Books. My wife Peg and I love books. Books are mere beyond entertainment. Books contain ideas and dreams . . . and invariably the relationships of people to their surroundings and possibilities.
As a teenager in the late fifties, my parents owned a motel in Ponder’s Corner. It was a family-run business, so I always had work to do. Paid work. Most of my money was spent on records and books, or, music and literature, if you prefer. I was an avid reader. My wife Peg was, and is, an avid reader on steroids. One of my extravagances was signing up for a set of books called something like great authors of the world. Each month or so I received a package in the mail of a classic book. Each book contained novels and short stories from a particular author. I read, among others, works of Twain, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Poe. As a young man, I thought nothing of reading all night long if I had an interesting story in my hands. Poetry and short stories and such by Poe paid off soon in Mrs. Virginia Dezell’s sophomore English class at Clover Park.
Poe was popular because of his tales of mystery and the macabre. Many, if not all of his works have been incorporated into television shows or feature films. Generally, however, they usually just follow his plots and we don’t hear his voice. The words from great writers, like the paintings of great artists, are the essence of whom and what they are. Poe remains popular because his dark words and phrases have a rhythm . . . a cadence . . . that connects with us. His stories of death and despair give us joy. My friend Tim Hoban reminded me that Poe was actually good at light-hearted material as well.
Recently Tim stopped over for coffee and a chat. Peg and I have known Tim for over thirty years. He resigned from a steady job with Burlington Northern to follow his dream of acting and performing. He’s done improv and appeared on stages from Tacoma to Olympia. We have seen his An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe at Tacoma Little Theatre, Parkland Library, and our own home.
The play itself was created by Bryan Willis who premiered the play in his hometown of McCleary, Washington in 1996 or 1997 at the McCleary Hotel. Tim has been performing as Poe for the last fifteen years. It’s enjoyable each time we see it.
David Wright, the original director, worked with Tim for six months. Tim would study and then the two would meet at the Tacoma Library a couple of nights a week. Peg and I worked with David in our production on earthquake preparedness for TCI Cable decades ago. David is another long time local actor, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago.
The new Tim Hoban/David Wright production was launched in Onalaska, Washington. Tim was a little dismayed when he saw the audience. In the front row, was a super-cool, he-man high school football player and his girl friend. He dreaded trying to win over the football player. Soon after the play began, however the football player ignored his girl friend as she chatted away into his ear. The student leaned forward . . . and hung on every word from Tim. He even told his girl friend to “Please, shut up.” Like the football player, most people who see the show are captivated.
Soon after the production came into its own, the playwright suggested to Tim’s wife, Chris, that they go to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In Scotland, Tim couldn’t understand a word from the locals, but the people who saw his Poe production loved it. He was two-thirds of the way through one performance . . . “And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you — here I opened wide the door . . .” The lights in the theatre went out. The theatre went black . . . Tim kept on . . .”Darkness there and nothing more.” He turned to take advantage of the dim light coming from the emergency exit signs and finished the play. There was construction going on nearby and everyone on the block lost power. Other actors performing in different stages just stopped. Tim was the only actor to continue . . . and people thought it was all planned. That’s the sign of a good actor.
Actors need to be aware and take advantage of every situation. Tim and Chris took an underground tour in Edinburgh. At one point the guide stopped the group and announced, “The festival is going on above us, but where we stand is precisely the center of the old church were the stages are.” The timing was perfect. When Tim’s friend Whitney heard the Poe production was going to Scotland, she announced that she would come along and help. Unfortunately, she died before the trip. Tim had a vial of her ashes with him. He sprinkled them onto the dirt floor, only that . . . and nothing more.
Tim is performing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe in Edmonds soon and has two shows at the Lakewood Playhouse (October 19th and 20th) at 7:30 pm. Tickets are only $10, so take the whole family. – For tickets go to tix4.centerstageticketing.com/sites/lakewood_washington/showdates.php?s_id=169
This production gives extra life to the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Enjoy.