Saturday, October 30, 2010
There's a local theater troupe called Training Better Artists and as I thought my kids could use some culture in their lives we made it a family outing Friday night to see their production of The Death of Edgar Allen Poe (written by P. Shane Mitchell, Artistic Director).
In 1849 at the age of 40, Poe collapsed in a Boston street wearing someone else's clothing and died from alcohol poisoning. The play outlines his brief but curiously brilliant life, highlighting six of his works in a play-within-a-play framework. The opening prologue (which I refuse to give away) was clever, quickly and cuttingly establishing the mood in a way that was pertinent to the subject matter but also eerily reminiscent of a Greek chorus. I was particularly thrilled when David (11) leaned over while it was going on and said, "It's supposed to show his madness, isn't it?"
Why yes it is. How good of you to pick up on the metaphor my son! Apparently that public school system is doing its job by you.
The story was as entertaining as you'd expect from highlights such as The Telltale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado and The Masque of the Red Death and I particularly liked the set design and staging, they were able to move so many people around so fluently that the stage was convincingly a dungeon, a bedchamber, a library, a ballroom dance floor and a Boston street. The costumes were excellent, the acting was well-done (particularly from the those playing Poe and his family and those in The Premature Burial, The Cask of Amontillado and The Telltale Heart selections). There were a couple actors who weren't as adept at voice projection--in The Raven the words come so fluidly and quick that enunciation and projection are critical and it was a little difficult to hear what the narrator said--but luckily I've heard the poem so many times I could recite it alongside (though I did refrain).
The best thing is the price--while other troupes around town (particularly those performing at the ravenously expensive Performing Arts Center, where you pay half your monthly salary in roof taxes) are completely cost-prohibitive, TBA ticket prices are $5-10 and make it so you can really take the kids out to the theater. It's a great way to introduce them to dramatic arts. The first time I took my kids they leaned over and whispered, "When are the commercials?" and I knew right then that the experience was long overdue.
But speaking of kids, I'd give you a caution: while most of the TBA productions are aimed at younger audiences this one is not. It is a play that adults and older children will enjoy but younger kids might find too intense (a fact I realized a bit late as the murder and screaming started). Lillian (8) liked it, found it a bit hard to follow, was slightly freaked out by the occasional piercing scream, but not permanently scarred. I'd recommend it more for ages 11+.
They're performing it again tonight (Saturday) and again on Sunday afternoon at 3, tickets can be purchased at the door. The audience is encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and there is trick-or-treating in the lobby after the show with the cast members. A treat for sure.
I get excited when you have local talent producing something so entertaining, inexpensive and great for family togetherness so get out there and make it a fun Halloween, support a great local business and support the fine arts all at one time.
And now . . . if you haven't seen this tribute to Poe you've been missing out. (Click on post to view the video, the feed readers aren't picking up the screen).