A Halloween Double Feature
October 4th - 13th 2019
at The Harriet Alexander Nature Center
We are excited to bring you two spooky one act plays performed inside the beautiful Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville, Minnesota.
Director’s Notes by Erin Granger:
The Show: It started with a location. A few weeks prior, Shawna had happened upon the Nature Center and there was a TREE in the middle of the visitor space. And big, beautiful, panoramic windows. And a cozy fireplace. And an unsettling number of taxidermied animals. And bees! It was Justin and Amy who came up with the concept. It’s October, what if we tried to adapt Edgar Allan Poe; people love that guy. Has anyone heard of Spoon River? It’s by Edgar Lee Masters. It’s about ghosts. Edgar Lee Masters and Edgar Allan Poe; two Edgars? Both in Public Domain? It’s perfect. Let’s nix the bees.
It was Shawna who masterfully wove the poetry together (with a bit of help from Taylor and myself). In their years, these pieces have endured countless garden-variety public recitations (and so-so stage adaptations); we endeavored to strike a new balance between poetry and performance. I mused aloud about how the two anthologies contrast each other perfectly. Spoon River with its epitaphs reflecting on life, and Edgar Allan Poe, which often features living people captivated by death. Death musing on Life. Life musing on Death. The crux of our storytelling came screeching into focus. We thought it best to present the two stories separately. In keeping with the spirit of the season, we decided to bill this experience as a classic Halloween Double Feature. I say ‘experience’ intentionally, as our show isn’t exactly a traditional play but also isn’t a standard poetry reading -- it’s somewhere in between. You’ll see.
As time progressed, A.J. was going to Direct, but work got in the way. Mariah was on-board to House Manage, until we decided to use her talents as an actor, instead. We Facebook messaged our friends and favorite collaborators to join our cast and crew. Taylor is involved another show right now, but even so, he offered his time to procure set pieces and keep our Production Meetings (mostly) on track. We eventually found the perfect place for A.J as House Manager. We rehearsed in Shawna & Taylor’s garage four nights a week. This is how our production came together. This is how we like to make theatre. Collaboratively. With great people.
I mentioned earlier that Shawna ‘wove’ the poems together. To read Spoon River, as laid-out by Masters, is to go on an epic scavenger hunt through the epitaphs. It’s a truly masterful and devastating journey. It compels the reader to reread the collection, over and over, in an attempt to connect the stories. I made a giant Character Map! Exciting as it is to read, hearing monologue after monologue can get monotonous. And we certainly don’t have time to hear all 244. Somehow, Shawna found a way to distill the plot-line into a handful of characters, introducing dialogue exchanges mingled with soliloquies. The text remains intact, with 99% of the script in Masters’ own words. This rearranging and inter-splicing of the poetry, although a departure from the Anthology’s structure, allows our interpretation to become active, immediate, and compelling in performance. The spirits and their stories swirling around you in a dizzying dance.
There’s an old adage: Everyone dies twice. Once on the day you stop breathing and again the last time anyone utters your name. Long dead and forgotten, the names of Spoon River’s inhabitants are inconsequential, but their lessons are invaluable. Not your typical ghost story, Spoon River is frightening all the same; conveying a scathing, nightmarish, painfully truthful commentary on society. The townspeople come to us from beyond the grave, begging us to heed their warnings. Written in 1915, but just as relevant today, The Spoon River Anthology will leave you with one haunting realization: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.