‘Tick, Tock, Poe’ stages lessons against violence

Published: March 20, 2013

Four travelers flee to the mountains to escape a terrible plague — a Red Death. There they meet at an ancient, crumbling abbey and begin to share tales of mystery and imagination to pass the time.

A man plots deadly revenge against a friend he believes has betrayed him; hearing the beating of his victim’s heart, a murderer cannot bear the guilt of his crime; a prisoner awaits the awful torture of the Spanish Inquisition; a mansion tumbles into ruin from the weight of fear, madness and murder….

That intriguing mash-up of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous suspenseful stories is at the heart of University of Colorado Boulder theatre graduate student Hadley Kamminga-Peck’s new stage adaptation, “Tick, Tock, Poe,” which has been playing at schools and community centers this spring.

The program includes a 50-minute performance with CU-Boulder students Cole Cribari, Tucker Johnston, James Miller and Stacey Ryan and workshops focusing on Poe’s life, the creation of music for theatre, stage combat vs. real-life violence and the cycle of vengeance at the center of “The Cask of Amontillado.”

“I adapted the five Poe stories with a lot of help from the cast,” Kamminga-Peck says. “We really focused on what middle- and high-school students would understand.”

The production’s roots go all the way back to 2011, when Kamminga-Peck contacted local teachers via email to get a sense of what students might enjoy. They chose Poe — grisly and spooky as the stories are — over H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” and “Cyrano.”

The play features period costumes, a simple set — basically a trunk — and just a few props. But there is plenty of action, including some vigorous onstage fighting choreographed by Kamminga-Peck.

“We’ve had great responses from teachers,” she says. “They tell us what an inventive way it is to teach literature and violence prevention.”