Persimmon Tree Players performs Poe at winery

By Page H. Gifford

Just in time for Halloween, the Persimmon Tree Players presents “The Edgar Allan Poe Afterlife Radio Show” by Patrick Green and Jason Pizzarello, October 22-24 at the Cunningham Creek Winery. This is their second outdoor show at the winery this year.

What could be better than Edgar Allan Poe, the master of macabre? This time of year evokes ethereal and unknown gruesome things that no one wants to imagine. In silence, we hear unfamiliar noises that terrify us like a tap at a chamber door, a blood-curdling scream, or the ghastly loud beating of a heart. Radio magnifies horror through sound and imagination.

Poe was skilled at creating these scenarios through the fear of impending doom. His themes often including murder by burying the victims alive or slow suffocation. “The Pit and the Pendulum” was one of the exceptions, but still fraught with horror and suspense – a perfect choice for theatergoers on a cool, dark evening.

Tom Green who plays Poe, explains the synopsis of the play. Poe returns to keep his stories alive from beyond the grave, a supernatural radio studio proves to be the vehicle to do it. Spirits gather to play the roles in Poe’s most classic works, from “The Cask of the Amontillado” to “The Fall of the House of Usher.” However, Poe is rattled by the technology of radio and wonders what the commercials are all about.

“For those unfamiliar with radio show plays, this style of theater takes the viewer back to the days when folks were glued to their radios, rather than their iPhones or even their televisions, imagining the tales being created in some distant studio, complete with voice actors, foley artists (sound effect creators), and old-time commercial spots,” said Green.

Green cited the reasons for choosing a radio play.

“There were several reasons.  First and foremost, we liked the idea of a holiday-themed radio show.  PTP did “It’s a Wonderful Life – a Radio Play” several years ago and found it to be a fun and entertaining format for a show.  Doing a radio show also allowed us to utilize our outdoor space at Cunningham Creek very effectively, and to allow some distancing of actors as we continue to navigate changing guidelines due to COVID,” he said. “Another nice thing about a radio show in that regard is that we will be performing with microphones, which will allow our audiences the same opportunity to be spread out, but still be able to hear our performers.” He added that the owners of Cunningham Creek Winery loved the idea of an old radio show.

“Our sound tech, Mike Montgomery, was excited about the challenges of engineering and creating physical sound effects for the show. He and George Gaige have been diligently creating contraptions that will be part of the foley table, which will be right on stage as a main character in this production.”

First-time PTP director Sean Michael McCord is a writer, living in Charlottesville, who has also written a play about a radio show. He studied film at UCLA and spent his 20s as a  budding screenwriter in Los Angeles before moving to New York and then to Virginia. McCord’s plays have been produced in Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, California, South Carolina, and Stuttgart, Germany. He is currently pursuing his MFA in playwriting as a member of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University.  He was an award finalist in 2018, for the John Cauble Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region IV for his one-act “Mystery At Midnight’” and won the 2018, Southeastern Theater Conference Charles M. Getchell New Play Award, the 2019 KCACTF David Shelton Award, and the 2019 Kennedy Center National Partners of the American Theater Playwriting Award for his full-length play script “Moving.”  Sean also helps produce new works through the Charlottesville Playwrights Collective at

There are eight in the cast, including the  two previously mentioned foley artists, and PTP regulars Jennifer Starkey and Brooke Agee, and returning to the stage are with their second appearance with PTP are Tom Lever and Kelly Kroese.  Newcomer, Marty Moore is the cat that accompanies Poe while his tales are being told.

Green said they are thrilled to be working with Debby and Bruce at Cunningham Creek Winery again on their first Halloween-themed show.

“Our summer run of “Moon Over Buffalo” was a rousing success. it was great to see people in person again for a live performance and to collaborate with local businesses, including Cunningham Creek Winery, Local Eats, and Wahoo BBQ to create a community theatrical event. We hope to continue to build these types of partnerships in our community through theater.”

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