Sunday, February 01, 2009

Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe



I went to Baltimore, MD, the weekend of January 30, 2009, to see a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe.

I enjoyed the songs masterfully and beautifully sung by Paula McCabe which included "Annabel Lee," "Amazing Grace," and "Auld Lang Syne."

The first act was a comedic play by John Spitzer of Fraudulent Productions, "Some Words With A Mummy," adapted from Poe's short story and it was particularly fascinating to learn about the Scarabaeus tribe, where Poe's short story describes "...all the Scarabaei embalmed accidentally while alive, are alive now. Even some of those purposely so embalmed, may have been overlooked by their executors, and still remain in the tomb."

The highlight was seeing John Astin on stage performing the poems of Poe and offering his eloquent perspective on Poe's writings, particularly surrounding the demons that haunted Poe throughout his life. Works we heard were "Alone," "The Conqueror Worm," "The Masque of the Red Death," "To Helen," "Annabel Lee," "The Raven," "Eureka," as well as others. Astin's stage presence was breathtaking and energized by the content of the poems. His sensitivity to the verse and meanings behind the words was profound. I hung on every word of "The Raven" as Astin added understated hand gestures, drawing us deeper into the story: "Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor."

He closed with the mentioning of Poe's "Eureka" and explaining that the book Darkness at Night: A Riddle of the Universe devotes chapter 13 to Poe ("The Golden Walls of Edgar Allan Poe") because of "Eureka". Astin paraphrases some of Eureka -- the part in its entirety here: "If I venture to displace, by even the billionth part of an inch, the microscopical speck of dust which lies now upon the point of my finger, what is the character of that act upon which I have adventured? I have done a deed which shakes the Moon in her path, which causes the Sun to be no longer the Sun, and which alters forever the destiny of the multitudinous myriads of stars that roll and glow in the majestic presence of their Creator." Astin goes on to state that the author of Darkness at Night found Poe's words to be quite ahead of Einstein's time and his theories.

When the show concluded, John Astin sat and met the members in the audience, including myself pictured with him above.

I have to commend the organizers of the events for doing a wonderful job of paying tribute to Edgar Allan Poe. The ability to purchase the Poe postage stamps and other memorabilia made it quite convenient for Poe fans to enjoy the author and be in the company of other fans. The Poe Historical Society members were all dressed in period costume and the raffle at the end of the night included as a prize a cake with Poe's image. You can read more about what took place at the events on their blog.

For more events taking place in Baltimore, bookmark the Edgar Allan Poe Baltimore, Maryland Bicentennial Celebration website.

1 comment:

David said...

Love the Poe insights and your description of the event. I'm currently ensconced in the book Edgar Allan Poe A to Z, which I would recommend to give people a glimpse into the vast scope of his writing and life. While working on this script related to Poe, people keep mentioning things they'd like to see in it and then conclude with "If Poe actually wrote anything like that." The funny thing is he wrote about virtually everything. Some of his stories are doggedly logical and others pure phantasm. The other thing I keep discovering is even as he writes about elaborate palaces, dismembered hearts, and catacombs there's a whole interior component to his stories just a powerful. A portion of their greatness has to be attributed to readers themselves, who let the beauty, dread, joy, mystery, etc. take root in their own minds and grow.