Who better to spend Halloween with than the master of macabre -- Edgar Allen Poe? But beware "The Black Cat" and "The Raven," lest fate offer only a visit to "The Rue Morgue" or "The Pit" beneath "The Pendulum" rather than a week with "Three Sundays."
It will all come to life — from the chronicler of death — at The Lyceum on Monday, October 30 and Tuesday, October 31, at 8 p.m. each night when David Keltz re-creates Poe's 1849 visit to Virginia. That visit occurred shortly before the author's death on October 3, 1849 in Baltimore, when he stopped to visit friends on his journey from Richmond to New York City.
Keltz gave his first one-man performance of Poe on Halloween night 1991 at the author's grave. Since then he has committed to memory more than four hours of Poe's poems, short stories, essays, literary criticism, letters and reported conversations.
"I have been fascinated with Poe since I was 13 and read 'The Tell-Tale Heart' in seventh grade. I figured it was going to be pretty boring but it turned out to be anything but," Keltz said.
"That night I kept looking at my bedroom door imaging that I saw it opening a little at a time. But, I finally got over that and by the time I was 16 I knew I was going to be an actor," he said.
"There was a general opinion at that time that you couldn't do one-man shows -- they would not keep the attention of the audience. People even questioned the wisdom of attempting a long Shakespeare soliloquy. But that all changed. Especially when Hal Holbrooke did Mark Twain."
COMING FROM a military family, Keltz traveled throughout Europe and the southern United States as a child and young man. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL, and moved to Baltimore, where Poe is buried, shortly thereafter.
In Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, Keltz opened the International Poe Festival at the Rudolfinum Concert Hall with "The Bells." In the United States he has brought Poe to life for students from elementary school age through college as well for
audiences in an array of venues.
"I give his (Poe's) analysis on various subjects first then go into his stories and poems. In those stories I portray all the characters," he said.
Poe was born to traveling actors, but was orphaned before the age of three. He was taken in by the Richmond family of John and Frances Allen and eventually attended the University of Virginia's Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages.
With a natural talent for writing he embarked on a journalism career and worked as a book reviewer and magazine editor in Richmond, Philadelphia and New York. He was a leader in developing such literary genres as science fiction, the detective story and the modern horror tale.
But he considered himself, above all else, a poet. He identified his best work in that venue as "The Raven." Poe thought of it as "the most perfectly constructed poem ever written," according to Keltz, who will perform "Three Sundays" at The Lyceum as well as "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Raven."
"There is also a lighter side to Poe and I've been adding some of his comedic stories lately," Keltz said.
Keltz's resume includes not only the stage and one-man shows but also television, both here and in Great Britain on BBC, films, and radio. In 1995, he portrayed Edgar Allen Poe in a television commercial for Baltimore's NFL Ravens.
Although Poe is his theatrical mainstay, Keltz has not limited his repertoire to him. He has also portrayed Captain John Smith, H.L. Mencken, D.H. Lawrence, and a host of others. His Poe Bus Tour in Baltimore was a highlight of the Poe Studies Association International Conference in 2002.
The Lyceum's program is open to the public at a cost of $12 per person. "It has been so successful in the past that we have made it a two night performance. We were sold out with more than 140 people showing up for a single performance," said James Mackay, director, The Lyceum. "Now we are averaging 80 to 100 people each night."
For additional information or tickets call 703-838-4994. Tickets must be purchased in advance or, to quote that black bird etched on Poe's tombstone, this Halloween experience will be "Nevermore."