A Midnight Dreary
- By gentleguide
- On Thu 03 oct 2019
We’re getting closer to Halloween, so it’s time for a few more nightmares. Specifically, those of Edgar Allan Poe. His life and work is portrayed in A Midnight Dreary, opening Friday October 11 from DMACC Ankeny. It’s a special project for Program Chair Carl Lindberg, and a show with an interesting and personal history.
The Tell-Tale Heart
A Midnight Dreary originally premiered back in 2009, created by Lindberg’s friend and mentor Scott Dixon. They worked on the first production of the show in a small theatre in Minnesota, one of Lindberg’s first jobs after graduate school. “Scott, Hal (the production's Director), and I collaborated pretty extensively on the script when we were in pre-production and rehearsal back in 2009,” says Lindberg. “Scott was not only a strong playwright, but also a great actor. We're truly honored to be presenting the first production of one of his plays since his passing.”
“We approached our production here at DMACC with the consideration that this is a finished script. It has a bigger set, more period costumes, and more lights and effects as compared to any of our previous productions. The production team is excited to bring tension and a touch of horror to the stage through visual and auditory storytelling. It will be a little different in that we have a different space with unique capabilities for production and new directors (I'm really staying hands off with this production).”
A Dream Within A Dream
“Rachel Trimble and I did some different things in preparation for this show,” says Brittany Beridon, discussing how she and fellow director Trimble are looking at A Midnight Dreary. “Rachel did a lot of research about Poe and his life and history, and created a wonderful resource that was available to our entire production team. While I did do some research (especially thanks to Rachel's resources), I mostly have let the script inform my own interpretation. Prior to the show, I had a general appreciation for Poe and his work, but little knowledge of the events in his life.”
“This show is very surreal, featuring Poe delirious with a fever and nearing the end of his life. He spends the play in a dream he cannot wake from, and because this circumstance isn't entirely based in reality, the playwright really uses Poe to effectively display what is real and what is not and when he is so deeply invested that he can't tell the difference. The most challenging part of all this is remembering that the figures from our own dreams and nightmares haven't the slightest idea that they are. So far this approach has given our actors a unique opportunity to find confidence in the unknown in the world of our play, or it has meant finding what one character knows that Poe does not in a world dictated only by what Poe doesn't know.”
Thou Art The Man
Poe is being played by Lucas Berg, who has been very busy developing his portrayal, especially with the stylistic interpretation involved in A Midnight Dreary. “I think what really differs this show from others,” reports Berg, “is how ‘scenes’ change, because truth be told, there aren't any separate scenes. It's only split by Acts. And while that style in and of itself isn't entirely unique to more recent contemporary shows, in those shows the characters are often rather consistent in their portrayals and mannerisms. The surrealist nature of this show can throw characters all over the place. It's almost like most characters have their own alter egos, the more grounded historical versions stuck in their scenes and moments in life and those who are truly just a part of the dream, feeding into every aspect of it.”
“I try to ground Poe largely in his emotions, “ says Berg, “because he's sort of the only ‘normal’ character in this show. At the same time, much like how Poe did with his own work, I try to give in to the surrealism a bit as well because while it might all be a dream, it's his dream and his visions based from his own writings. So in that sense he's just as much a part of the surrealism as he is a force against it.”
“I've done a lot of research on his life and the lives of some of the people important to him and his upbringing, such as his wife and adoptive father, to help show how his relationships with those people might have been. The play isn't fully able to completely go into detail on some of the events of his life such as how much debt he'd really acquired and how rich his adoptive father actually was by comparison. But I also did research on his life because the play shifts through many periods in Poe's life and significant events so I find it useful to know, for example, how old Poe would have been during this event and how might that affect his reactions. How would a 2 year old react to this? A 12 year old? A young adult? Things like that to help form a mindset on what's going on in each given ‘scene.’"
“I think the most challenging thing about this show for me has been interpreting Poe's works and adapting them to stage. Figuring out how to take the vividness of the imagination and bring it into the real world while still conveying all of the themes and the emotion without losing anything.”
The Power of Words
Lindberg is very proud on this production, and of the program as a whole. In addition to expanding the number of productions from 3 to 5 per year, there’s a lot to celebrate and discover with the DMACC program these days. “Opening night will be the first ever performance of any kind within the new Simon Estes School of Fine Arts, which is pretty exciting and an additional honor that we're proud to associate with Scott's play. Growth within the Program hit new highs this semester as 45 students auditioned for A Midnight Dreary and The Matchmaker and another 20 interviewed for off stage positions. I could go on and on about the growth of the Program, from new classes to the development of an Acting certificate, there's a lot in the works and hopefully more exciting announcements on the horizon!”
A Midnight Dreary opens in the Black Box theatre in Building 5 on the DMACC Ankeny Campus next Friday, October 11, and runs for two weekends. Tickets are FREE, but send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve seats.
Publicity Photos by Kristen Strandskov. Courtesy of DMACC Ankeny Theatre/Simon Estes School of Fine Arts.