Weekender

Local collaboration brings Poe’s works to life

“Poe: Into That Darkness” is a collaborative effort of Tempest Productions, Ivyside Dance Ensemble and VanDance Inc.
“Poe: Into That Darkness” is a collaborative effort of Tempest Productions, Ivyside Dance Ensemble and VanDance Inc. Photo provided

Tempest Productions, along with Ivyside Dance Ensemble and VanDance Inc., will premier a new production Friday based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Theater, dance, poetry, film, spoken-word and performance art will all come together for “Poe: Deep into That Darkness.”

This innovative blend of forms blurs the lines of traditional theater, weaving together some of Poe’s most hypnotic, horrific tales and poems — from “The Masque of the Red Death” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” to “The Tell-Tale Heart” and more.

This collaboration is the first of the three companies: Tempest Productions, VanDance Inc. and Ivyside Dance Ensemble, and features a company of 30 performers, including distinguished Poe scholar Richard Kopley, who breathes life into “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Through a grant award from the Jim & Barbara Palmer Foundation, Tempest Productions will be moving into the main theater at The State Theatre with this premiere production, rather than the smaller theater upstairs at the venue.

“Ann (Van Kuren of VanDance Inc.) and I had been talking since the summer about finding ways to have our companies collaborate, and we were looking down the road at next season when this opportunity arose,” Tempest Productions director and co-founder Cynthia Mazzant said. “We also wanted to include other groups and artists and approached Caitlin Osborne about her student company (Ivyside Dance Ensemble) and asked Richard Kopley, a Poe scholar and professor emeritus of PSU to join us.”

This collaboration advances Tempest’s mission to work with professionals, students and community members to present quality productions that deal with classical and universal themes.

From the questions of death, dying, love and fate, Poe’s work encompasses the range of human emotion while dealing with universal concerns.

“We can’t look away and we can’t run from the questions Poe poses,” Mazzant said. “His masterful use of language so easily lends itself to interpretation and expression and so many art pieces have been designed using Poe as inspiration — from music, to film, to dance, to art. So why not try to put the pieces together in an evening of theater?”

Recurring themes tie Poe’s works together, and as a director, Mazzant thinks it’s easy to link the stories.

“Each deals with love and loss, and hope and despair, but from a different perspective,” she said. “Poe asks us to take a leap of faith in accepting his character’s actions, but he offers more questions than he answers and allows the reader to make the final decision — is it real? Is it a metaphor? And if so, what implications does it have on my actions, behaviors and thoughts?”

This collaborative production is a series of short pieces interwoven together — sometimes each style is performed solo and sometimes they are merged. Regardless, the themes remain timeless and compelling, creating a fusion of the arts that Mazzant hopes audiences will embrace.

“There’s been a lot of talk in theater of the new dance-theater or theater-dance performances,” she said. “While we are not quite there yet with a single production, the tapestry of the forms creates compelling storytelling in its own way.”

Mazzant is excited about this collaboration, as Tempest has, since its inception, worked with various artists and other companies to create collaborative arts events. This is Tempest’s first major collaborative production in several years and is a fusion of the forms.

“Ann Van Kuren has been studying and creating works of Poe for several years, so it’s wonderful to merge these pieces together,” she said. “Caitlin Osborne not only brings her stunning choreography with her but she adds another student element with the university ensemble. We also have two young high school students performing.”

Mazzant hopes “Poe” will expand the lens in which audiences think of theater, and that they will take away a different perspective of Poe from one they came in with.

“Poe is intriguing and scary, and I hope they walk away experiencing the range of emotions his stories offer,” she said. “And if nothing else, maybe a quick reminder of how we ought to behave.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Tempest Productions’ “Poe: Deep Into That Darkness”
  • When: 8 p.m. Nov. 18
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre.org
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