The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
Haunted Homecoming Tour
Rehearsals on Tombstones
By Christine Stoddard
A moth, disoriented by the intrusion of bright lights and lanterns lately introduced to its world of graves, crashed into one of my curls. Its wing promptly snagged a ringlet. I took pity on the struggling insect and gently removed him from my hair.
It was a humid September night, with a certain greasiness hanging in the air. In just a few minutes, I would be rehearsing my role as Virginia Poe at Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Autumn not only ushers in the change of leaves and ubiquity of pumpkins. It also releases an unusual creature from its lair. That creature is the annual Haunted Homecoming Tour—a hybrid living history and theatrical production centered on Edgar Allan Poe's life in Richmond. Haunts of Richmond, a local horror-themed production company, has put on the dramatic tour for the past couple years in an effort to raise funds for Shockoe Hill, a burial ground established in 1820. Haunted Homecoming is one of many Poe-related productions Haunts of Richmond has produced since 2004.
Haunted Homecoming promises both education and entertainment. The tour's cast members take the audience around the cemetery, weaving tales and performing vignettes that incorporate the site's most notable historical landmarks. From John Marshall to Poe's adopted parents to the first mayor of Richmond, Shockoe Hill boasts a textbook's worth of information.
Still crouched by a few tombstones, I concentrated on becoming Virginia Poe. As soon as I entered the scene, I needed to thrust myself upon Edgar—but with innocent eagerness, not anything even remotely sexual. He may be my husband, yet our love is platonic. We are family, cousins first and foremost, with over a decade's age difference lying between us. Edgar's love for me springs from his idealization of my beauty and piety.
Fluffing my curls absent-mindedly, I gazed at the slowly emerging moon. It was the final rehearsal. At that point, five shows still stood ahead of me. I tapped my feet before reminding myself that Virginia was not impatient. I had to portray her nearly to the point of caricature, and she was most definitely an imperturbable woman. No matter how many times Edgar failed, Virginia always believed in him, confident that he would one day gain fame and fortune. Of course he never gained fortune, but he did gain posthumous fame. At least Virginia's intuition was half-right. Her husband has become one of the greatest poets and writers in American literature.
The evening progressed with me listening intently for my cues, fine-tuning my lines, warming up my singing voice, practicing my cough, and tugging at my makeshift undergarments. With blood on my handkerchief and quotations from Virginia's love letters to Poe firmly planted in my mind, I had become a docile 24-year-old fawning over her nervous, brilliant husband.
Now that weekend in September has, in the words of Poe, met “the expiration of [its] term,” but I still remember my mentality as Virginia. I still remember my lines and I still remember the thrill of performing as a historical figure in an eerily beautiful historical location.
10/14/2011 05:49:12 pm
When's the next one?
Comments are closed.