The Frazier History Museum’s historical interpreters are bringing the haunting stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe to life. This is the third year the Frazier has staged “An Evening with Poe,” and the program changes every fall. The show opens Wednesday evening.
This year’s bill, which the Frazier has tagged “An Even Edgier Poe,” includes haunted perennial favorites “The Raven” and “The Bells” as well as the grisly short stories “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Masque of the Red Death.”
The production is the brainchild of actor and historical interpreter Tony Dingman, who is also one of the three performers. He credits Poe’s historical significance as well as his dark approach to literature for the author’s enduring popularity.
“Most people aren’t aware that many people attribute him with the invention of detective fiction,” says Dingman. “‘Murders of the Rue Morgue’ or ‘The Purloined Letter,’ it’s basically a blueprint for how Sherlock Holmes worked.”
Dingman says the historical impact of Poe’s writing made him a natural choice for the Frazier to stage, but Poe himself is also a compelling character—a flamboyant man of letters in his own time, he disappeared shortly before he died under very mysterious circumstances. More than 160 years after his death, his mystique lives on—an unknown figure known as the Poe Toaster appears, seemingly out of nowhere, on his Baltimore grave every year on his birthday to toast his life and work.
“It really doesn’t hurt to have a good story in your life,” says Dingman. “His life was not necessarily the model life that everyone wants to live. His wife died at one point, he had depression, alcoholism, and still there was a mysterious death. That doesn’t hurt, to add mystique to the author.”
In addition to new material, the production will also get a musical make-over this year. The Tamerlane Trio (Mick Sullivan, Amber Estes and Rob Collier) will accompany the dramatic interpretations of Poe’s poems and stories with Appalachian folk songs and traditional Victorian parlor music. The trio will also debut an original composition to accompany Poe’s “Dream Within a Dream.” Read the poem.
Live music is part of a multidisciplinary approach the museum takes with the event, which includes an exhibit of Poe-themed artwork by students from Eastern and DuPont Manual high schools.
“An Evening with Poe” opens Wednesday and runs through November 2. Show times vary, so consult the schedule when ordering tickets.
Refresh your memory of “The Raven”—here’s Christopher Walken reading the famous poem.