I saw Catalyst Theatre‘s show Nevermore last night. It was first created in 2008, and has been performed in Europe and at the 2010 Cultural Olympiad since then. This remount is, yes, the first time I’ve seen it. And I was still barely ready to.
I have been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe since I was 16. Emo, right? I first read The Raven in grade 11. I was in the advanced humanities courses at my high school; One of the pieces I annotated and analyzed was The Masque of the Red Death. I didn’t think much about this – he was a famous author, of course lots of people liked him, I thought. And then, once I learned more about his life, I realized I’d identified with him, just through his work.
My writing is not nearly as macabre as Poe’s. It has been noted though, that one of the characters dies in every one of my plays, usually in a…messy fashion. Those ideas come from somewhere.
The best way I have of explaining this is indirectly. A long time ago now, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still on, but had been for a while, a group of close friends kept telling me I would love the show and had to watch it. One day, I was at one couple’s house and everyone decided today was the day: they popped in a recorded episode of Buffy, and we all sat down to watch. Unfortunately, the episode my close friends had chosen was the one where Buffy’s mother died. I bolted from the room and locked myself in the bathroom, willing myself not to throw up. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and when I got it open, my one friend shamefacedly said we could watch something else. Joss Whedon, that mad genius, got it right. TOO right.
If you’re a fan of Poe, you’ll know his life was one tragedy after another. One would wonder how he remained functional, and the answer would be he didn’t – that’s why he was alcoholic. He was a gifted writer with a huge imagination, and like all children, he imagined monstrous things. But he witnessed his mother die when he was 8…the first he’d see of many. His monsters were real. Nevermore so perfectly made Edgar’s thoughts visual, right in front of me, that when I wasn’t gasping I was crying.
It’s not always a good idea to entangle an author’s life with what they write, but Poe’s work is fascinating, and his own story too clearly shows where that work came from. Some people are so strong that they can genuinely take anything and remain standing. Poe wasn’t one of those. And that makes this writer feel relieved on those days I can’t stand up.