DagonBytes HomePage - Goth Radio - Vampire Site - Library of the Classics - Graveyards - Frite on Film

DarkArt - Edgar Allan Poe - Dagon TV - Email - Site map

A conversation with

By

(Transcribed by Liza Delgado)

Once upon a midnight .....
at the stroke of midnight (neither one of us would have it any other way) in a small coffee shop somewhere in the heart of the city of the big shoulders, and right on time, as if the peel of that twelfth bell was the cue for his entry, he came strolling in with his lovely wife Valerie. What I noticed first was when he looked at her I could tell he loved her, and when she returned his gaze it was magnified and reciprocated. More than just a cute couple, but a loving team. (I was jealous of both of them.) Before I knew it, I was shaking his hand and basking in the glow of his wonderful smile. It was surreal for me at first, because there I was talking to a life long, familiar friend, for the first time! But just the presence that emanates from this exceptional man put me at ease. Although I was told not to take up more than one half hour of his time, he talked to me for two and a half hours.
(Thanks John)

Dagon
It must be awesome doing "Edgar Allan Poe -Once upon a midnight," was this play tailor made for you? You seemed to be involved in it very, very early.

Astin
The writers came to me with "Edgar Allan Poe -Once upon a midnight," and for the last several years we’ve been working together on it. We have been a nice collaborative team on it and they are wonderful guys. They would get a kick out of you.

Dagon
Could you mention their names?

Astin
Ron Magid and Paul Day Clemens. Paul was a year or two ahead of one of my kids in school, so I knew Paul when he was a teenager. Anyway, Ron and Paul got together and wrote. Then Paul came to me about five years ago, and said "I wish you would do my play" so I read it. "Edgar Allan Poe -Once upon a midnight" had some things in it that were so special, and unique, and so intuitively right about Poe and his life and his work that I optioned it right away and we’ve been rewriting and working for 5 years.

Dagon
I know Poe made his living at being a critic, are you going to be critiquing some of his contemporaries, in Poe's own words, stirring things up a little bit?

Astin
Yes, there will be a little of that.

Dagon
I know drugs were in vogue with the artists of that period, such as morphine. Did he experiment with any of that kind of stuff? Is that touched on at all in "Edgar Allan Poe -Once upon a midnight"?

Astin
At one point in his life, he tried to kill himself by taking laudanum, which is a derivative of opium, but he sort of made a botch of that, which is indicative of his life and lack of knowledge of drugs. But he wasn't a user, it’s just not true. You see, the man he chose to be his literary executor, trashed him on his death in his obituary. Rufus Wilmot Griswold. It’s was Rufus Griswold’s biography of Poe that for 100 years was included in Poe’s collected works. So this trashing of him went on and on.

Dagon
Why was that? Did they not get along?

Astin
I think, and this is my personal opinion, that it was a Mozart - Salieri thing. Griswold was simply jealous of Poe. Poe was not a diplomat. He did have some problems with alcohol, and he did behave a little outrageously sometimes when he drank. I think the bottom line is Poe’s extraordinary talent was apparent to Griswold and others. I think they were hard pressed to keep up. I don’t think that his work, the depth and the scope of it, was really recognized by the people of the time.

Dagon
How could it be? Actually a lot like your own life. I don’t think people realize you've had rave reviews as a serious Shakespearean thespian, you direct and your films have been nominated for Academy awards, Emmys, and what-not. I don’t think people really appreciate the passion and gusto that you bring to certain things.

Astin
Well, thank you. It’s interesting, I think in the public there is a great deal of appreciation. It may not be expressed all the time, but based on the mail I’ve been getting, people are smarter than you might think.

Dagon
I know you have affected a lot of lives. Just in my circle of friends, for example.

Astin
If you do something and you really care and you want to convey something in a subtle way, there are people out there that are going to pick up on it. It’s a source of great satisfaction to me when someone is as appreciative as you are. One of the great things about being recognized, is that you receive this feedback from people. It is easy to see how sincere these people are. It’s nothing fake or jive. They're giving sincere appreciation. And because sincere appreciation is not as common as maybe it ought to be, it’s not that easy to express. Sometimes when I see a performance that really takes me, I struggle. How can I express this to this person, I want this person to know how I felt. I want to get this across, and it’s not very easy. But I assure you my antennae are open and receiving, and I very much appreciate your own feelings. It’s understood. It’s appreciated. Just know that.

Dagon
That makes me feel much more at ease.

Astin
Yeah, well you should be. I feel very comfortable with you. Somehow, across whatever it is, we've connected.

Dagon
I hope so.

Astin
Yes, and that's a great thing, and to me that's better than money. A lot better.

Dagon
Absolutely, the brass ring in life is bringing happiness and and making that connection with other people. I mean, I know that when I am performing my act, I get more gratification than I can possibly say ......... But getting back to Poe, why do you think he wrote the way he did? Do you think it was because he had something he just had to get out of him? Was it because he had a tragic life with the people he loved dying of consumption all around him? Because he was an orphan at three? The relation between he and his step-father? His drinking problem? Or do you just think that that’s who he was?

Astin
I think Poe had a mission to tell us what "it’s" all about. To answer some of the great questions of life.

Dagon
Almost like a religious leader, except for he realized he was lost.

Astin
I don’t know if I would necessarily call it religious. It's just a human desire to understand the spirit.

Valerie
I think part of it too, he knew we need to ask questions that people have not asked before. To question the tradition.

Dagon
Maybe religious is the wrong word..... Spiritual.

Astin
Yeah, well it depends on what you mean by it. You know it could be true. In one sense you could say religious.

Dagon
Do you know what his religious beliefs were? Was that really known? Was he an Atheist?

Astin
Poe was a student of many things, and among those things he read and referred to in his work was the Bible. His views were not acceptable at that time. They would be much more acceptable today. So when he wrote EUREKA, he was branded a heretic, .... and this was after the death of Virginia, his wife, he was running from one woman to another, looking for his wife really. He had one marriage all set up, ready to go and a young Reverend talked the woman out of it because of what Poe had written in Eureka. He convinced her that Poe was a heretic, or....

Dagon
Infidel, pagan, blasphemer, heathen.

Astin
Yep, but Poe’s view of the cosmos was not so far removed from current cosmology. In fact there's a book called Darkness at Night, published by Harvard University Press, which discusses the riddle of darkness. Why is the sky dark at night? Given an infinite number of stars, why isn’t the whole sky lit up? Why are there great spaces and voids? Poe’s answer to this is still valid according to the scientists of today. This book has a whole chapter devoted to Poe. In Eureka, Poe proposed a time and space continuum, fully a half a century before Einstein.

Dagon
Or Star Trek!

Astin
Or Star Trek. Yeah, Poe was the ultimate Treky, believe me. Poe talked about an expanding and contracting universe. Much of this was in Eureka, his final work, which was swiftly rejected by everyone and it broke his heart. It's fortunate for all of us that he wrote it, and it helps explain everything else he wrote.

Dagon
It was the type of piece his heart and soul was put into, when they were rejecting the piece, they were rejecting him too.

Astin
He regarded Eureka as his Magnum Opus; his greatest work. We put a lot of Eureka in "Edgar Allan Poe -Once upon a midnight," because it was the culmination of his life; that he was able to say just what he said. It was the most difficult of all Poe’s works.

Valerie
It was probably one of the most beautiful pieces of his day.

Dagon
Why do you think that he is still relevant? When kids read his stuff today, it’s still fresh. I read "The Tell Tale Heart" when I was in 4th grade, and I when I read it recently, I got so much more out of it. It seems like an expanding thing, that every time you read it, it unfolds to another level.

Astin
The themes Poe used were universal and timeless. As long as the English language exists at all, we will be able to appreciate what he did. It will not age! It will not become dated! Yes, most of us know how The Murders of the Rue Morgue turns out, and so that incredible surprise in the story is no longer an incredible surprise to most people. But if you take a look at that story, just go into the beginning of it you’ll find it’s interesting to read all over again. It bears repeating again and again.

Dagon
I think I know the answer to this question but do you think he was really disturbed? He was suicidal at times.
(And as naive as that question was, words cannot convey what this man shared with me, as he looked in my eyes and answered my query with total conviction ... A performance?. ... Or perhaps a revelation .....)

Astin
Disturbed. No. I’ll tell you. He knew that they called him a lunatic, and he said,

"Who is to say whether madness is,

or is not,

the loftiest intelligence.

Whether much that is glorious,

whether all that is profound,

does not spring from "disease of thought."

From "moods of mind."

We who dream by day

are aware of many things that escape those who dream only by night.

In our gray visions, we obtain glimpses of eternity,

and thrill, in awaking,

to find that we have been upon the verge of the great secret.

We penetrate, however rudderless, however compassless,

into a vast ocean of light.

Who, then, shall blame me for my visionary hours?

Who dare call my conduct into question?

To dream has been the business of my life."

See that’s Poe.

Dagon
(After catching my breath)
Where is that from?

Astin
From, several things. Primarily most of it’s from Elenora, with some slight revisions. Isn't that powerful?

Dagon
Oh Yeah, that’s probably why he wasn’t committed, because he could articulate exactly that.

Astin
At a certain point he was very popular, from the "Raven". He was never fully appreciated, never made the money, and you know he was looked upon with admiration by some people, but also as an oddball. But that was his point.

Dagon
Have you ever had a haunted or a supernatural experience?

Astin
Everyday.

Dagon
Any really intense ones?

Astin
I figure I basically am a ghost. I think we all are.

Dagon
I can’t argue with that. But what brings you to that conclusion?

Astin
My background is basically scientific math. My Dad was a physicist, so I have it in my blood somewhere. Scientific method is very important to me. I think anything that contradicts it is probably not true. I think it was Bertrand Russel or Alfred North Whitehead, a who said, "What science cannot discover, mankind can not know." That's good up to a point, but there are things so deep and complex that only intuition can reach it in our stage of development as human beings. And to Poe...well a great logician could be an enemy to him, what he called conventional world reason, and "logic" as laid out by some of the philosophers. This is one of the things he attacks in Eureka and it is implicit in many of his other works. Dupin, the great detective from The Murders of the Rue Morgue, was wonderful at deduction, but it was intuition that Dupin used to unravel that crime, unravel the mystery. Poe says at one point in the play "As children we remember that we have lived before, until 'conventional world reason' awakens us from the truth of the dream."

Dagon
Wow.

This article was just a small sliver of the conversation I had with Mr. Astin about Poe. We also touched on many more topics: Magic, Night Gallery, Night Court, Evil Roy Slade, Batman, Ethics, and of course The Addams Family.  A quick deaditorial note: At the time of this interview, I hadn't seen the play, and although I researched his life, I was woefully ignorant about a lot of Poe's works. But now after reading Eureka and about half of The Complete Poe, and seeing John Astin in "Edgar Allan Poe- Once upon a midnight," I've learned you can understand far more about the artist from his work than from any biography. That is the beauty of the approach that John Astin took with "Edgar Allan Poe- Once upon a midnight". The way Poe's writings are woven together to tell his life story is nothing short of story telling at it's finest, at least half of the dialogue was meticulously chosen from Poe's own words. I've seen the play three times (and it's only played a week).

"Edgar Allan Poe- Once upon a midnight" is much more than an ordinary play or one evening's entertainment. It is a celebration of an extraordinary man, who did not receive the proper recognition and deserved respect for his craft until well after his death (and to some extent, even to this day). The play cleans up much of the sloppy history that is still so pervasive about Poe. It also brings some of Poe's more enlightening and obscure works to light. To see Mr. John Astin in "Edgar Allan Poe- Once upon a midnight" is to see Poe himself revealing the frank autobiography of his life; the passion, the rapturous love, the total heartbreak, the failures, the successes, the confusion, the insights and revelations. He relates each person's connection to this vast universe by which we are all joined.

In this vampires humble opinion, "Edgar Allan Poe- Once upon a midnight" truly is "a journey of the soul!"


Part II

More on

More on


Contact Dagon at:

www.DagonBytes@hotmail.com

Vampires, Dracula, nosferotu, Blood, fangs, Gothic, Naked bloody music to die by Elvira, John Astin, gomez, Addams Family, Dark Shadows, David Selby, Micheal Myers, Holloween
Edgar Allan Poe, Poems poetry, short stories and tales Graveyards and Cemetaries, death, tombs, graves, Dark, gothic art and artwork

click here for
A Complete Site Map for DagonBytes.com

Listen to Dagon
Recite
Edgar Allan Poe

1998, Hunt
All rights reserved.