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Insanity comes to life in Granger High’s “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe”

Feb 27, 2017 05:11PM ● Published by Travis Barton

Students of Granger High School’s advanced theatre rehearse their new play, “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe.” The play will run from Feb. 2-4, 6 at 7 p.m. at Granger High School. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

Gallery: Insanity comes to life in Granger High’s “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe” [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com
 
Famous writer Edgar Allan Poe may have died more than 150 years ago, but his literary work is still read, absorbed and—at Granger High School—is being performed.
           
“Shuddersome: Tales of Poe,” was performed by the Granger High School advanced theatre group on Feb. 2-4, 6 at 7 p.m. at Granger High. The play, written by Lindsay Price, took five of Poe’s famous poems turning them into a five-scene play: “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Bells”, “The Oval Portrait”, “The Raven” and “The Masque of the Red Death”.  
           
Drama teacher Kirsten Anderson said she wanted to do a play with different elements of theatre than her students were accustomed.
           
“We wanted to do more physical theatre than the kids are used to,” she said. “This is a little bit theatre of the absurd, little bit contemporary, little bit physical…This one was a really cool aspect discovering new things they haven’t tried before.”
           
Much of the play takes place inside of Poe’s mind, meaning students play thoughts rather than literal people.
           
“So, we play like the thoughts that are in his mind and everyone’s a thought and it’s really creepy and eerie, just avant-garde theatre,” said junior Jonathan Harr who plays a shudder—an insane thought.
           
Seeing the thoughts inside Poe’s mind on stage is exactly where Anderson hopes to take the audience.
           
“I want the audience to feel like we’re inside of Edgar Allan Poe’s head, so [the actors are] actually not people, they’re literary characters, imaginary characters that he’s created for himself inside of his brain,” Anderson said.
           
Playing those types of characters has been both parts challenging and enjoyable for the students.

“It’s not realistic, it’s more of his mind and his thought processes,” said sophomore Jett Larson, who plays Prince Prospero from “The Masque of the Red Death”. “I really, really enjoy just coming into this space, step out of what’s going on outside of us and step into [Poe’s] mind. It’s great, it’s really fun.”
           
A large part of the show’s vision came from one of Poe’s famous quotes that states, “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Anderson said the students have had to go to a weird space to conceptualize insanity.
           
“We’re pushing and encouraging them, go to that weird space, let’s explore what insanity looks like,” Anderson said. “This is something they’ve never experienced, they’re used to playing real characters, human characters.”
           
Sophomore Mary Newton said that was an important aspect of her preparation, which is much different from what’s normally done.
           
“It’s a very interesting show because most of the time you have characters who are real people and you can give them biographies,” Newton said. “In this show it’s very different because you’re playing a thought, or an imagination of something Edgar Allan Poe was creating. You’re not a person so you can’t necessarily give yourself that anymore.”
           
With the show not being straightforward in the traditional sense along the lines of “Peter Pan” or “The Wizard of Oz”, Anderson said it’s been fun exploring the “weird space” where there aren’t rules.
           
Since there exists an abstract nature in Poe’s work, Anderson said she loves the discoveries students have made as they delved into the poems, like what the red death represents for Poe in “The Masque of the Red Death”.
           
“That part’s been the most fun is discovering all these things,” Anderson said.
           
Anderson and the students echoed their excitement for the play’s opening scene. A visual retelling of one of Poe’s most famous short stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, where the narrator describes a murder he committed while trying to convince the reader of his sanity.
           
“I just love the substance it has, it’s very creepy and it’s awesome,” Larson said.
           
Newton said she loves the buildup of the story to a point where the narrator snaps.
 
“It’s very fun to be part of this mad man’s mind, that’s kind of what we’re going for in this scene, and I’m inhabiting a very specific thought and it’s getting more intense and more intense,” Newton said.

Having performed the play for the public in early February, the advanced theatre group will perform this play at the state competition in March.

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