First up was October’s ReadAloud – Spirits Abound. It was an intimate evening for sharing stories and poetry. There were the beautiful lyrics of classic poets such as Christina Rossetti and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as original poetry. There were tales of ghostly encounters; real or imagined, we leave to your interpretation. The gathering was also treated to a complex 21st century re-working of traditional folklore. Poe yet again made another appearance with a reading of his tale of jealousy, revenge and being buried alive: The Cask of Amontillado.
If anyone is curious, Poets.org has a wonderful database of Halloween poetry and more. Check it out at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/halloween-poems
Once summoned by prose and poetry, the spirit Edgar Allan Poe was not ready to depart from the earthly realm yet! Next up was Three by Poe – an evening of two stories and a narrative poem by the master of mystery and the macabre. First, the evening opened with a lively game of Murder. Participants wore red stickers to show they were playing and given mysterious instructions. One at the gathering was the Murderer. With a wink, he or she would kill until they were caught and accused.
It was just a game, by the way. No one really died.
Then, the lights were dimmed and the audience crept onto the carpet and pillows as invited by Thomas Bellmore and the Three by Poe commenced with Paul Batt reading The Black Cat, a tale of murder, alcoholism, rage, and abuse. Mr. Batt’s deep voice throbbed around the room, drawing in the audience under the spell of the dreadful tale. Sarah Brooks provided a chilling accompaniment to the story with believable cat’s meows and other sound effects.
After a brief intermission, Thomas Bellmore took the mike and delivered his beautiful rendition of “The Raven.” Bearing more than a slight resemblance to Poe himself, Mr. Bellmore’s hypnotic rendition of lost love and grief stirred the audience to the point that there was no need for sound effects. He took everyone along for the dark, exquisite ride.
Finally, Whitney Zahar was up with The Tell-tale Heart. Together with Sarah Brooks on sound, Ms. Zahar spun the classic tale of murder, madness, and guilty conscience. The two ladies held the audience in a terrifying grip from beginning to the chilling end.
Throughout the whole evening, master artist Charles Haines maintained a silent, but compelling presence on the stage. Donning a mask and with an easel propped before him, Mr. Haines created a beautiful, surreal canvas which featured all three of Poe’s works while the readers performed.
In a word, Three By Poe can be summed up as—spellbinding.