The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

Once Upon a Dibden dreary

Many of us know of Edgar Allan Poe, Victorian writer, author, and poet, and of the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Academic scholars say that sometime after October 7, 1849, a Baltimore newspaper reported “congestion of the brain” as the cause. However, despite any educated guesses we attempt to make, the truth about aspects of Poe’s life, and death, have yet to be discovered.
Or have they? This forthcoming April, one musical coming to the Dibden Stage proposes to have the answers.
Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is an experimentally staged musical based on the struggles of Victorian poet Edgar Allan Poe, which are said to have driven his literary work. Such works include The Raven, Annabel Lee, and The Bells, among many others. The production was first conceived at the Catalyst Theatre, in May 2009, for an eleven-week engagement that gave way to touring through Canadian theatres, the Barbican Theatre in London, and New York City’s New Victory Theatre. At the tail end of its history, Nevermore earned 2023 Betty Mitchell award nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble, Outstanding Choreography or Fight Direction, Outstanding Musical Direction, and Outstanding Direction.
The plot of Nevermore first sets the stage in the year 1849. Poe had already boarded a boat to New York, when little does he know of the presence of six traveling players. They invite the young poet in from the cold, dress him in multitudes of lavish costumes, and reveal to Poe that they once knew his mother, Eliza Poe, an acclaimed actress who died during his childhood. Once they have persuaded Poe to elucidate his life story, all planes of reality are turned as our characters play, for him, the story of his life. Aspects of this rehashed, operetta-like formation of storytelling include the death of Eliza Poe, and his upbringing with Frances Allan, his foster mother, and John Allan, his foster father.
Johnson’s production team consists of Laura Roald as Director and Set Designer; Kenny Grenier as Music Director; Sparrow MacDonald, VTSU-Johnson alumni, as Stage Manager; Hattie Ebling, fourth-year Performance Arts and Technology major, as Lighting Designer; and an outside source yet to be announced as Costume Designer. Currently, the team is looking for two assistant stage managers to help manage the show.
“This is a quite physical show,” said Roald. “It’s not necessarily dance heavy, but it’s movement heavy in a way that we haven’t done before.”
The team’s mission throughout the casting process was to observe how actors work together and with themselves, with focuses on movement, improvisation, and distinct choices. Because the show is integrated with elements of operatic, and rock-infused vocals, (much like in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera), vocal abilities that adhered to these styles were also an essential focus to casting.
The Catalyst Theatre is an award-winning theatre company based in Edmonton, Alberta, and under the Artistic Direction of Jonathan Christenson and Joey Tremblay. Over the last 27 years, the company’s mission was to create “original Canadian work” that explores new discoveries in Theatre performance as well as its creation. The team created many productions, in addition to Nevermore, which toured through the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
On January 25, a meeting was held by Roald which entailed future planning on auditions, casting, and open positions in the creative and technical teams. The lights inside Room 203 were dimmed out, as a vast group of students, including Performance Arts and Technology majors and non-PAT majors, walked inside with small candles in hand, and the stage was set for a new, and final, challenge of a production.
As with the previous aftermath of last semester’s optimization, Nevermore will make its mark as the Polaris Performing Arts Company’s final main-stage show. Many students who are Performance Arts and Technology majors, as well as non-PAT majors eager to pursue theatre professionally, are still aching to keep theatrical glory alive at VTSU-Johnson. Yet, the final curtain must fall by the end of the Spring 2024 semester, giving way to the end of the Performance Arts and Technology program’s life-long legacy.
Our cast features Taylor Michaud as Edgar Allan Poe, Zibman Miller as Player #1 (Man At Bar, Undertaker, Metz Horse, College Student, Raven #2, Alexander Shelton, & Roderick Usher), James Kalbfleisch as Player #2 (David Poe, Jock Allan, Mister Bliss, & William Wilson), Liam Ryan as Player #3 (Man At Bar, Mister Lee, Ancient Corpse, College Student, Raven #3, Mister Burton & Arthur Gordon Prym), Wilbur Hayes as Player #4 (Fanny Allan, Ann Carter Lee, Sissy Clemm, Marie Roget, The Dresser & Stage Manager), Heike Chaney as Player #5 (Eliza Poe, Louise Gabriella, Muddy Clemm, Mrs. Whitman, The Ghost Of Ann Carter Lee, & Annabelle Lee), Emily LaRose as Player #6 (Elmira Royster, Lenore & Miss Fuller), Rowan Albee as Henry Leonard Poe, & Miss Duval #1, Mia Burger as Miss Duval #2 & Asylum Attendant, Paxton Getty as Rufus Griswold & Asylum Attendant, and Jill Pressman as Raven #1 and Writer. Lurking their way toward the Dibden Stage with them is our Imp Chorus, consisting of Rowan Albee, Paxton Getty, Mia Burger, and Jill Pressman.
While tickets will go on sale soon, Nevermore will open from April 25-28 with performances starting at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evening, as well as one final Sunday performance at 2:00 p.m. As with all main stage performances at Dibden, the production is free to the VTSU-Johnson Community and General Admission runs at $10.
Have you got some free time planned this spring? Consider marking your calendars and come support the Polaris Performing Arts Company in their production of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. Else the “grim harbingers of tomorrow’s adversity” may follow you home. Even your nightmares may come with you!

“All that we see or seem,
Is but a dream within a dream.”
-Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

 

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About the Contributor
Heike Chaney, Staff Writer, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Transfer Student, Interdisciplinary Studies (Theatre & Communications) Based in Hartford, VT Fall 2023-Present SLAP Coordinator & DANCELAND Club Member I can do a shockingly good Judy Garland impression, and I have been in over 22 Theatre productions since the sixth grade! ;) Favorite Roles: Adela Van Norman (THE IT GIRL); Martha Cratchitt (A CHRISTMAS CAROL); Chutney Wyndham (LEGALLY BLONDE).

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