“Poe was always great not only in his noble conceptions but also as a prankster …” —Charles Baudelaire
The ghost of has been floating around town these last few weeks, unmoored and searching for an abandoned dwelling in case he is locked out of 203 N. Amity Street on Jan. 1. In these sparse economic times, funding for the Poe House has been slashed and its doors are slated to shut.
Lined up across from center, his apparition spooked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez before his first fumble last Sunday night. Poe has significant ties to the purple and black, just ask Raven mascots Edgar and Allan.
Local poet and actor M.S. Sanders will portray Poe while taking up residence at Area 405 theatre in the Station North District. Sanders' one man play called “A Portrait of Poe” draws exclusively from the writer’s works and letters and explores the complexity of his character in three acts that begin and end with the poem “The Raven.”
The fundraising event will donate a portion of the proceeds to “Pennies for Poe,” an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Poe House.
Commissioned to write the play by the Hamilton Arts Council, Sanders gives us Poe as a human being dealing with the tragic deaths of his mother, foster mother, brother and bride. He presents a man who failed to gain the love of his stepfather. The play is set just after the death of his young wife and cousin, Virginia Clemm.
“I was surprised by the coincidence involving the tragedies in his life but he is not a tragic figure,” said Sanders. "He lived and had love. He had hope as well. At times, he let his emotions get the best of him. He is not some ghoul. He is a brilliant man.”
Sanders goes beyond the stereotypes of Poe as a cartoon caricature or a late night horror movie host, and allows him to speak for himself while preserving his mystique and contribution to American culture. A southern gentleman who embraced the cavalier tradition, Poe could brandish a sword as readily as he could pen a sonnet. A "Portrait of Poe" is a journey filled with obsession, humor, romance and remorse.
“I created a narrative out of his poems, correspondence, essays, and stories. Ninety percent of it came out of his mouth,” said Sanders. “He is laughing, he is outraged, he is giving plot synopses. I chose a mixture of the popular and the little known.”
An intriguing character himself, Sanders grew up in Baltimore County reading Poe’s poetry in a large illustrated book with a cover featuring a ship on a dark and stormy sea. He also owns a Poe action figure. A published poet whose readings electrified venues, he was a fixture in the Baltimore poetry scene of the early 1990s at Café Montage and the Bauhaus—and then he vanished.
“I went underground for 10 years,” he said. “It was rumored that I was dead.”
Back to life, he is passionate about saving the Poe House.
“This is the tragedy. The city has embraced Poe. He is linked to a Superbowl winning NFL team. It’s an important historical landmark. We can’t allow it to fade.”
Poe’s literary legacy includes the invention of the detective novel genre and a contribution to the beginnings of science fiction tales. Murders in the Rue Morgue features the character C. August Dupin—the prototype for analytical detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Poirot.
A master of irony, Poe would relish the fact that in these times we can’t afford to preserve the legacy of the first known American writer to earn a living from his craft.
Said Sanders: “If his accomplishments are not preserved, what does that say about our own lives?”
DATES: Oct. 8, 14, 15, and 21.
VENUE: AREA 405,, 405 East Oliver Street at the corner of Barclay
TIME: Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, email Mark Sanders via firstname.lastname@example.org