‘Nevermore’ Comes to Pandemonium Theatrical Productions at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA From 9/12-10/10/14

Ah, September has come; with it the nights grow longer. Soon enough a cooler nip in the evening air. And then, could it be, really be, Halloween with all its fun and frolic.

Composer Matt Conner.

Composer Matt Conner.

But there is also the darker, more mysterious aspects of Halloween that many long for. A musical journey into the heart and soul of Edgar Allan Poe is a great way to get into the mood of the Fall. Why Poe? Well beyond his well-known visionary works and poems, he is local to the area. There is a Poe Museum in Richmond and there are many a legend about him that take place in Baltimore. And we have Nevermore a musical theater work created by local area artist Matt Conner who composed the music and lyrics adapted from Poe’s poetry, with book by Grace Barnes.

Nevermore is a musical of love, personal demons and self-discovery. It delves into the visions and mind of Poe with musical numbers that lure and ensnare an audience.

So get ready for a new production of Nevermore from Pandemonium Theatrical Productions at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia on Friday evening, September 12, 2014. Pandemonium Theaterical Productions has a mission to bring classic traditional musicals to the public.

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I interviewed Jeff Davis who will be directing “Nevermore” and cast members Christopher Shaw (Poe), Kathleen McCormack (Elmira), and Mary Payne (Mother). This article is edited from those email interviews.

Director Jeffrey Davis

Director Jeffrey Davis.

Director Jeffrey Davis.

David: For those not familiar with Nevermore, please tell us a bit about the show?

Jeffrey: Nevermore is a musical that finds Poe at the end of his life. His memories of the five main women in his life flash before his eyes via his poetry which has been transformed into wonderful and engaging musical numbers.”Nevermore really delves into Poe’s struggles in his life by forcing him to deal with his own personal demons.

Nevermore has become a mainstay for theaters around autumn and Halloween. Why do you think it is regularly produced?

The music of Nevermore has been described as “Hauntingly Beautiful.” I feel that this is a perfect description of the fabulous melodies that Ah, September has come; with it the nights grow longer. Soon enough a cooler nip in the evening air. And then, could it be, really be, Halloween with all its fun and frolic.

But there is also the darker, more mysterious aspects of Halloween that many long for. A musical journey into the heart and soul of Edgar Allan Poe is a great way to get into the mood of the Fall. Why Poe? Well beyond his well-known visionary works and poems, he is local to the area. There is a Poe Museum in Richmond and there are many a legend about him that take place in Baltimore. And we have Nevermore a musical theater work created by local area artist Matt Conner who composed the music and lyrics adapted from Poe’s poetry, with book by Grace Barnes.

How will Pandemonium make Nevermore its own?

We are using a live string orchestra! In addition to the piano we are bringing in cello, violins, viola and a harp. We were lucky to be able to cast an actress, Kristen Jepperson, who plays the harp. This element has been added to her character in the show. Often she accompanies herself with the harp as she sings.

We built out the roles of all the women to be more than just memories. They also function as angels who’s main goal is to help Poe transition from this world to the next. In fact the character of the Whore is being utilized more as the Angel of Death than just one of Poe’s many conquests.

What did you look for in casting your Nevermore production?

We look for a special passion for telling the story in a song. During the audition process, we really put actors through the paces of not just singing and acting, but of finding that enthusiasm for storytelling. This naturally leads to a connection with the audience. All of the actors in this production are skilled story tellers and are extremely dedicated to this piece.

Why do you think Edgar Allen Poe still has a hold on people after over 150 years since his death? Why the continued interest?

Once the spookiness of the Poe’s work is stripped away what you are left with is a person who feels alone on the world. He has a yearning for something more to be found in life. Often this leads to him questioning the afterlife and the mystery of what is in store after we leave this world. These are haunting and universal thoughts that everyone has to think of at some point in their life.

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Interviews with Cast Members:

Christopher Shaw (Poe)

Christopher Shaw (Poe). Photo courtesy of Pandemonium Theatrical Productions.

Christopher Shaw (Poe). Photo courtesy of Pandemonium Theatrical Productions.

Please tell readers a bit about your character?

Christopher: Poe… What an incredible role. An actor can go his entire career and not get the opportunity to play such a honestly -human- role, and I’m very fortunate! In an effort to develop a deeper understanding of this incredibly talented (and troubled) man, I scoured every resource I could find and really, the truth of his life, and the case of his mysterious death, are stranger than fiction. That he was a brilliant writer is beyond question, and like so many such people, he is one that was deeply flawed. Nevermore directly and fearlessly confronts this man’s human failings and flaws in a relentless way that builds phenomenal tension but at the same time, Nevermore also explores the brighter points of joy in Poe’s life. The intricate relationships that Poe shares with each of the other characters (the most important women in his life) reflect and reveal more and more about Edgar himself than even his amazing poetry does.

Is there a particular musical lyric or dialogue that captivates you that you would like to share with our readers?

There is no one lyric I could take out of context. They all belong together! Since the lyrics for Nevermore are all entirely Poe’s own words, I find myself constantly listening to and appreciating the natural musicality that flows through them (something Poe himself was actually criticized for during his life)…for me, there is one song that I always come back to, again and again, and I can’t help but be moved. That song is “Dreams” and is the final song of the show. Poe’s gorgeous words, and imagery, matched seamlessly with Matt Conner’s moving music, resolve the story of Nevermore in the best possible way, and I believe that the audience will appreciate it immensely.

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 Mary Payne (upper left), Kristen Jepperson (lower left), Karissa Swanigan (center), Barbara Lawson (lower right), Kathleen McCormack (upper right), Christopher Shaw (bottom). Photo courtesy of Pandemonium Theatrical Productions.

Mary Payne (upper left), Kristen Jepperson (lower left), Karissa Swanigan (center), Barbara Lawson (lower right), Kathleen McCormack (upper right), Christopher Shaw (bottom). Photo courtesy of Pandemonium Theatrical Productions.

Kathleen McCormack (Elmira)

Please tell readers a bit about your character?

Kathleen: Elmira is Poe’s childhood sweetheart. They lose contact with each other through and reconnect as adults. She is a very good and kind person who genuinely loves and cares for Edgar no matter what.

Is there a particular musical lyric or dialogue that captivates you?

In one of the final scenes, Elmira tells Edgar, “I do not believe that real love – ever dies.” This resonates with me with my life experiences. When you really love someone, whether right or wrong, it can be nearly impossible to truly break that bond.

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Mary Payne (Mother)

Why did you want to be part of the Nevermore production?

Mary: Nevermore is very close to my heart. I have been friends with the composer for almost 20 years and it is truly a beautiful piece. I played the role of Muddy 2 years ago at Creative Cauldron and also in two concert versions—one of which was at the Duplex in NYC. I later played Mother in Pandemonium’s Haunted Cabaret. [Note: Payne’s daughter Barbara Lawson is in this production].

Please tell readers a bit about your character?

The role of Mother is Edgar Allen Poe’s birth mother who died when he was about two years old. Mother is always with Edgar—watching him and trying to get him to take responsibility for his life and his choices.

Is there a particular musical lyric or dialogue that captivates you that you would like to share with our readers?

It is hard to choose any one piece of music from the show, however; I am particularly moved by “Evening Star.” Mother sings “Evening Star” to Edgar in a very touching moment.

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 The cast of Nevermore is:
Poe – Christopher Shaw
Virginia – Barbara Lawson
Muddy – Kristen Jepperson
Elmira – Kathleen McCormack
Mother – Mary Payne
Whore – Karissa Swanigan

Nevermore plays from September 12-October 10, 2014 at Pandemonium Theatrical Productions performing at  W-3 Theatre at the Workhouse Arts Center – 9601 Ox Road, in Lorton, VA. For tickets, call (703) 584-2900, or purchase them online. Tickets are $30, and $25 for Students, Seniors, and Military.

LINK
Here are directions.

Pandemonium Theatrical Production’s facebook page.

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One Response to ‘Nevermore’ Comes to Pandemonium Theatrical Productions at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA From 9/12-10/10/14

  1. Jeff Jerome September 5, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I saw this way back when and I enjoyed it! I’m excited that it’s back and improved! Can’t wait to see it again! Excellent theater! Jeff Jerome, Curator Emeritus, formerly of the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore.