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World Premiere of Haunted Poe House

Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 17, 2009

Haunted Poe cast

This October, Brat Productions will unleash a unique, theatrical take on a Halloween tradition – the haunted house – in the world premiere of Haunted Poe. Coinciding with the 200th anniversary year of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth, Haunted Poe offers an immersive, multisensory experience devoted to Poe’s peculiar genius.

Costumes, masks, puppets, hidden passageways, magic lanterns, optical illusions, music and video – all created by an award-winning team of theatre artists, designers and actors – serve to take Poe’s themes of madness, suspense and the supernatural to a new level.

Housed in a 10,000 square foot warehouse in South Philadelphia, Haunted Poe is grounded in some of the best-known and most chilling works ever written, including “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

While the show utilizes the form of a haunted house and offers surprises and scares as audiences move from room to room and down twisting hallways, Haunted Poe is a theatrical project that differs from typical commercial haunted attractions.

Haunted Poe“Our production focuses on narrative, rather than unconnected thrills,” says Brat’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Alltop, who conceived the work. “Yes, it will be scary. Yes, there will be blood – and ghosts and magic and murder and mayhem. But there will also be a sizeable dose of interactive storytelling inspired by America’s most famous and influential author.”

Haunted Poe’s multi-chambered story outline is conceived and directed by award-winning director/actor/playwright Madi Distefano, the Resident Artist and founder of Brat Productions. “If ever there was a 19th-century literary rock star, Edgar Allan Poe was it,” says Distefano. “His writing is thrilling, dangerous, deceitful and magnetic. He brought beauty to the horrific, the terrible and the grotesque. Brat has been called Rock-and-Roll Theatre. True to our reputation for creating event-oriented experiences, Haunted Poe is designed to put the audiences right in the (beating) heart of the action.”

Brat worked with adapter and dramaturg Greg Giovanni to get to the heart of Poe’s stories and to emphasize their disturbing qualities of obsession, murder, paranoia and the supernatural. Giovanni, who counts Romantic literature and Gothic theory as two of his “many intellectual pursuits,” is a Philadelphia director, playwright, performance artist and actor. His work was seen in a retrospective last year at The Painted Bride Arts Center.

To further delve into Poe’s work and life, Brat also brought in Edward Pettit, known as the “Philly Poe Guy” and a freelance writer, book reviewer and Poe lecturer. In addition to providing literary and historical context, Pettit is curating kiosks, which audiences can browse after performances to learn more about Gothic literature, 19-century Philadelphia and Poe’s lasting influence on our culture.

The cast of about 30 features many notable Philadelphia actors, including GoreMaster Makeup Effects ManualDave Johnson, Dallas Drummond and Nate Holt as three different versions of Poe, Patricia Bartlett, Kim Carson, Greg Giovanni, Bruce Graham, David Howey, Matt Lorenz and more to be announced.

Magician Matt Holtzclaw has collaborated with Brat to build several illusions for the show. Holtzclaw has been recognized as one of the top performers and technicians in the world of magic and special effects. Currently he is working on a Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow and an Off-Broadway stage project directed by Teller (the smaller, quieter half of Penn and Teller) called Play Dead.

Brad Helm, former designer and technical director for Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls, is creating sets that feature over 13 rooms and hallways to be traversed by the audience.

Lighting is designed by Barrymore Award-winner John Stephen Hoey, who has worked at nearly every theater in Philadelphia and has designed over 20 operas for Opera Company of Philadelphia and nearly 100 ballets for Pennsylvania Ballet, in addition to working with New York City Opera and as Lighting Director at New York City Ballet.

Sound and music compositions are created by Michael Kiley, who has

The 'Real' Edgar Allen Poe

The 'Real' Edgar Allen Poe

worked with David Brick of Headlong Dance Theatre, SubCircle, Theatre Exile and Nichole Canuso Dance Company. He is also founder of the band The Mural and The Mint.

Costumes, masks and puppets are produced by Alisa Sickora Kleckner. She has worked throughout the Northeast and teaches courses, as an adjunct faculty and resident designer at Arcadia University, in costume design and construction, puppet theatre and stage make-up and runs the university’s costume shop.

Haunted Poe’s performance dates also coincide with the Third International Edgar Allan Poe Conference: The Bicentennial, scheduled for October 8-10 at the Hyatt Regency at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. Poe flourished in Philadelphia in the early 1840s, and he wrote his most well-known works while living in the city. The six years Poe spent living in Philadelphia were the most productive and successful of his career, writing the stories we still read today, like “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” and he began writing his masterpiece “The Raven” while living in Philadelphia.

Haunted Poe runs October 1 – November 1, 2009 in Philadelphia. More info at HauntedPoe.com.

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