Randall O'Neill (Edgar Allan Poe; Adaptor)
I return to the stage after a thirteen year hiatus in order to "realize an ambition I had cherished for more than a decade," to quote the illustrious Mr. Poe himself. For more than 25 years I have performed the "Tell Tale Heart" in many venues and under various theatrical styles: It began as a story telling project, morphed into a performance piece and was even presented as a dance. My love for the works of one of the greatest American writers, indeed, the creator of modern detective fiction and science fiction, has come full circle in this theatrical iteration. For the past 160 years the life and person of Edgar Allan Poe have been misrepresented and misunderstood because of the professional and personal dislike of a man who, through an accident of history, became Poe's literary executor and first biographer. In the years immediately following his death, many of Poe's friends tried to refute the slanders of Rufus Wilmont Griswold, but the intensity of Poe's writings and the passionate, unfortunate and quirky life that he had lived only served to play into the malicious fictions that Griswold put forward. Indeed, Eddy lead an exceptional and peculiar existence filled with ill-fated circumstances and bad luck that were only exacerbated by his poor judgment and sardonic attitude toward those he considered to be of lesser genius. Yet this man was a fascinating and deeply passionate individual whose works offer a glimpse into his hopes, fears, desires and very often wretched circumstances. It is my intention with this production to try to excavate the man from the words he so carefully and meticulously chose in his tales and poems, as well as from the personal correspondence, which, like his literary works, are brimming with Poe's fervor, wit and philosophical musings. With only a few obvious exceptions, every word you will hear this evening sprang from the imagination of and was transcribed by the stylus of Edgar Allan Poe. There are some portions of the tales and poems that you may find missing: This is because it is not necessarily the intention of this evening to tell - or rather retell - the tales, but instead our goal is to attempt to glean from them a portion of our man, Eddy.
As for me, my theatrical accomplishments are minuscule compared to the achievements of this literary giant. Some favorite roles include Jacques in Shakespeare's As You Like It; Willemenia in Sexual Wasteland performed at the John Housmann Theatre on Theatre Row; Peter in Twilight Tales performed at The Duplex Cabaret; Veneer in Bongo Fever also performed at The Duplex Cabaret; and The Wizard in Once Upon A Mattress. Additionally, I have performed the works of Moliere, Eugene Ionesco, Oscar Wilde and Eugene O'Neill and was featured in the short film "Repeater."
I wish to thank Karen Case Cook for her extraordinary contributions to this piece. It is Karen's keen artistic eye that has brought out the humor and the contradictions that make this work so compelling. As a dramaturge, she was instrumental in helping me hone and shape each tale; she reminded me of Poe's poems, which I so often overlooked; and she spent hours delving with me into his personal correspondence to mine from them the nuggets that most portray the passion of this great man. As a director, she has taken me, in some cases kicking and screaming, to places where I never would have dared to go on my own. She helped me turn Edgar's words upside down and inside out so that we could bring them to life in a way I never thought possible.
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