EXCL: Stuart Gordon Talks Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe

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The one-man play starring Jeffrey Combs as Poe!

In July of 2009, Stuart Gordon teamed up with his Re-Animator co-writer Dennis Paoli and star Jeffrey Combs to put on a one-man play titled “Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe,” a fitting tribute to the famous horror fiction author and poet whom in October will celebrate his 200th year.

What started out as a simple four week run has been expanded three times now and is going on its fourth month. Having seen the show numerous times, Shock Till You Drop sat down to chat with Stuart Gordon about the surprise success of this stellar play.

Robg.: What were the origins for the Nevermore play? I imagine this stemmed from working with Jeffrey (Combs) and Dennis (Paoli) on the Masters Of Horror episode, The Black Cat?

Stuart Gordon: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We had such fun working on that that we thought we should do something more with Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe. And this year being Poe’s bicentennial, it struck us that a one-man show would really be the thing to do. And ideally we’d like to take it on tour around the country to celebrate Poe’s 200th birthday.

Robg.: Are you guys really taking this show on tour officially?

Stuart: Well, that’s our plan. We don’t have any definite plans to do so yet, because this show has just really taken off here in L.A. What started as a four week run is now going into it’s fourth month!

Robg.: That’s funny, because I literally just moved into town the first week it started playing and I’ve already seen it twice and plan to catch it again this weekend. It’s been a great show! And the neat thing is every single time I’ve gone to see it, there’s always recognizable faces in the audience. The first time I saw Joe Dante sitting a few seats over. Another time, I sat behind Angus Scrimm. That’s part of the fun of seeing the show here in L.A.

Stuart: I know, it’s an amazing audience! Besides having celebrities showing up, we have a very mixed group. Everybody from very young kids to oldsters. With Poe, everyone loves him. And his work is for everyone really.

Robg.: The thing I find interesting is that this is based upon the type of show that Poe had done on stage in the last year of his life, correct?

Stuart: That’s right. Yeah, he did recitals, often in very large auditoriums with 2,000 seats and so forth. He’d become famous as the author of The Raven, so he was really taking advantage of it. It was like a rock star going around doing his greatest hits. [laughs]

Robg.: Were any of Poe’s last shows documented? What kind of research did you do?

Stuart: Well, there were reviews of some of them. And it’s funny, because the reviews were varied. Some reviews said that he was absolutely magnetic and he was like an actor, but others said he was very quiet. Reserved. He also did things in smaller venues where he’d perform with the light of a single candle for affect and we used that in our show as well.

Robg.: Let’s talk about Jeffrey Combs for a minute. Obviously, I’m a big fan of his work on the screen, but this play is a true testament to what an incredible actor he is…

Stuart: Absolutely. People forget how great he is and I think part of it is because he’s so versatile that often times you’d don’t even realize its Jeffrey Combs.

Robg.: By the time he gets to the mid-way point of The Raven, I’m blown away by the fact that an actor can not only memorize that poem, but perform that entire show for an hour and a half by themselves.

Stuart: I know!

Robg.: It makes me realize how hard acting really is!

Stuart: Well, Jeffrey says that it’s like climbing a mountain every night. It really is a marathon for him. He’s exhausted by the time it’s done, but he really does give it his all.

Robg.: Both of you guys have worked in stage and screen. Any thoughts on stage work versus the screen work?

Stuart: Well, the things that’s fun about theater is that it really involves the audience directly, unlike a movie which is shadows on a wall. In a live performance, you can interact with an audience, which we do in the play. I remember one night, there was someone sneezing and Jeffrey would say, “Do you need help, dear sir?” and things like that. It was great acting, because from then on, every sneeze started getting laughs. But I think that’s what the charge is. You feel as if you’re in the same room as Edgar Allan Poe.

Robg.: Within the first 10 to 15 minutes I completely forget it was Jeffrey and I felt like I was sitting there watching Poe.

Stuart: I know. It really is incredible. Because it doesn’t look like Jeffrey, it doesn’t sound like Jeffrey, its Poe that’s up there.

Robg.: The show initially was only set for four weeks, but I believe it’s been extended three times now?

Stuart: It has, yeah. It’s now running up until Halloween. And it’s possible it may even go beyond that.

Robg.: Were you surprised by the overwhelming response to the show? When did you know that you guys had something special with this play?

Stuart: Well, we knew it I think from the first few performances, because my fear was that we would end up with an audience of four or five people. Coming and listening to someone recite poetry is kind of a hard sell. But Jeffrey just is so incredible, and I think he does channel Poe, and once the word got out about what we were doing, suddenly there were crowds there every night and we were turning people away.

Robg.: You mentioned earlier that you’re hoping to tour this show. I believe there’s a celebration for Poe’s 200th birthday taking play in Baltimore in October where they plan to throw him a proper funeral. Were you invited to do the play there for that event?

Stuart: Yeah, we’d been talking with the organizers in Baltimore, but unfortunately we opened the show in July and they already had a lot of their plans in place. It didn’t seem like it’d work for us to join them there, although we have discussed it with them.

Robg.: Obviously, there’s no photography or video taping allowed during the actual show. Hopefully you guys will get to take it on the road. But for those of us who can’t come out to see it, have you ever given consideration to taping it for perhaps a DVD release?

Stuart: We are talking about that and I think it’s very possible that that could happen.

Robg.: You’re there every night for the play. Does it ever get old for you? (Laugh) Or are you taken back by Jeffrey’s performance every night?

Stuart: No, because Jeffrey is constantly growing and trying new things and every night is a little different. And I say again, that’s one of the great things about live theater is that the audience is always different. So he changes the show each night and makes little adjustments and adds things and gets inspiration and so forth. That’s the great thing about Jeffrey Combs as an actor. You never get tired of watching him.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, make it a point to see “Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe,” starring Jeffrey Combs, directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Dennis Paoli. It plays every weekend from now until late October at the Steve Allen Theater located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, California.

Tickets and more info right here!


Source: Robert Galluzzo