The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, Murders in the Rue Morgue...all penned from the extraordinary mind of one man...Edgar Allan Poe. A man whose own life was as dark, mysterious and troubled as the memorable works of fiction he created.
Dark Destiny is a musical journey into the mind of the man who has thrilled, delighted and terrified his readers for generations. More than a biography of Poe, Dark Destiny is a glimpse into the soul of a troubled artist, a man who battled alcoholism, depression, and the inner demons which both inspired his work and tormented his life.
It is a musical, which despite its subject matter, manages to find moments of warmth, humor and inspiration but never attempts to “gloss over” the tragic truth about the life of Poe and the pain he endured. Orphaned at three and penniless most of his life, Edgar Allan Poe also had the misfortune of having to watch many of the people he loved in life die slow, painful deaths at an early age. At the end of his own life he suffered a series of delusional spells, which serve as the inspiration for Dark Destiny. For this is a show about a man at the end of his rope, wrestling with his conscience and the ghosts of the past, often unable to distinguish between reality and illusion.
Although a cemetery may seem like an unusual setting for a musical play, it serves as the perfect backdrop for a story about a man who was the “master of the macabre.” The events of his life unfold on stage in the scattered fragments of distant memory, yet somehow manage to paint a complete picture of the man. It is a very unique musical, indeed, but one that we think Poe himself would be pleased with.
On a brisk October evening in 1849 a GRAVEDIGGER at a Baltimore cemetery prepares an unceremonious burial for a “noted drunk of the city” in a plain pine box. (PRELUDE) He is not alone this evening, as a well-dressed, but rumpled gentleman, EDGAR ALLAN POE, is seated on a monument trying to get inspiration for a story. The two men strike up a conversation and find that they have a common fondness for the bottle. POE dispatches the GRAVEDIGGER with some money to a nearby saloon and reflects on his frequent visits to similar cemeteries as a mourner for many lost loved ones. (“HOW MANY TIMES?”)
POE is startled by the appearance of his mother, ELIZA, who died when he was only three. She is the first of several visitors from beyond the grave who will call upon POE this evening. Together they sing of their disappointment at so early a separation. (“HOW I MISS YOU”) Soon ELIZA has vanished and POE becomes frustrated over their brief re-acquaintance. (“DON’T GO AWAY”)
His brother HENRY is the next to appear. (HENRY’S HORNPIPE) A jaunty sailor, who once dreamed of being an author like his younger brother, HENRY followed a more care-free and footloose existence with a similar weakness for liquor and a girl in every port. The brothers reminisce about their fondness for each other and their admiration for each others chosen lifestyle. (“YOU WERE THE ONE”) The conversation turns to women, and HENRY reminds POE of his first love MYRA, a neighbor of his back in Virginia. In a “flashback” sequence YOUNG POE and MYRA playfully discuss the future and YOUNG POE’S ambitions to become a poet.
The GRAVEDIGGER returns, but only partly successful in his mission. Most of the bottle is already gone. The two men share the remainder as they wax philosophically about life and death. (“WHAT LIES BEYOND”) POE sends him off for a second try at procuring libation and soon is joined by his late wife, VIRGINIA, who sings a poem that she once wrote for him as a valentine. (“EVER WITH THEE”)
This apparition is particularly painful for POE, as his young wife has only recently departed and her loss has devastated him greatly and exacerbated his drinking problem. VIRGINIA tries to encourage him to go on with his life and perhaps find someone new, despite the love they shared for many years. (“EACH OTHER”)
In another flashback sequence we see how YOUNG POE returned from college only to find his finance MYRA engaged to another man. (“YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THERE”) Enraged that his foster father, JOHN ALLAN, is somehow behind this he lashes out at him, first in the flashback, and gradually in the “spirit world” of the cemetery. (“SOMETHING MORE”) JOHN ALLAN had never understood POE and his moody devotion to writing, hoping he would become a more practical man of business and commerce. Their confrontation leads to a gathering of all the “ghosts” who argue and debate until POE is driven to the brink of madness. (“GO BACK”) as the First Act ends.
The Second Act finds POE trying to work while his brother HENRY engages him in conversation. POE is becoming increasingly confused by the spectral visitors and wonders whether they are “real” or just figments of his imagination. In another flashback we see a happier moment from POE’S life as he wins a contest for writing a short story. YOUNG POE, VIRGINIA, and his mother-in-law MARIA celebrate the arrival of the badly needed prize money. (“FIFTY DOLLARS”)
The conversation over money leads to another debate with the spirit of JOHN ALLAN. POE tries to defend his choice of choosing art over profit. (“DESTINY”) which brings VIRGINIA back to his side. In a flashback we see how YOUNG POE allowed his drinking to interfere with his work despite his promise to an early employer, THOMAS WHITE, that he was on the road to responsibility. (“A BETTER MAN”)
POE realizes that no matter what he does he can’t seem to escape the morbid feeling of doom and despair that has haunted him all of his life. (“THE DARKEST CORNER OF MY SOUL”)
HENRY returns and tries to cheer him up, but his efforts only lead to another painful flashback as POE is reminded of a scandal that threatened his marriage. Eventually POE comes to the realization that whether he has imagined the ghostly visitations or not, he is finally at the end of his own life. In frustration he laments his existence and his inability to prove his worth to the world. (“WHY?”) ELIZA and VIRGINIA try to comfort him and assure him that his life, indeed had lasting value as they lead him to the afterlife.
The GRAVEDIGGER returns and finds himself alone with the still unburied coffin. He checks the name on the casket and drinks a final toast to Edgar Allan Poe as he prepares to consign him to the earth.