CRYSTAL LAKE – You could argue that there never was, or will be again, an author the caliber of Edgar Allan Poe.
His works range from textbooks to essays, poems to books. Poe is credited with inventing the modern detective story with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published in 1841. Poe, the son of actors, was born on Jan. 19, 1808, in Boston. Perhaps that contributed to the writer’s flair for the dramatic.
He wrote sensational, enduring stories – such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1840), “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843) and “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846). He lectured extensively. He advocated for better pay and copyright protections for writers. And, according to the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va.: “He developed a reputation as a fearless critic, who not only attacked an author’s work, but insulted the author and the northern literary establishment.”
In that spirit, actor, musician and playwright Dan Haughey (pronounced HOY) assumes the guise of a modern critic at a prominent newspaper. He headlines the McHenry County Historical Society’s Historic Halloween at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Park Place, located at 406 W. Woodstock St. in Crystal Lake.
Haughey’s “E.A. Poe: Edgar Alan Poe’s Imagination” illuminates the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe in a unique way. Rather than donning a puffy shirt and tails, Haughey will perform some of the author’s greatest poems, short stories, and a satire or two – both in the voice of Poe and as a skeptical critic.
And audience members will enhance the spellbinding experience by becoming part of a sound-effects chorus!
“This is a show about the imagination, the imagery and the sounds of some of Poe’s greatest works,” Haughey said. “What I do hasn’t been done enough. … I really think there are values that tend to be overlooked when it comes to some of our greatest writers. Poe has a way of exploring some of our mysteries, a way of capturing our dreams.”
Not only did Poe have a knack for connecting with the common man about love, loss, birth and death, Haughey marvels at Poe’s rhythmic prose.
In “The Bells,” published after Poe’s death on Oct. 7, 1849, he writes:
“Hear the sledges with the bells —
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night! …”
“I created a character who is smart enough, but still pedestrian enough in his artistic values, to see parallels between Poe and other artists he reveres,” Haughey said. “Music [like prose] also is a form of social commentary.”
Haughey is a professor emeritus in speech and theatre arts at Black Hawk College in Moline. He has a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, with a minor in English, from Eastern Kentucky University. He also earned a master’s degree in playwriting and play production at Southern Illinois University.
“There is so much that is entertaining that people find mystical about Poe,” Haughey said. “It’s the shape and cut of the words themselves.”
Admission is $8 for McHenry County Historical Society members, $10 for nonmembers. For additional information, visit www.gothistory.org.