The Tell-Tale Art
March 3, 2019
“Poe’s shadows,” an immersive theatrical installation, used the advanced technologies of the Cube — an experimental performance space in the Moss Arts Center — to bring the work of Edgar Allan Poe to life.
Drawing from two of Poe’s best-known works, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” the installation explored what happens when literary texts are lifted from the page to the stage and then reimagined through the use of new technology.
Visitors to the installation heard recordings of texts curated and directed by theatre faculty members Amanda Nelson and Natasha Staley in collaboration with English faculty member Ashley Reed, performed by Virginia Tech students, and presented through the Cube’s 150 speakers, which allowed the sound effects to permeate the space.
At the same time, the audience members watched virtual shadow puppets projected onto the Cube’s 360-degree cyclorama in an update of the 19th-century tradition of “crankies,” in which hand-cranked moving panoramas were used to tell stories. Movement and color—including a beating scarlet heart lodged in a stark ribcage—were sparingly and artfully applied to the black-and-white imagery.
“We know Poe. We all know Poe,” said project manager Elizabeth Kurtzman, a master’s student in English. “Poe has an aesthetic that lends itself to immersion, and it was exciting to see everything come together in this installation.”