Something wicked this way comes

The Douglas County Historical Society's History Theatre unearths a literary serial killer for one weekend only. Edgar Allan Poe is known for writing about death. Four of his most captivating tales will be told in "Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe."...

Left to right, John Center as Edgar Allan Poe, Martin Taylor-Romme as Roderick Usher and Jessica Johnson as Madeline perform a scene from “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe” Wednesday at the Douglas County Historical Society. (Maria Lockwood)

The Douglas County Historical Society’s History Theatre unearths a literary serial killer for one weekend only. Edgar Allan Poe is known for writing about death. Four of his most captivating tales will be told in “Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe.” The author’s modus operandi, however, is never the same.

“They all talk about death, but in different ways,” said director Kathy Laakso.

For the first time, the History Theatre will stage a production in the round. Audience members will find themselves part of the action as cast members look them in the eye and sound effects surround them.

“When I read this script I couldn’t picture it so removed,” Laakso said. “I wanted everybody to hear the rats behind them, too.”

The play centers on Poe, who stands in the flickering light, trying desperately to convince himself - and the audience - that he is not mad. It dramatizes some of his most famous works, “The Raven,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”


Audience members will experience something new, said John Center, who plays Poe.

“They probably haven’t seen many plays, if any plays, were we intensely talk to them,” Center said. At one point, Poe looks directly into the crowd and asks if they think he’s insane.

“That’ll be a new experience for most audience members,” Center said. It’s all part of creating a creepy atmosphere to compliment the unsettling stories.

“(Poe) was very dark and he thought of the strangest death and what it would be like to act upon urges,” Laakso said.

The production, and its staging, is meant to leave an impact.

“You will come to the show and you will feel something,” said Taylor Martin-Romme, who plays Roderick Usher. “You will feel something and you will think about things when you leave, because it’s very psychological.”

Jessica Johnson, who plays Madeline, encouraged teens who may be reading Poe’s works in class to come to the play. It’s entertaining, she said, and “presented to you in such a way that it actually creeps you out.”

But, said cast member Don Johnson, leave the toddlers at home.


Although Poe isn’t a local historical figure, the play is true to the History Theatre’s mission.

“A lot of people think history even is so boring, just like literature, but once you put them into 3-D, they’re real people, it just changes everything,” Laakso said. “And people have learned so much through these things.”

The show is crafted for Poe devotees and those who aren’t fans. Don Johnson, who plays Sante and Old Man, is one of the latter.

“I’m enjoying being part of it but I still don’t understand Edgar Allan Poe,” he said. “He was a sick human being.”

Laakso, a Poe fan, took pleasure in watching the thespians dig into the author’s work.

“They’ve been discovering the beauty of Poe’s language, especially with ‘The Raven,’” she said.

This is the History Theatre’s fifth season of producing plays, many of them original works based on local events. Actors said the troupe is a true community theater where everyone lends a hand.

Center is enjoying the chance to step into Poe’s shoes.


“It is the role of a lifetime for me,” said Center, who has been in a number of the theater’s productions. “He’s quite a character and the lines are just great.”

He’s also handy with a paintbrush..

 “It’s the height of volunteerism when the leading man paints the stage, and the definition of community theater,” Center said.

 “Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe” is performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, 24 and 25. There will also be matinee performances at 2 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26. Tickets are $15 and available now.

For more information contact Laakso at 715-392-8449 or email .


Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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