You’ve read “The Fall of the House of Usher” and have never forgotten those opening lines: “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country…” Right now, alone on this dreary January day, you sit alone in front of the fire shivering as you recall the unfolding of that sad tale. Why is it that tales such as this haunt us to the very marrow, you ask yourself. Uneasy and not knowing what to do with yourself, you open your computer and read information about an immersive theater performance at the Enoch Pratt House, 201 West Monument Street, Mount Vernon, Maryland:
“The theatrical performance, called Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe, will channel the spirit and characters of one of Baltimore’s most treasured writers. Performances will take place Thursday to Saturday March 26 to early May 2015 at 8pm.”
What in the Lord’s name is immersive theater, you wonder, gazing out the window at the newly fallen snow before reading on: “Neither an historical reenactment nor a reproduction of Poe’s stories, Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe is a new, interpretive artwork created by a collective of Baltimore performers and artists assembled by 2014 Rubys grantee Glenn Ricci. The group will invite audiences into a Poe-inspired world that can be freely explored as stories unfold and secrets are revealed. Throughout the show, audience members will share moments directly with the characters, interact with the sets, explore the environment, choose which stories to follow, and come away with a unique experience to discuss with others. The six main characters are pulled from Poe’s life and fiction and will vacillate at will between the two.”
The whole of Pratt House will unfold with six characters representing both real-life and fictional situations in Poe’s life and on the first floor of the house there will be representations of mesmerization (an exotic practice that arose in the 1840’s), also a ballroom scene (The Red Death?) and a séance.
Tense, excited and curious all at the same time you go back to your seat in front of the fire and read the last lines of “The Fall of the house of Usher.”
“From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zig-zag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened --there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind --the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight --my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder --there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters --and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "HOUSE OF USHER."
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