Nevada City, CA 95959
Playwright Gary Wright began writing Evermore with the idea of transferring works by Edgar Allan Poe to the stage.
Last November, Wright began adapting the stories “The Tell Tale Heart,” “A Cask of Amontillado,” and “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” as well as the poems “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” (which was the last poem that Poe completed).
But in researching Poe’s life, Wright found himself drawn to the story of the author’s life as well. By putting Poe’s story into the play, “I found ways to unify the evening, and give it thematic shape,” Wright said. “The poems and stories are still there—but they are set against what happened in Poe’s life, which gives (the stories and poems) a context.”
Wright focused first on the relationship between Poe and wife Virginia. “Everyone pretty much agrees that “Annabel Lee” is about her. In doing the research, I found that he wrote “The Raven” while she was dying of consumption in the next room. Knowing that, and re-reading “The Raven,” makes it feel like a different poem. Setting it in that situation in the play makes it an incredibly moving piece.”
The other relationship Wright examines is between Poe and his editor/literary executor Rufus Griswold. “They started out as friends, but it gradually became one of the great enmities of literature,” Wright says. After Poe’s death, Griswold took revenge by “writing a biography of Poe, and filling it with slanders.”
As he scripted the Poe/Griswold relationship for the stage, Wright found himself thinking of Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus, in which Mozart is manipulated (and to a degree destroyed) by the jealous, less-gifted composer Salieri.
“I find it to be a very moving story,” Wright said, adding shyly, “I’m prouder of this than anything I’ve done in a long time.”
But don’t expect to see Wright—who is best known as a highly regarded actor—in Evermore. “I’m not in the cast; I’ll be in rehearsals for A Stone in Connemara,” opening at the B Street Theatre in October.