The mystery and the mania
What: Edgar Allan
When: 7 pm Fri., Sep. 20
Where: Firehouse Arts and Events Center, 1314 Harris Ave.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
As cofounders of the Twin Cities Horror Festival, actors and musicians Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan are familiar with things that go bump in the night.
Performing as the Coldharts, the Minnesota-based duo furthers their love for the macabre by bringing original works inspired by the American Gothic to audiences far and wide. In 2013, they debuted Edgar Allan at the homegrown festival, bringing an unexpected spin to the life of enigmatic writer, poet and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe.
The two-person musical starring Hartman as the titular character follows a pre-adolescent Poe in his first year at Manor House School. He’s looking to gain academic excellency over the rest of the students, but when another boy named Edgar Allan (played by Ryan) arrives, his plans go horribly awry.
Ryan says that in the course of their research about the troubled writer, they came across the short story William Wilson, a tale set in the English boarding school Poe attended as a child. The story became the spine of their plot, and they enlarged and added autobiographical details already present in the piece to construct the narrative.
The result is a comedic riff about Poe’s obsessions, mania and inherent insanity that has been described as being darkly funny and dangerous, as well as being a “triumph of storytelling.”
“We often hear from people asking about Poe and his relationship with childhood trauma and mental illness, for which we and historians don’t have a definitive answer, only our own interpretation of the events that occurred in his early childhood,” Hartman says when asked how audiences react to the show. ” We’re always happy when people express their desire to read more Poe after seeing Edgar Allan.”
During the course of the play, songs such as “Remarkable,” “Why is the Night So Dark?,” “Everything Fun is a Little Bit Dangerous,” “The Shadow,” and “Everything Cruel” touch on everything from Poe’s ego to his deep insecurities to impulse control (or a lack thereof) and the thrill of doing things you know you shouldn’t.
“With all of the songs, we were trying to delve into the seeds of Poe’s work, and show the beginnings of these ideas that he would pursue in his writings later in life,” Hartman says.
When arts patrons depart after the Fri., Sept. 20 showing of Edgar Allan at Bellingham’s Firehouse Arts and Events Center, they may be wondering if the two characters with the same name are meant to show the duality of human nature, or if the duplicate monikers are simply a way to move the story forward.
“We get this question a lot,” Ryan says. “Is there another Edgar Allan, or is it all in his head? I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the answer: We wrote the play one way, and we perform it the other. We think one of the reasons the work is compelling is because we never spell it out for the audience. People are free to interpret as they will.”
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