The Bard Meets the Tomahawk Man

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This post appears courtesy of the Delaware Arts INfo Blog – view the original post here.

Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s annual “Shakespeare/Poe, Readings from the Dark Side” began its two-week run on October 16. The fourth annual event has expanded the series’ reach with a 10-show run, with each of the three distinct, historic locations – Rockwood Mansion (Wilmington), Read House (New Castle) and the Stone Stable (Odessa) – set for a limited capacity of 30. I have attended past readings at Rockwood, and can attest that the Victorian setting creates a perfect mood for the gothic-themed selections, and no doubt the colonial settings do the same. The selections for the hour-long reading included some works familiar to returning patrons, but the theme was newly expanded to include gothic literary royalty: Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley.

  • Opening of The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare, Portions from Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 4 Scene 1
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe, Excerpt from Volume 2, Chapter 6
  • Cymbeline – from Act 2 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Pit and The Pendulum – Poe
  • Richard II – Richard monologue from Act 3 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Invisible Girl – Mary Shelley
  • Annabel Lee – Poe
  • Shakespeare or Poe? Audience Quiz
  • The Raven – Poe
  • Hamlet/Raven Mash-up (You have to hear this one to appreciate it!)
  • The Tempest – Caliban Monologue from Act 3 Scene 2

The handful of readings that repeated from 2014 were, in my opinion, critical to the series theme. It just wouldn’t be a Poe reading without the melodic (and short) Annabel Lee and it wouldn’t be Halloween season without The Raven and the Wyrd Sisters fromMacbeth making an appearance. I was shocked to learn my companion had never heard Poe’s haunting love poem, but not surprised that it made an impact.

The readings from new authors were well received. The Invisible Girl gave me the kind of willies one gets from a supernatural story, whereas The Mysteries of Udolpho recalled the kind of terror Julia Roberts’ character experienced in Sleeping with the Enemy. Invisible in this case carries both a literal and metaphoric meaning that will be familiar to feminist sympathizers.

The cast consisted of James Kassees, Danielle Lenee, Matthew Mastronardi, and Megan Slater, with Mastronardi accompanying on the cello. Mastronardi’s arrangements and original compositions, including sound effects, were only applied to a handful of the readings, but to terrific effect, particularly Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum (my favorite Poe story, which, admittedly, I failed to read in favor of the Vincent Price movie version).

David Stradley (who directed the production and assembled the readings) cleverly breaks up the longer readings using the four diverse voices, and the individual cast members effectively project multiple characters in rapid succession when called for.

The guest experience was enhanced with the offering of a hot, mulled cider. I was pleased to have a chance to stretch my legs, despite there being no intermission, thanks to a quiz-off between another patron and me; we took turns listening to a line of text and guessing whether it was Shakespeare or Poe.

My 14-year-old son has attended readings before, but this was my husband’s first reading. The pace is quick, and it would be a great entrée into theater for most newbie patrons. As far as children, the content is no scarier than Scar or Ursula or Jafaar, and regularly exposing a young mind to the linguistics of centuries past may make high school Shakespeare assignments easier. I strongly encourage you to buy a ticket for the mini-goth, zombie lover or emo baby in your life – the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up should be right up their alley.

Other than a generally excellent setting, there are no lighting effects, which could be interesting in future years. The nearby parking was full, ostensibly due to activity in an adjacent building, but there is a convenient drop off point for passengers, and handicap spaces were still available nearby.

DelShakes puts on similar events around Valentine’s Day, with a “Shakespeare + St. Valentine” program planned for 2016. I’m glad the format fits with other holidays. Otherwise, I’d be awaiting the fifth annual Halloween-time reading like a kid anticipating, well, Halloween.

Some tickets remain available for late October dates. Click here to order.

See www.delshakes.org.