Tuesday, June 20, 2017



Dave Kopka, Nancy Doniger, Donna Miskend, Carol (Klio) Burrell
special guests: 
Michael Patrick Hearn, James Armstrong, Charlie Vazquez

James Armstrong, as Edgar Allan Poe

The opening reception started off with a performance reading by James Armstrong of Poe's lesser known works represented by the artists in the exhibit.
James Armstrong and audience reading of The Bells, by Edgar Allan Poe
The last selection was a reading of The Bells with audience participation including Lucy Aponte, Community Associate of Poe Park Visitor Center, and exhibitor Dave Kopka.

AN INTERVIEW with playwright James Armstrong

 conducted by the curator, Donna Miskend

DM: What draws you to the work of Poe?
JA: I love how Poe uses language to create such evocative images. He is always choosing words that have the exact right sound for what he is trying to say. A poem like "The Bells" for instance, fuses form and meaning. The final part doesn't just have a creepy meaning, but it even sounds creepy. The same could be said of "The Raven." Every time I get to the end of "The Raven" and read about how the bird "still is sitting, still is sitting" it gives me the shivers.

DM: Does performing his stories/poems change or add to your interpretation of Poe's work?
JA: Like many nineteenth-century authors, Poe expected his work to be read aloud, and you don't fully appreciate his writing until you hear or recite it. Saying the word "Amontillado" over and over again is a different experience than just reading it in your head. If you ever wonder why Poe keeps repeating certain words and phrases, read the piece out loud. You'll understand.

DM: Does his work inspire you as a playwright?
JA: I've never adapted the work of Poe into a play before, but Poe knew Charles Dickens, and so I worked him into a play called Dickens Condensed which is now published and has been performed all over the place. Poe's one play, Politian, is not generally respected by scholars, but I rather like it. Poe never finished it, and I really wish he had. I think he had the makings of being a fine playwright if he had kept at it.

DM: Who are the writers that influence your work?
JA: I really like writers who create entertaining plays that also make you think. Aristophanes, Henrik Ibsen, and Bertolt Brecht were all great at that. Their plays can have you laughing out of your chair or sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation, but they do more than that. You finish their plays, and you have all these new things to think about that you'd never before considered. Tom Stoppard also does that, as does Paula Vogel.

DM: Any upcoming performances or your plays or appearances?
JA: My play Capital about Karl Marx and his teenage daughter just finished a run at Detroit Repertory Theatre, and I'm hoping some other theaters will be picking it up soon. I also wrote an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that's going to be touring in North Carolina next year. Stay tuned!

For more about James visit his web site
For more interviews with people in the arts visit Donna's interview blog

July 15th
Poe themed writing workshop
with Charlie Vazquez, author and Director, Bronx Writing Center 
For more information call the visitor center 718.365.5516 or visit their website calendar under Poe Park Visitor Center.