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Tales from Edgar Allen Poe to take the stage in Ohio State Department of Theatre production

A Fantasy Based on the Life and Work of Edgar Allan Poe.' ‘aPOEtheosis' is slated to open April 4 in the Roy Bowen Theatre.

Edgar Allan Poe is best known for horror and mystery, but there is a perhaps lesser-known theme that runs through many of his works – women.  

The Ohio State Department of Theatre’s production of “aPOEtheosis: A Fantasy Based on the Life and Work of Edgar Allan Poe” is scheduled to open Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Roy Bowen Theatre

Joseph Brandesky,a professor in the Department of Theatre at OSU-Lima, co-conceived the play with Czech scenographer Petr Matásek.

The play is based on various short stories and poems by Poe, including “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Bells,” “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” 

“I don’t know that it’s possible to do a show about Poe and not reference ‘The Raven,'” Brandesky said. 

As Brandesky and Matásek went through Poe’s works, they noticed a theme.

“There is something which is common to all of these stories – women,” Matásek said.

Alaina Orchard, a first-year graduate student in theater who helped write the script, said while they always intended for that to be a theme of the show, it ended up being a much stronger influence than they originally thought it would be.

“The woman idea … actually evolved to be a bigger part of the final performance because of the strong female turnout and the strong female performers we were able to cast,” Orchard said. 

Brandesky said he and Matásek decided to use the works of Poe as the basis for their play because although Poe is an American author, many of his themes, such as that of the grotesque, work well in tying “the Czech aesthetic with American topics.” 

Orchard said combining Czech theatrical tradition, which is vibrant and “really visually centered,” and American theater into one performance has its ups and downs.

“It’s all more complicated than just doing a traditional collegiate production,” Orchard said. “But it makes it more interesting.” 

Brandesky said using Poe’s somewhat familiar works was also helpful for the students involved in the production.

“If (they’re) going to be expressing things in ways they’re not used to, at least they have the content that they are somehow familiar with,” Brandesky said.

One of the unusual ways in which students express themselves, Brandesky said, is through the use of a mannequin-type puppet created by Czech master craftsman Jiri Bares.  

Brandesky said at first, the students had a difficult time getting used to using the puppet.

“They were scared of it to begin with,” Brandesky said. “It’s a piece of carved wood, but I think humans are innately superstitious about seeing copies of ourselves.” 

But Matásek and Brandesky agree that the students have learned how to use the puppet well as a character object in the performance.

“They realized the strength of (them) being with it,” Matásek said. “So it’s more or less something that they actually use for their own expression.” 

Show times for “aPOEtheosis” are Thursday through Saturday and April 10-13 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and April 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students and are available through Ticketmaster or at the OSU Theatre Box Office. 

The Roy Bowen Theatre is located in the Drake Performance and Event Center at 1849 Cannon Drive.

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