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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

October 12, 2012

Notes From the Playwright of Nevermore

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:19 am


Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director


While Edgar Allan Poe is probably best known for his wild and fantastical tales, it was one of Poe’s poems that first caught my attention.  I still remember daydreaming in my high school English class, bored by my teacher and thumbing through the anthology that was our textbook, when my eyes fell upon Poe’s poem,  The Bells.  With it’s alliteration and pounding repetitions (at times Poe repeats the word “bells” seven times in a row ), I was hooked.  I loved his use of unusual words like the ringing “tintinnabulation”.  My English teacher would have called this onomatopoeia.  I called it cool.  Soon I was reading Poe’s other poems on my own,  A Dream Within A Dream, Annabel Lee, and I purchased my own complete works (I still have it) and plowed through the stories, Tell Tale HeartThe Oblong Box, The Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum and more.  I found that Poe was a favorite of mine and of many of my classmates as well, kind of the old school Stephen King.

So in 1994, when I began looking for a new Halloween play, I was quite familiar with Poe’s tales of the macabre.  And since moving to Charleston, I’d learned Poe lived on Sullivans Island for a time when, as a young soldier, he was stationed at Ft. Moultrie.  I thought this might make the making of a great play and headed to the library for a Poe biography.  I quickly learned, however, that we know little of Poe’s stay on Sullivans, certainly not enough for a full play.  As I read on, however,  I was intrigued by the circumstances of Poe’s mysterious death, and the spark that would become Nevermore was ignited.  I dashed off the first few scenes and cocky and confidently announced the premiere of Nevermore for the fall of 1996 (this was midsummer.)  And then I ran into a wall — writer’s block.  Nothing would come, and I thought I would have to cancel the production.  In despair I thought I’d write a scene about writer’s block itself, and not to give away the plot, that scene provided a path for the plot and Poe’s descent into the darkness, and my way out of my writer’s block maelstrom.

My first cast got new pages right up until the last minute, but they rallied and embraced the show and Nevermore premiered to great acclaim in 1996.  A few years later it was published and has been produced around the country.  In subsequent productions here at the Dock Street Theatre the script has grown stronger, and indeed the terrific cast in this new production, have added numerous new insights of their own, and once again inspired the playwright to tweak the script.  While not a major rewrite, this version of Nevermore does have it’s own new twists and turns.






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