Theatre department examines Edgar Allan Poe’s decline of sanity

Published by , Author: Megan Bush - Rocket Contributor, Date: April 28, 2016
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On April 29, join Slippery Rock University’s Department of Theatre as a number of talented actors explore Edgar Allan Poe’s descent into madness. “Nightfall,” a play written by Eric Coble that is comprised of four of Poe’s most well-known works, follows the dark and twisted author of the 19th century as he desperately tries to convince the audience that he is not going mad.

The play is a culmination of three of Poe’s tales, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” as well as his poem “The Raven.”

Senior theatre and dance dual major and co-director Lawrence ‘Joe’ Karl said the play is not just a collection of Poe’s works, however; it’s actually much more than that.

“It’s bringing them to life, and being able to take the beautiful words and show the world what those words would mean if projected into a show,” Karl said. “’Nightfall’ is a great example of taking those ideas you get in your head when you read those works and making them really come to life.”

Co-director and junior theatre design and anthropology dual major Gabriella Petro said she decided she wanted to direct this show when she was looking for a stage adaptation of “The Raven” and came across “Nightfall” during her search.

Karl said Petro approached him because her expertise was more in technology and backstage work, while he had more experience concerning acting and performance. After she approached him, Karl read through the script and immediately fell in love.

Both directors agree that working with Poe’s creations posed some challenges, but the production process has certainly been an educational experience. “It’s been a journey,” Petro said.

Ethan Rochow, 26, SRU alum and theatre acting graduate, said the process of preparing for the performances has been very intense but rewarding, especially considering the fact that he was brought in a week before opening night due to unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances.

“The funny thing is, I read the script before they even asked me to come in, and I loved it,” Rochow said of his agreement to join the cast. “I said, ‘this is just so cool; I love this,’ so when they asked me, I didn’t even hesitate to say yes.”

Sophomore theatre acting major, writing minor and actor EJ Christopher said he’d always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe growing up, and when he saw that “Nightfall” was being put on as a student production, he immediately felt that it would be a great experience to be a part of.

“Bringing ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ to stage is really amazing,” Christopher said of his role as Roderick Usher, the main protagonist of the tale. “It’s life-changing.”

Christopher said one of his biggest challenges while working on “Nightfall” was figuring out how to portray the physicality of Roderick Usher to the audience. “I really needed to make the audience believe that this guy is not only physically ill, but very mentally ill, as well,” Christopher said.

Sophomore theatre technology and political science dual major and stagehand Emily Manzo said she really enjoys watching everything come together, usually around tech week, and she enjoys getting to be around everyone.

Manzo also said the theatre department is really like a second home for her, and she plans on working on many future shows.

Sophomore criminology major, ROTC cadet and actor Sean Douglas Drake Grove felt that, as a non-theatre major, working with a group of only theatre majors was not a big deal, and that the cast and crew were very welcoming, encouraging him to continue working on stage productions.

“It’s all about the journey,” Grove said.

There are two chances to see this exploration into the mind of a madman: Friday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. “Nightfall” will be performed in Sheehy Theater, in the basement of Maltby, and tickets are $5.

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