By CHERIL VERNON
TYLER — Palestine's John Lamb is known for the many roles he has played in various Palestine Community Theatre productions over the years.
Just in time for Edgar Allan Poe's 205th birthday this weekend, Lamb is working with a group in Tyler on a show based on Poe's work.
To mark the occasion, APEX Theatre 20 in Tyler is producing “Nevermore” by Matt Richey — a play loosely based on some of Poe’s work and events of his life woven together into a kind of “might have been” faux biography.
The production takes some of the scarier elements of his work and presents them as having actually happened in Poe’s life. This is a new show, produced only once before in Los Angeles in 2010.
Shows are planned today through Sunday, Jan. 17-20 and Jan. 23-25 at the APEX Theatre 20 in Tyler. Special events to mark the occasion also are planned on Saturday — a morning event for children and an evening event for adults.
The first-time director of the show, Joshua Carpenter, first encountered the play when he was sent to audition for the author/director as the character of Poe. Although he didn’t get the part, he did form a lasting friendship with the show’s creator and fell in love with the show itself. So when the opportunity arose for him to direct a show in Tyler, he brought this script with him.
Carpenter said that being told he would direct the show “scared the daylights out of me. I’m not a director; I’m an actor, but I immediately saw what I had always envisioned…and the magic began.”
The cast, mostly young actors from Tyler, also includes Lamb, a familiar face from the Palestine theater scene. Lamb was invited to audition for a particular part after the director saw his work in an acting workshop there at the APEX Theatre 20 in Tyler.
Although he came in to audition for one part, he left with an entirely different one.
“I wanted a part like I had not played before. I needed something to stretch my acting muscles and really challenge me. That’s what I got,” Lamb said.
As Dudley, the caretaker to a decrepit estate, Lamb the actor is twice as old as the next oldest actor.
Another actor with connections to the Palestine area is Nick Gilley, son of Jodi Harding. Gilley is studying acting in college and, though young, plays the estate lawyer with the appropriate gravitas.
The cast is rounded out with Mark Dwight Stewart (Poe), Slater Bonner (Monty) and Megan Hutchings and others.
Besides the standard performance times there are two very special events this Saturday. For the kids, a special birthday party for Poe will be held at 10:30 a.m. It is the inauguration of the Saturday Morning Sitcom featuring characters from the theatre's regular programs “Mother Goose and Friends” and “Harvianne and Company.”
“Mother Goose is throwing a party for her friend Poe, who has been a little down lately because he thinks people have forgotten his birthday,” a theatre news release said.
With a little help from her friends in the building — her witty sidekick Lucy Goosey, Mail Lady Sharon, a bilingual puppet named Ni Hao, to name a few — Mother Goose throws Poe a surprise birthday party he won’t soon forget. Saturday Morning Sitcom is educational, interactive entertainment for the whole family. Tickets are $5 for the 45-minute show.
The Saturday night event is for the adults. Instead of the usual 7:30 p.m. showtime, the special birthday party for Poe will start at 10:30 p.m. There will be readings of Poe’s work, party favors, music and an original song written and played by Lacie Carpenter. Felicity Enas will share her favorite Poe piece.
Guests are encouraged (but not required) to dress in the Poe-esque Gothic, Steampunk, or just plain funeral attire. A full performance of “Nevermore” also will be included.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the door. Student rush tickets are $10, beginning at 7:25 p.m. Seating is limited, so buying ahead of time is recommended.
Showtime will be at 7:30 p.m. each day except for the special events. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. for complimentary beverages in the lobby.
Check out the website www.apextheatre20.com/tickets for more information.
“Please be advised that the evening shows contain adult themes that may not be suitable for young children,” a news release said.