By Megan Perry
Edgar Allan Poe stopped by the East Los Angeles Library on Third Street last Tuesday to tell his life and works. OK, so Poe died in 1849, but New York Broadway actor Duffy Hudson performs a show as Poe.
Los Amigos of the East Los Angeles Library sponsored Hudson’s one-man show “In the Shadow of the Raven.” The show consisted of Hudson fully dressed as Poe, from head to toe, reading three of Poe’s masterpieces and weaving Poe’s life story into the show between each pieces. He wore an old-fashioned costume, which included a black overcoat, a white dress shirt with a black vest and a bow-tie to top it off.
He slicked his hair back and his mustache down as he spoke with a very interesting accent. The show opened with a library worker who announced the arrival of Poe. There were several rows of chairs set-up in the middle of the children’s section for the show, but only about a quarter of the seats were filled. The audience stopped what they were doing to listen to Hudson as he came out.
He limped to the center of the stage, where he began shouting, in character as if he did not know there were other people in the room.Hudson was very passionate and did not break from character the entire time. The library lights added to effect he was portraying and showed this burning desire within him. Although it was the middle of the children’s section at the East L.A. Library, Hudson acted as if he were in a room full of people on a Broadway stage.
There were moments when he would look sharply at the ground or toward a wall, and the audience would follow his line-of-sight looking for what he was looking at. It was almost as if the thumping heart would explode from the ground at any moment from the way he stared at the floor during the “Tell-tale Heart.” After that performance Hudson, as Poe, went on to tell the audience more life problems Poe was having.
The sadness in Hudson’s eyes was felt throughout the room as he discussed Poe’s relationships and the madness at his lost loves.The show finished with what Hudson called one of Poe’s most famous poems, “The Raven.” Hudson set the gloomy lonely scene for the audience, and the audience gazed at him as he “quoth the raven, nevermore.” Hudson studied at the Circle in the Square Theater School in New York and spent more than 14 years on the New York stage.
Hudson said he did the show from the perspective of Poe’s last four days alive. He said Poe was dying, and it was very clear, “that was the only time in his life that he was crazy.”
Hudson described Poe’s death as he was found in the gutter of Baltimore, Maryland wearing someone else’s clothes, in and out of consciousness. Someone found Poe and took him to the hospital, where doctors where not able to find what was wrong with him. It is now thought that Poe may have suffered a brain tumor.Hudson was loud, obnoxious and extremely crazy, which gave the show character and spunk. Hudson researched Poe in order to develop a character to bring Poe back to life.
“There are no biographies that say Edgar walked like this or walked like that…,” so, Hudson said he used his resources to come up with Poe’s character. He even created little hand gestures and emotional facial expressions. Hudson said he began reading Poe when he was nine-years old with his father, who made a deal with him to memorize “The Raven.” They would perform it together in front of their family for Halloween.
“I embarked upon the expedition of memorizing ‘The Raven,’” said Hudson.After about the first six or seven stanzas, Hudson said it occurred to him that his father had no intention of learning that poem and that it was a trick to get him to read. “It did work, because then I started reading Poe,” said Hudson. Not only does Hudson act as Poe, but other characters as well, such as Albert Einstein. “Poe was one of those characters who haunts for me. He was always in the background of my life,” said Hudson.