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BWW Review: ELECTRIC POE A HAUNTING TALE BY THE COTERIE  THEATRE As if 2020 wasn't scary enough, The Coterie Theater ushers in the haunting season with the opening of ELECTRIC POE on Friday, September 19. The play based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe was conceived, adapted, and directed by Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie, and runs through Halloween night.

ELECTRIC POE is not produced in the confines of The Coterie Theatre's main stage located in Crown Center but is staged in the open spaces of the Union Cemetery. Not eerie enough the play is performed in front of the holding vault of the historic and rumored haunted cemetery, and is a co-production of The Coterie and the Union Cemetery Historical Society. For this production reserved seats are not available, but ticket holders must reserve a plot that holds up to four people. The plots are socially distanced for the safety of the audience.

R. H. Wilhoit, in the style of an 1850's orator, is magnificent bringing to life two BWW Review: ELECTRIC POE A HAUNTING TALE BY THE COTERIE  THEATRE masterpieces by the wizard of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. With an audience of over 55,000 spectators (55,000 of them permanent residents of Union Cemetery), the show opens with 'The Premature Burial' which first appeared in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper in 1844. This reading depicts the fear of being buried alive when one of the many diseases made a patient appear in a state of death. This fear was so deep in the public mind that after the declared death the body was put on display for several days in what we commonly know as a wake. The origin of the wake was not so much to honor the dead, but rather to give ample time to make sure the person was dead.

BWW Review: ELECTRIC POE A HAUNTING TALE BY THE COTERIE  THEATRE In 'The Masque of the Red Death' Wilhoit delivers an outstanding performance as Prince Prospero. Prospero is terrified of a plague, not COVID 19 rather known as the Red Death, that has consumed the countryside. He has walled himself and his nobles away to protect them from the contagious disease, only to discover you can't hide from your fate. Scott "Rex" Hobart composed and performs the music that accompanies both readings, which only adds to the spooky productions.

Following performances, Wilhoit and Hobart will be joined by a member of the Union Cemetery Historical Society to answer questions about the production and the cemetery which was founded in 1857. Later it was combined with the Westport Cemetery so some of the markers in the southeast portion date back to the 1820s. There are about 55,000 interned souls within the cemetery grounds.

ELECTRIC POE runs through October 31 at Union Cemetery. The cost of the plot is $50 and may be shared by up to four people. The Coterie states that everyone entering the cemetery must wear a mask when entering, leaving, or when outside the designated area of the plot. Performances begin at 7 p.m. and there is no late seating as the gates to the cemetery grounds will be locked. To purchase tickets call The Coterie box office at 816.474.6552 or online at

Photos by Jordan Spatz courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

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