Updated: Oct 24
A Dark and Whimsical Flight of Imagination comes to life
By Libby Nicolay
As the curtain rises on this year’s Halloween season, Ophelia's Jump is set to transport audiences into the haunting world of Edgar Allan Poe with their upcoming production of Jonathan Christenson’s "Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe." Beatrice Casagran is the Artistic Director of Ophelia's Jump and the director of this captivating show, and she offered valuable insights into the creative vision, challenges, and aspirations behind this relatively lesser-known gothic musical.
"Nevermore" is a mesmerizing blend of whimsy and darkness, reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s own haunting works. This musical takes audiences on a journey of Poe’s life and death that is both funny and chilling, imaginative yet grounded, set in the eerie world of Poe. Casagran describes it as akin to the enchanting darkness found in the 2009 movie "Coraline," where the lines between reality and fantasy blur. Despite its brilliance, this off-Broadway gem had remained somewhat hidden until now. Beatrice's passion for unearthing theatrical treasures led her to this remarkable piece. She fondly recalls, "I came across this beautiful show, and I was like, wait, what? This is really cool."
This show’s unique aesthetic creates a theatrical experience like no other, while also providing a fresh perspective on Poe's life and work. "It was off-Broadway. The librettist and composer are from a theater in Canada. And I believe it was actually written in 2014," Casagran recalls. Her excitement for the show speaks to her dedication to finding productions that resonate with both her artistic vision and her background as an English teacher.
Edgar Allan Poe's life, marked by tragedy and mystery, profoundly influenced his literary masterpieces. Casagran’s choice of "Nevermore" for this Halloween season is a heartfelt tribute to Poe. She acknowledges the way Poe’s life was incredibly interesting and sad, referencing the eerie coincidences surrounding Poe's life and untimely death. "As an English teacher, I was always a big fan of Edward Allan Poe," she says. "His writing was so ahead of its time in a lot of ways and interesting in terms of how it paralleled the obsessions in his life that arose from his losses." Beatrice's appreciation for Poe's art adds an extra layer of richness to the production.
"Nevermore" promises to be a flight of fancy, like Poe's own vivid imagination. Casagran explains, "When you walk in, there's almost no set. So we're basically just playing. We're allowing our minds to just kind of fly." This imaginative approach invites the audience to embark on an unexpected and visually stunning journey of their own.
The show has presented unique challenges due to its relative obscurity. With limited reference material available, the cast and creative team embraced the opportunity to innovate. Casagran recognizes the cast's relative youth, stating, "The cast is mostly a young cast. So there's a lot of play, and that's both a challenge and an opportunity, I think." Despite these challenges, the collaborative spirit that has emerged during the rehearsal process has been rewarding. This creative freedom has allowed the cast and crew to breathe life into "Nevermore" in a way that is fresh and captivating.
For both Casagran and Ophelia's Jump, the goal is to offer audiences a powerful and thought-provoking storytelling experience that is both enjoyable and enlightening. Casagran’s aspiration is clear: "Hopefully, you'll go and maybe find out more about Poe. That's the teacher in me. But [I hope the show] just kind of opens up a different experience, a little bit off the beaten path."
As Ophelia's Jump navigates the ever-changing theatre landscape, their commitment to telling compelling stories and serving the community remains unwavering. The company is excited for the future, which includes original music events and an upcoming season featuring more unproduced works, offering an exciting array of experiences for local theatergoers.
As we look forward to the exciting premiere of "Nevermore," Ophelia's Jump and Beatrice warmly invite our local community to join in the adventure. This Halloween season, gear up for an imaginative journey as Ophelia's Jump takes the stage, led by Casagran’s literary flair and creative vision. Embrace the mystery and prepare for a theatrical experience that's as intriguing and fascinating as the man who inspired it all, Edgar Allan Poe.
Libby Nicolay is a writer and local theatre enthusiast working in the entertainment industry throughout Orange County and beyond.
‘Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe’
Ophelia’s Jump Productions
2009 Porterfield Way, Upland, CA, 91786
October 7 - 29, 2023
(909) 734-6565, www.opheliasjump.org