Danse Macabre

by Christian Carvajal

Note: Edited for change of venue. This article was originally published in October when Theater Artists Olympia performed Poe Nocturn at Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood. Now they are bringing it home to Olympia’s Oly Theater in the Capital Mall.  

Left to right: Dennis Rolly, Kate Ayers, and Ryan Holmberg

“Those who dream by day,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe, “are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” If that’s true, we all have much to learn from the inveterate daydreamers of Theater Artists Olympia. TAO normally performs in a Capital Mall storefront a few doors down the concourse from Cinemark, but for four nights in late October, it presented material from the works of Poe himself as part of a spooky annual festival at Lakewold Gardens. Four of the Baltimorean horror master’s macabre tales were presented under the collective title Poe Nocturn.

Spouses John and Lynette Serembe visited the gardens on John’s birthday. When Lynette, a painter, expressed admiration of Lakewold’s art gallery, executive director Susan Warner invited her to show her work there. When that collaboration proved successful, Warner remarked, “We’d love to have some theater done here. Do you know anybody who’s into theater?” They do. John is a veteran actor and vice-president of Theater Artists Olympia (as well as the business manager of OLY ARTS), so he agreed to direct a Tacoma Arts Live production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the venue in August 2023. That production was a hit, so Lakewold recruited TAO into its All Hallows’ Eve festival program for late October.

That didn’t seem the right occasion for another full Shakespeare production, so John suggested fully dramatized versions of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and other Poe short stories instead. The venue’s rear-projection movie screen served as the backdrop for a collection of short plays set in various locations. Poe Nocturn then and now was/will be directed by TAO artistic director Pug Bujeaud, with a visual style similar to that of her recent storefront production of The Mystery Plays.

Some of the scripts are excerpted from playwright Rachel Luann Strayer’s adaptation The Poe Asylum. Strayer allows for portions of her script to be presented as standalone one-acts. “They’re interestingly dramatized,” Serembe notes. “We may steal her style for some of the others, because … we’d rather do a couple of other Poe stories that may have a little more humor involved. Hers are all kind of dire, and you have a black cat with its eyes being gouged out. We’re gonna skip that one.”

Because of the narrow rehearsal window between Mystery Plays and mid-October, TAO hand-picked Poe Nocturn’s cast instead of holding open auditions as usual. Adapted by Pug Bujeaud & Rachel Luann Strayer and Directed by Bujeaud
In October the intrepid members of TAO adapted and performed four stories by Poe. Christened Poe Nocturn, the shows were performed by TAO’s own Kate Ayers, Ryan Holmberg and Dennis Rolly.

TAO is remounting their compilation of tales, both well-known like “The Tell Tale Heart” and more obscure such as “The Imp of the Perverse.”

In addition TAO has invited more of the TAO collective to join in the fun. Serembe, Heather R. Christopher, Vanessa Postil, and newcomer Teresita Brimms will share their own slices of the master of the macabre.

Poe Nocturn

January 12, 13, 19, 20 @ 7:30 p.m.
January 14, 21 @ 2 p.m.

Olytheater in the Capital Mall
Park by the movie theaters and head towards the promenade
Olytheater is on the left, right after Wetzel’s Pretzels 



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