The popular Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe questions long-standing assumptions about a theater-going experience
The mysterious “V.” (right) looks on as Eliza (a character inspired by Eliza Poe) performs on the stairs.
BALTIMORE, September 22, 2015 – The new remount of the popular theatrical performance, The Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe, will open on October 14, 2015. Taking place in the historic Enoch Pratt House (201 W. Monument Street, Mount Vernon), the two-hour show is part of the burgeoning Immersive Theater movement, a style of theatrical performance that breaks down the ‘fourth wall’ separating the audience from the stage. Performances will take place from Thursday-Sunday, and tickets for October dates are available now by clicking here. Watch the video trailer here.
The Immersive Theater Experience
The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe invites an audience of 26 to explore a Poe-inspired world. As curious events transpire around them, audience members get to interact with the sets, choose which characters to follow, uncover their stories, and come away with a unique experience to discuss with others. They may even find the house’s residents interacting directly with them.
While Immersive Theater productions like Sleep No More and Then She Fell appeared to critical acclaim in New York and London, the genre had not made many inroads in Baltimore before The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe launched in Baltimore last spring. The entire first run, including extensions, completely sold out.
The explorable sets of Mesmeric Revelations! are full of clues and context about the characters and the world they inhabit. Each audience member can choose to jump between characters or just focus on one. “Part of the fun is catching up with your friends afterwards and comparing your experiences,” says Producer and Co-Director Glenn Ricci.
Eliza Poe Asks an Audience Member For Assistance
“We’re placing a great deal of trust in the audience to piece together their own stories and make their own meaning from what they experience,” Ricci continues. “We never direct them to say ‘This is the thing you must see now! Look: this moment is important!’ or even try to make them feel specific emotions. One person may think a scene is sad and another funny based on what they saw before and how they approach the work.”
“Something we’ve focused on in the creation of this show, both the first time and in this go around, is an essential question for any show that claims to be Immersive: What is the specific role of the audience?” says Co-Director Susan Stroupe, “Every show takes a different amount of care and consideration when answering this question. In Mesmeric Revelations, each of the actors explored this question when building their character, so every movement, every scene of the show always has a consideration for why an audience member NEEDS to be there. It may not be obvious what the audience’s role is at a given moment and discovering that is all part of the fun. Every interaction between character and audience strives to be deeply personal, because the moment is not the same without audience involvement. I think our audiences enjoy this feeling of being needed by the characters.”
At any given time in the show when a major scene is happening, there are other, more quiet moments to be found at the same time. “Those moments, when you’re practically alone with a character, are some of the more beautiful parts of the show,” says Ricci. “Sharing the same space as the characters, you can hear them breathe, hear their clothes rustle, sense the smallest changes.”
Mesmeric Revelations! is an interpretive artwork originally created by a collective of Baltimore performers and artists assembled by 2014 Rubys grantee Glenn Ricci. The Rubys Artist Project is a grant program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA). Following the success of their run in the Spring, Ricci and his wife Ursula Marcum (Co-producer and Prop Master for the show) formed Submersive Productions, a company focusing on experiential artworks, in order to further develop and sustain the production. “We grew over the summer from twelve people to around thirty. It’s exciting to work with so many talented, multifaceted Baltimore artists for this remount,” Ricci said.
Neither a historical reenactment nor a reproduction of Poe’s fiction, the artwork focuses on the women in Poe’s life and writings.
New Cast Members, New Characters, New Spaces to Discover
The remount of Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe includes new details, new characters and a second cast of talented performers. In addition, there will be a new experience in which some audience members will be invited up to the forbidden second floor, which has been closed to the public for four decades.
The circa 1840s Enoch Pratt House was built during the last decade of Edgar Allan Poe’s life. “The house is very much like another character to us,” Ricci continues, “It was here when Poe was alive, so there is no place more perfect for these strange events to play out.” The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in West Baltimore. A newly devised character, The Keeper of the House, will share a unique connection to the house itself.
“We are thrilled to once again open the doors of the historic Enoch Pratt house near the Howard Street corridor, and to host a new style of performance theater that is a testament to Baltimore’s blossoming art scene,” says Maryland Historical Society President Mark B. Letzer. The Maryland Historical Society is grateful to the funding support of PNC Bank, which allowed for renovations to the first floor to make it once again accessible to the public.
About Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, courtesy Wikipedia
Edgar Allan Poe may have been born in Boston in 1809, but he died in Baltimore, under mysterious circumstances, on October 7, 1849. And it was in Baltimore that Poe found his first critical success, by winning a short story contest sponsored by the Baltimore Sunday Visiter in 1833. Baltimore was also where Poe was living when he published his first horror story, “Berenice,” in 1835.
“Poe very well could have walked past the Enoch Pratt House while he was living in Baltimore,” Letzer adds, “He is an important part of the fabric of our city.”
About The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled “Maryland Historical Magazine.” Visit www.mdhs.org.
The Maryland Historical Society | | 201 W. Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201 | http://www.mdhs.org