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Theater

First Folio to stream 'Madmen & Prisoners: Two Tales By Poe'

Christian Gray portrays Edgar Allan Poe.
Christian Gray portrays Edgar Allan Poe.

OAK BROOK – In its continuing mission to help address the absence of live theater performances, First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook will offer a streaming video recording of "Madmen & Prisoners: Two Tales By Poe," adapted for the stage by David Rice and directed by Skyler Schrempp.

The streaming video contains two excerpts from First Folio’s 2018 production of "The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe" – “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The performances were recorded live during the full-length production, a news release stated. Filming was done with a live audience in various rooms of Mayslake Hall, a historic mansion on the grounds of the Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.

The show will stream on the Vimeo video service from Oct. 20 to Nov. 1. Tickets are available on a pay-what-you-can basis, and anyone who purchases a ticket to any of the 12 offered evenings will receive a link and password that will allow them to watch the video at any time during that period.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” (featuring Christian Gray as Edgar Allan Poe, Sam Pearson as The Madman, and Josh Bernaski as The Policeman) is one of Poe’s most famous tales. In a garret above the streets of 19th century Baltimore, a frantic, disheveled man tells the audience his story of being haunted by the “vulture eye” of an old man and how he resolved to rid himself of that terror. As he weaves his tortured tale, he slowly draws the audience into his own insanity – until a policeman arrives to investigate, and events take an unexpected turn for everyone.

In “The Pit and the Pendulum,” audience members are led into a 15th century dungeon in Toledo, Spain, where an innocent man has been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, sentenced to live out the remainder of his life in a stone cell. Plunged into darkness (along with the audience), the terrified captive struggles to discover, and survive, the dangers of his prison before he suffers a horrible death. Featuring Mbali Guliwe as the Prisoner with Joel Moses as the Monk, this is an immersive story that will have audience members thinking about sleeping with the lights on for the next few evenings.

Individuals may purchase tickets on a pay-what-you-can basis; the tax-deductible donation proceeds will benefit the theater. Teachers may obtain access to the video for use in their classes free of charge. First Folio will provide both teachers and individual ticket holders access to extra original content, including a study guide and two video interviews with Christian Gray (discussing what it is like to play a figure like Poe) and David Rice (discussing the process of adapting Poe’s works to the stage).

Nominated for a Jeff Award for “Best Adaptation” when it premiered in 2008, First Folio’s production of "The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe" has become a perennial audience favorite. First Folio is proud to offer the two excerpts for at-home entertainment during this time of pandemic, the release stated.

The production team includes Original Music and Sound Design by Christopher Kriz, Scenic Design by Kyle Gettelman, Lighting Design by Michael McNamara, Costume Design by Rachel Lambert, and Movement Design by Michael Goldberg. Sarah West is the stage manager. Video transcription was done by Bobby Richards. First Folio Theatre gratefully acknowledges the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, which provided funding for the project.

Tickets can be purchased at www.firstfolio.org; teachers who want to arrange free access to the streaming content as well as a copy of the study guide should contact David Rice at drice@firstfolio.org.

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