Eric Coble’s Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe instantly sparked my imagination upon the first read.
Some early ideas Nightfall inspired: Furies of Greek mythology, dream plays, Antony Hegarty’s music, children’s pop up books, magic, Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints, Michael Chekhov’s acting approach, puppetry, Poe toaster, etc.
I overly-prepared for the first phone interview with Alex Zavistovich, the Artistic Director of Molotov Theatre Group, because I really wanted to direct this script. While I did present my vision, I did more listening. Alex was upfront about the challenges of producing theatre in DC. He also described Molotov Theatre Group’s reputation with their audience, which he described as “weird…in all the right ways.” I also found it uncanny how we had similar ideas about the script.
After the phone call, I exhaled deeply and was proud of my preparation. I convinced myself to not get attached to the idea of directing the play with Molotov. If it should not work out, I will pitch Nightfall in the future. Over a month passed, before I received the director’s equivalent of “you got the part.” Now, it was time to get to work interpreting the script.
An interpretive clue I latched on to early was the setting of the play, described in the script as: “inside the minds of Madmen everywhere.” Right away, I knew we were dealing with an abstract landscape. Our production has echoes of Strindberg’s dream plays with characters splitting and assembling along with moments of free fancy and haunting memories. Interestingly, I discovered that Poe was an influence on Strindberg’s fascination with dreams.
Prior to the creative blast of the rehearsal process, I met with Elliott Kashner, our Poe. Our conversation centered around my take on the script and his approach to Poe. I walked away from the conversation knowing Elliott would bring intelligence and depth to his portrayal. I was eager to begin the process of rehearsing.
In the rehearsal room, there are times where it feels like I am directing a Robert Wilson production with precise choreographed movements. I lean heavily on the multi-talented Jen Bevan to craft the movement from my hazy ideas. The graceful cast (along with the gifted composer Gregory Thomas Woolford Martin) craft unique and inspired moments. There are other times in the process where I am on more familiar grounds of realism. The intelligent cast has done a great job of unpacking the script to find the action within the scenes.
Ultimately, Coble pens a unique take on Poe’s life. Poe’s contemporaries sometimes confused his mad narrators with the man himself. In Nightfall, Poe is out to prove he is not mad to the audience and himself. He does this by inhabiting the narrators to a varying degree within his four famous works, The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and Tell Tale Heart. Through sharing his stories, he intends to liberate himself. The play may prove that “madness” is a creative virtue.
While you may know Poe’s stories, you have not seen them performed this way before as only Molotov Theatre Group can demand.
Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe plays from November 6-December 7, 2014 at Molotov Theatre Group performing at the DC Arts Center-2438 18th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.
Molotov’s “Nightfall” Picks Up Where “Normal” Left Off – And Then Some by Alex Zavistovich.