Terror. Alan Stanford, artistic and executive director of PICT Classic Theatre, admits he loves the genre and that he read Edgar Allan Poe under the covers as a child. Didn’t we all?
But nothing may seem more terrifying than having to move. In spite of that upcoming reality for his company, Stanford chose to have his players take a final bow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Henry Heymann Theatre with Two Tales of Terror from Poe. PICT will next perform at the Union Project, its new venue for its 2016-17 season.
A farewell double bill of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher will run May 5-20 at Pitt.
Stanford finds the genre irresistible and has a small cast of favorites acting the text in a “slo-mo” style similar to his PICT directorial debut, Oscar Wilde’s Salome in 2008. Featured PICT company members are Justin Lonesome, Jonathan Visser, and Karen Baum.
And staging one more show at Pitt was also irresistible after PICT fans rallied to keep the company running after an extremely rough spot last year.
“I wanted to give our patrons something to come and see and thank them,” Stanford says, crediting a large number of small donations in helping the company while thanking University of Pittsburgh Theatre Arts for making one final production of a classic in the Stephen Foster Memorial possible.
“Poe is a classic American writer,” says Stanford. “He actually laid down the ground rules for American gothic–before the word ‘terror’. There’s something about it built into our genome.”
Stanford quotes Alfred Hitchcock: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it,” observing that Poe’s storytelling is fueled by the writer’s vivid imagination.
“His writing plays on the imagination,” Stanford shares on the PICT website. “He is one of the early exponents of the art of terror rather than horror. He achieves this not by the use of the gruesome, but by provoking the deep fears that lie within us all…His sense of implied evil is matchless.”
“Poe used the form of the short story and compacted his tales of terror into concise and evocative prose,” said Stanford in the PICT announcement of his project. “Many have been filmed, but the process has often distorted the original tale.” He aims to present the stories as close to the original storyline.
Stanford credits Poe’s use of language in The Fall of House of Usher and heightening the text and its effect on readers or, in this case, listeners.
“Purple Prose is very rich prose,” he says. All three actors will present his adaptation of the first-person story. One actor will perform Poe’s actual text of The Tell-Tale Heart. And these two stories told by unnamed narrators in PICT’s production aim to have audience members go home and sleep with the lights on.
And there’s nothing like Poe’s onomatopoeia. (You’ll even find his name in the word.) His poems The Raven and The Bells make vivid use words to animate suspense.
But audiences should indeed expect paranoia, murder, impending doom and insanity, all promised in PICT’s Tales, told in the intimate Heymann Theatre.
There’s nothing louder than the incessant beating of the heart in Poe’s story when reading with the flashlight on when everyone in the house is asleep. PICT promises to conjure that late night beating heart, which might just be your own!
Two Tales of Terror runs May 5 through 20 at the Henry Heymann Theatre, Forbes Ave., Oakland (15260). Tickets are available on the website or by calling PICT at 412-561-6000.