In honor of the spooky season, the Dixie State College fine arts department is performing a spine-tingling Halloween performance based on the eerie writings of Edgar Allan Poe.
“Nightfall,” a drama by Eric Coble, is an adaptation of four of Poe’s haunting tales: “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
“Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe” director Mark Houser said while the Halloween theme contributed largely to his decision to do the show, there were several others factors that came into play as well.
“Eric Coble is actually from Edinburgh, Scotland, and we are planning on taking our students to the Fringe Festival in Scotland in August,” Houser said. “So that, combined with the interesting characters that Eric, and essentially Poe, created, as well as the concept, really spoke to me.”
Houser said of the 36 plays he read over the summer while making a decision on the show, “Nightfall” was the one that caught his attention.
“When I read it, I immediately got pictures in my head of Edgar Allan Poe and his characters and the set,” Houser said.
The show plays out within the mind of Poe himself. It starts with him addressing the audience directly in an attempt to convince them that he is not as crazy as his macabre writing makes him out to be.
Ogden native Jasen Wade, a feature actor playing the role of Poe, said this acting experience has been very different from anything he has done in the past.
“I usually do romantic leads, and I have done some drama, but I have never done insane,” Wade said.
Wade joined the cast two weeks after they started rehearsing because of his job as a firefighter, but he said he jumped right in, and the cast is working really well together.
The fact that “Nightfall” is based around Poe’s work hit a personal note for Wade.
“I’m a big Poe fan, and my wife is a huge fan,” Wade said. “I’m actually dedicating this play and the performances to her; she’s been to his house and she is obsessed with his writing.”
Though the show is four separate tales from Poe, Houser decided to incorporate the character of the Raven into the entire play. The Raven is actually played by two actors. One actor is meant to represent the feathers and the outer workings of the bird, while the other represents the inner, more mechanical part of the bird.
“I wanted the Raven to split like the splitting of Poe’s mind,” Houser said. “One was the sanity, which is the feathers that kind of molts off, and the other is the part of his subconscious that has been steeped in this darkness and in his imagination for so long that he can’t tell what reality is.”
Alexis Holden, a junior communication major from Fairfield, Calif., received the role of the outer half of the Raven in the show after a last-minute decision to audition.
“Trying to get the bird sound down was honestly the hardest part of becoming the Raven,” Holden said. “I went into callbacks last minute, and as soon as I went in they said, ‘Okay, get your raven calls ready,’ and I thought, ‘How on earth am I supposed to do that?’ But it was a safe space, and I just let go and hoped for the best.”
Holden said she spent a lot of time observing birds and their mannerisms to figure out how to make herself convincing as the Raven. She worked with her other half, Kenny Tuttle, to get an overall idea of how they wanted to present the character.
The creative set pieces, the costuming and a few other elemental surprises throughout the show make “Nightfall” a fitting performance for the Halloween season. The show runs Oct. 18-20 and 23-27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Eccles Black Box Theatre.