Immersive theatrical installation brings the works of Edgar Allan Poe to life
“Poe’s Shadows,” an immersive theatrical installation inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, will open on Halloween in the Cube of the Moss Arts Center and continue through Nov. 4.
“Poe’s Shadows” uses the 360-degree cyclorama and spatial audio capabilities of the Cube, a state-of-the-art theater and high-tech experimental space. Drawing from two of Poe’s best known works, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” the installation explores what happens when literary texts are lifted from the page to the stage and then reimagined through the use of new technology.
“We know Poe. We all know Poe,” said project manager Elizabeth Kurtzman, a master’s student in English. “Immersing yourself is different. Poe has an aesthetic that lends itself to immersion, and it’s really exciting to see everything come together in this installation.”
Audience members will hear recordings of the texts performed by Virginia Tech students. “Tell-Tale Heart” will be performed by Austin Burch, a senior majoring in theatre and in computational modeling and data analytics. “The Raven” will be performed by Reiss Gidner, a senior majoring in animal and poultry science and in theatre; Erika Koekkoek, a senior majoring in theatre; and Liv Wisnewski, a sophomore majoring in history and in theatre.
Virtual shadow puppets, designed by visual arts faculty member Meaghan Dee, will be projected onto the cyclorama. The design was inspired by 19th-century crankies, which used hand-cranked moving panoramas to tell stories. “Poe’s Shadows” brings the concept of crankies into the 21st-century with a 360-degree cyclorama in place of a scrolling panorama.
Sound effects — designed and engineered by masters-of-fine-arts-in-theatre student Tanner Upthegrove, under the guidance of music faculty member Charles Nichols — will emanate throughout the space, creating a fully immersive experience for audience members.
A series of short expert talks on related and complementary topics called “Poe Ponderings” will be held in conjunction with the installation in the Grand Lobby of the Moss Arts Center. These talks will explore topics ranging from 19th-century smells to poetry as a theatrical art form, the balance between comfort and discomfort in virtual-reality experiences, the production of spatial audio, and Poe’s Virginia roots.
Oct. 31 at noon — A Poe Pondering: “Spatial Audio from Measurement to Reproduction,” presented by Michael Roan, professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering.
Oct. 31 at 5:30 p.m. — A Poe Pondering: “Fearsome Stenches and Whiffs of Disease,” presented by Melanie Kiechle, associate professor of history, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. — A Poe Pondering: “Edgar Allan Poe as a Virginia Writer,” presented by Ashley Reed, assistant professor of English, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Nov. 1 at noon — A Poe Pondering: “Cognitive Disruption in the VR Experience,” presented by Christopher Miller, digital humanities coordinator, University Libraries; Todd Ogle, executive director of applied research in immersive environments and simulations, University Libraries; and Dillon Cutaiar, a junior majoring in computer science.
“Poe’s Shadows” will be held in the Cube at the Moss Arts Center, 190 Alumni Mall, on the Virginia Tech campus during the following times: Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Nov. 4 from noon to 4 p.m.
Entry into the installation is every 15 minutes on the hour.
All events are free and open to the public. No ticket is required. This experience contains mature content and themes.
Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Additional parking is available after 5 p.m. on weekdays on Alumni Mall; in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets; in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street; and the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information is available online.
“Poe’s Shadows” has been made possible through the support of the School of Performing Arts, the School of Visual Arts, the Center for Humanities, the Department of English, the digital humanities and immersive environments programs of University Libraries, the Moss Arts Center, and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.
Written by Olivia Jones, a graduate student in arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts.