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Our Gang: Edgar Allan Poe's Cell Phone

Once upon a midnight dreary,

a producer, weak and weary,

launched a Kickstarter for his drama

about Edgar Allan Poe.

He'll use his skill of storytelling

for a gent who is not boring

if we can keep the funds a'pourin'...

only this and nothing more.

There is no better time than the day before Halloween to use our occasional Our Gang column, about work outside Carousel Films, to let you know about the final hours of producer Eric Stange's Kickstarter campaign. Eric is raising finishing funds for an American Masters program on the author we have equated with all that is darky and spooky: the irrepressible Edgar Allan Poe. As it turns out, there is so much more to Poe's story than a creepy raven, pits and pendulums. Eric kindly took time out of his production to enlighten us.

LG: Eric, what's the most interesting thing about Poe's story?

ES: When I was growing up, Poe was only ever presented in a one-dimensional way--as a horror story writer and an outlier in American culture--a weird, dark presence on the edge of mainstream literature. In fact, an an editor and one of the first serious critics in America, he set a pattern for serious literary reviews: He refused to take part in the practice of "puffing"--complimenting a writer's work so the other writer would return the favor. He could be very harsh, but it was all in the interest of elevating the stature of American literature in the 1830s and 40s, when American artistic culture was seen as raw and rough-hewn.

LG: Okay, if Poe wasn't so odd after all, was there at least something odd or unusual that happened during production?

ES: It was always jarring to see Denis O-Hare, the actor who plays Poe, standing on the set in his period costume with a cell phone up to his ear. I never got accustomed to that. But the truly unusual and endearing aspect of our production was that uber actor Denis spent hours and hours on set practicing the calligraphy of Poe's original writing! This is related to one of our Kickstarter rewards. Check it out.

LG: If Poe isn't spooky, will the real story appeal to a general audience?

ES: Absolutely. Since his death in 1849, Poe has never been out of print. He is a cultural icon, famous around the world--on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's, for example. The Simpsons did a Poe episode; you can't say that about Whitman or Emerson! He is our original bad-boy poet, and people have tried to keep him in that box. Hollywood has comingled his spooky stories with his biography. But the story of the real Poe is far more interesting. His impact on visual art, literature, and music continues generation after generation. It's important to understand why and how he plays such an enduring role in our culture. It helps explain how we got where we are.

LG: Thank you, Eric, and good luck with the final hours of your fundraising campaign. Colleagues, the deadline is midnight on Halloween (of course), and after that, the opportunity to help push forward this worthy project will be...nevermore.

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