The Suffolk Journal

Suffolk professor’s original play “Loss of Breath: The Unfinished Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe” debuts Thursday at Modern Theatre

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In a play merging the playful nature of puppets and the dark themes of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, “Loss of Breath: The Unfinished Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe” will debut at Modern Theatre on Thursday.

The play was written by Suffolk Professor Wesley Savick and the first production of the play was performed in 1999 in Milwaukee. Savick, who used to run Theatre X in Milwaukee, was commissioned by the company years after he had left to write the play, which had to fill two criteria: it had to contain puppetry and be an adaptation of the work of a famous American author.

Although Poe is a renowned and famous author, the plays features works that are not widely known. At risk of being redundant, Savick said he wrote the play in a way that not only speaks to Poe’s overall talent as an author, but also in a way that emphasizes his non-famous poems as well.

“This play does not want to be his greatest hits,” Savick said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal. “We didn’t want to be the cover man and do ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ so those stories are not in here. I think a lot of the stories in this, and the poetry, in this show have to do with lesser known [works], including the title.”

In what is expected to be an emotionally jarring performance, Savick said that the play is intended to be emotionally provocative for its viewers.   

Poe’s literature touches on the thin line that divides life and death. Savick explained that Poe “saw kind of a porous membrane between those two things while a lot of people are quicker to segregate those two.” The use of puppets is a theatrical metaphor for this concept because puppets are dead, inanimate objects that performers try to make seem alive.

“I remembered I’d written this play about Edgar Allan Poe and a lot of the emotions about the play have to do with hope and despair, having to do with loss and mourning,” Savick said. “This does not seem like the time to simply do escapist fantasy, happy-times stuff. There’s enough of that on TV.”

The Suffolk University theatre department has been working in collaboration with the Puppet Showplace Theatre to create the puppets and teach cast members how to use them. Although working with puppets is popular in many hit Broadway shows, acting with a puppet is a skill that some Suffolk students have not had the chance to try previously.

Although Poe is a renowned and famous author, the plays features works that are not widely known. At risk of being redundant, Savick said he wrote the play in a way that not only speaks to Poe’s overall talent as an author, but also in a way that emphasizes his non-famous poems as well.”

“It’s a new challenge. Not only do you have to act by yourself, you have to act through a puppet too,” senior theatre and public relations major Amanda LoCoco said in an interview with The Journal. LoCoco is playing the role of Virginia in the performance. “It’s hard to remember that they also have to be expressive.”

After living in Japan, Savick was introduced to Noh theatre, a traditional Japanese style of performing that originated in the 14th century. Savick explained that Noh theater inspired certain parts in “Loss of Breath,” such as a scene where someone mysteriously leaves a black rose and bottle of whiskey on Poe’s tombstone on the anniversary of his death, because part of Noh theater is trying to evoke the spiritual world.

“I doubt anyone at Suffolk has ever seen [Noh theater] before, because I haven’t,” LoCoco said in an interview with The Journal. “It’s a really cool way of doing this and some really cool techniques [are] being used.”

Playing off of the emotional aspects of one of Savick’s most recent musicals, “one state, two state, red state, blue state,” which hit the stage of Modern Theatre last spring, Savick said that emotions of despair and mourning are present in both productions and are intertwined in that respect. “one state, two state, red state, blue state,” which had a substantial turnout last year, examined the rift between the two major American political parties and how the country “is so at odds with itself right now and the political situation.”

The two acts in “Loss of Breath” greatly contrast one another. It’s expected that audience members will be surprised to find themselves crying one moment and laughing the next because somber scenes are quickly followed by comedic ones. Spectators are going to feel a wide array of emotions throughout the show.

“You feel like you’ve gone from one world into a totally different world; that’s my intended effect,” Savick said. “Just as you’re getting used to the kind of conventions and theatricality of the first act, then when the second act comes up, it should be very disorienting.”

“Loss of Breath” will be playing from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18 at the Modern Theatre.

 

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Ryan Arel, Arts Editor

Vermont native Ryan Arel is a sophomore and the Arts Editor for The Suffolk Journal. A print journalism major and economics minor, Ryan aspires to become...

Morgan Hume, Assistant Arts Editor



Morgan is a native of Troy, New York and the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Suffolk Journal. She is a junior majoring in print/web journalism....

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Suffolk professor’s original play “Loss of Breath: The Unfinished Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe” debuts Thursday at Modern Theatre