The Haughty Mr. Poe
A guest blog post by Mr. Mack Gordon, Playwright and Director for Debts
When approaching the stories of Edgar Allan Poe for adaptation, I came across a frequent stumbling block. His tales are rich in atmosphere and dense with theme but often have little to no narrative action. The Telltale Heart mostly revolves around a man explaining to us how sane he is and that he committed a grievous murder for reasons aside from his mental balance. The police show up, he hears a beating heart, and he reveals what he did. This is the ultimate action story in Poe’s oeuvre. The Premature Burial focuses squarely on the fear of being buried alive as opposed to actual events. Bon Bon – A Tale concerns a man conversing politely with the devil. The Oval Portrait tells of a fellow who swallows a little too much opium and reads an entry about a painting that sucked the life out of its subject. Nothing happens in The Raven at all.
ITSAZOO Productions has long been a company that focuses on storytelling. I’ve been around them for a while and was lucky enough to see shows like “Grimm Tales,” “Robin Hood,” and “The Canterbury Tales.” These productions have in common a similar formula: A guide, with his/her own objective, welcomes the audience and leads them on a journey. Along the way, we stop in to catch well-constructed vignettes that mirror the show’s subject’s work. There is often stylistic and thematic twists on these vignettes but they are almost exclusively stand alone stories.
I didn’t think this formula would work for Edgar Allan Poe. The show would be as static as promenade theatre could possibly be. That’s because Poe is less a story-teller and more a painter whose medium is the written word. That might sound haughty but, then, so is Mr. Poe.
So instead I decided to take his stories, his quotations, his moods, and use them as inspiration. I decided to use them as a springboard. Throughout the play, depending on your knowledge of ol’ Edgar, you’ll recognize a reference or a quotation or a plot twist in nearly every interaction. His ideas are infused into the characters. His set pieces are our climaxes. His names are our names and his atmosphere is where we’ll live and breathe. Instead of following a single host on a tour of Poe’s gallery we’ll take a hammer to the back of the poet’s head and climb into an approximation of what it might have looked like in his brain.
If you want more Mack in your life you can follow him on twitter @Mackgord