edge of our seats. It was magnificent!

I really enjoyed this night! These actors were all well trained and extremely entertaining! I just found out that they will be doing this again on October 24th at the L.A. Zoo! If you can attend, I HIGHLY recommend it! Here is a link for tickets : http://www.lazoo.org/nightofthelivingzoo/

I was so happy to see Mr. Poe’s works done so well! I hope to see this show again very soon.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Edgar Allan Poe Statue Unveiling in Boston

IMG_4331

Poe’s Return

Have you ever experienced an excited hush within a crowd? Well, this was the vibe of the Poe statue unveiling on October 5th, 2014. The event was warm, charming, and quite poignant. Enthusiasts of the brilliant Writer, Edgar Allan Poe, couldn’t have asked for a better day for such an event. The weather was sunny and cool, and not a cloud in the sky to threaten us with dampened clothing. I took a brief tour around the gathering crowd shortly before the event began. The chatter about the group was jovial and expectant. A few passer-byers inquired about the massive group of people, and when told that it was for Mr. Poe, they said they loved him and decided to join the crowd. I was positioned far back from the statue and had to stand on a chair to see everything. This odd vantage point helped me grasp the immensity of the gathering, which warmed my heart deeply. The brief speeches before Mr. Poe was reviled were equally as moving. His poem, Fairy-land was read. (a personal favorite of mine) And a speech writer for Boston’s Mayor Wash spoke about Mr. Poe and his wishing to get the Mayor to quote, or talk about Poe in his next speech. Every word spoken was chosen with love and care. One got the sense that the creators of this event were true Poe fans. They joked about his fervent dislike for his town of birth, yet were never bitter or angry about it. They welcomed him home with open arms and hearts. Which was quite lovely. When the tarp was removed from the statue, the crowd burst into cheers and applause. Onlookers lifted their cameras and phones in an effort to document the event. As soon as the applause ended, an excited quiet fell over the group. A hush that was overflowing with awe and appreciation covered us all like a comforting blanket. You could see people putting down their recording devices for a second to fully take in the statue and the moment. The hours that followed the lowering of the red-rope barrier, which kept us all from the statue, were filled with fans taking selfies and portraits with the beautiful piece of art. People were enchanted by the statue and the chatter about the group reflected that sense.

The spot where this beautiful, and bold, monument calls home has been renamed “Poe Square”. I have never been to this part of town before, and was struck by how perfect a choice this very spot was. Not only is this space historically important to Mr. Poe (it is near his place of birth and his parent’s home) but it is also a highly traversed spot. There were bus-loads of people dropped off repeatedly during the few hours that we remained there. It thrills me to no end when people learn about this brilliant man, and this eye-catching piece will usher in legions of new Poe fans for generations to come!

IMG_4323

{I chose both of these images that I took to show those who could not attend this event just how many people were there}

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized