Spooky spectacular
Xoe Perra in “7 by Poe.”

Spooky spectacular

‘7 by Poe’ will offer a compendium of chills

BRATTLEBORO — For its annual Halloween production, Shoot the Moon Theater Company will present not one but seven horror stories.

In past years, the resident company of Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro has staged such classic tales of terror as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Dracula.” This year they are offering “7 by Poe,” stagings of some of the most beloved stories and poems by 19th century American author Edgar Allan Poe.

Jennifer Moyse stars in “The Masque of the Red Death” and Zoe Perra in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Joshua Goldstein takes the narrator's role in “The Cask of Amontillado,” and Jon Mack and Corinne Epstein perform the satire, “The Devil in the Belfry.” Three of Poe's most well-known poems will be brought to life by John Ogorzalek (“Annabel Lee”), Terry Carter (“The Bells” ), and Colin Grube (“The Raven”).

Performances will be on Oct. 21 and 22, and Oct. 27, 28, and 29. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. each night. Admission is $12. Reservations can be made by calling 802-254-9276. The Hooker-Dunham Theater is located at 139 Main Street in Brattleboro.

Solo performances

Each of Poe's stories will be performed in single person performances, except “The Devil in the Belfry” in which Jon Mack is joined by Corinne Epstein in a mute role.

Shoot the Moon's artistic director Joshua Moyse says the single-person casting was deliberate, to highlight the theme of isolation that pervaded Poe's work. He adds that he also wanted to stay as true as possible to the author's original texts, which were written primarily as first-person accounts of each story's events.

“I think solo performances get at the despair at the heart of Poe's stories,” Moyse says. “Poe was a tortured artist who was perhaps his worst enemy. He knew that, and his tales invite us to come into his vortex.”

Seven plays for one evening might seem like a lot, but Moyse doesn't want audiences to be scared off by the magnitude of this offering.

“The performance runs only about 85 minutes,” he says. “This is no three-hour extravaganza. The night will be short but sweet, or should I say sinister?”

Moyse wants to make clear that he didn't write “7 by Poe,” but adapted it.

“We use almost all of Poe's own words in this show, with some judicious editing,” he says.

A longtime favorite

“7 by Poe” returns Shoot the Moon to the roots of the company. Back in 2012, Moyse staged the initial versions of Poe's classic horror tales, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death” at the Center for Digital Art.

“We were going to revive that show for Halloween this year, but somehow now it seemed incomplete,” he explains. “So we added other of Poe's stories and poems.”

Poe has long been one of Moyse's favorite authors.

“I was a fan by the time I was in the 6th grade,” he confesses. “In the 8th grade at Brattleboro Junior High School, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company visited our school and read for us The Tell-Tale Heart. He was a large, Santa Claus man, and his voice made the room vibrate. I had never heard anything like that before.”

Men are usually the troubled center of Poe's works, but several of the stories and poems in “7 by Poe” will be performed by women.

“I think Poe, like most people at the time, could only fathom that men have murder in their hearts,” Moyse says. “But in '7 by Poe' we are trying to look at the Poe stories from a new angle. A woman performer does give the stories an interesting new perspective. We have Xoe Perra performing 'The Tell-Tale Heart' in which a man kills his employer and suffers the consequences. And Jennifer Moyse stars in 'The Masque of the Red Death,' which I believe is one of the greatest pieces of writing of all time. This beautiful and horrific tale also is relevant to today, since it is about a society that holes itself up from outsiders. 'The Devil in the Belfry' also concerns an isolated country in which foreigners are not allowed in.”

Sound familiar?

“The Cask of Amontillado is a revenge tale in which a man literally walls up his employer in his basement,” Moyse continues. “The poem 'The Raven' deals with regret and loss. 'Annabelle Lee,' his most autobiographical poem, deals with the loss of love at all ages. 'The Bells,' which may be the last thing Poe ever wrote, shows his particular use of sound in verse as he uses language to simulate the sound of ringing.”

Horror in the foyer

In this production Shoot the Moon literally uses the whole of Hooker-Dunham.

“Our show actually starts in the lobby of the theater,” Moyse explains. “The production is designed with lots of white. The scenes move in flexible playing areas and open space, with different kinds of depths. Much of this is possible because Jon Mack last year bought new lighting for the theater, and now we can do interesting things through light and color. For instance, in 'The Masque of Red Death' we shall convey seven rooms with seven different colors.”

Moyse is coming to understand that Shoot the Moon's Halloween shows are becoming an anticipated tradition in Brattleboro.

“I have had requests to bring back 'Dracula,' which was well received last year,” Moyse says. “I hesitate because the company work improves and evolves as time passes. I see what we did then sort of like being our software 1.0

“The obvious choice everyone asks is when are we going to do 'Frankenstein.'”

Moyse confesses that what he would really love to do is a staging of the wacky James Whale 1935 Universal film, “The Bride of Frankenstein.”

“Now that would make a great show,” he says.

'So far, so good'

“7 By Poe” closes out Shoot the Moon's first formal season as the company-in-residence at The Hooker-Dunham Theater. Other shows this season were “CAMEO,” an original production inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the David Ives comedy, “Venus in Fur.” The company will return in 2017 with three new productions.

“Our first season exceeded all of our expectations,” Moyse says. “So far, so good. We are developing an audience which seems to be loyal and returning to each production.”

The most common thing Moyse hears about Shoot the Moon's shows is how entertaining they are.

“Shoot the Moon embraces the theatrical,” he says. “Some people claim that they use theater to put on a drama, but here at Shoot the Moon we use drama to put on theater. To put it another way, we embrace theater for theater's sake. This may mean leaning towards the spectacular, and the sleight of hand. We want everyone to feel like a seven year old who goes 'Wow' at some wondrous magic trick.”

Nor is Shoot the Moon elitist.

“Our goal is to accommodate everybody,” Moyse says simply. “We hope people will come to our shows and be entertained.”

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