Header image of Edgar sitting alone at desk

The Making of The Poetry Project

Wed, Oct 23, 2019

Written by: Seth Laidlaw, Photos by Grace Wong

Devising a theatrical experience is no easy feat. Besides having some essential human and financial resources, it requires the perfect mix of collaboration, creativity, and instinct.

The Trust Arts Education Department was brought a group of interdisciplinary artists together to create a new theatrical experience – The Poetry Project: The Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe -opening October 23.

The Poetry Project uses over a dozen poems from Edgar Allan Poe in an interactive, multi-media production, on multiple floors of the Trust Arts Education Center. Participants will have a chance to curate their own interpretations of the text before watching the performance.

How did we do it? Here’s an inside look from conception to implementation of The Poetry Project.


The genesis of The Poetry Project began with the goal to find a more authentic connection between the classroom work happening in schools and theater field trips happening in the Cultural District. We wanted to create an experience that connected directly to English Language Arts standards while upholding the artistic quality of the work.

We immediately were drawn to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as one of the most important and influential American writers of the 19th century. Poe’s works are studied throughout high school English classrooms. His poems are dark and mysterious (perfect for the month of October), yet there are beautiful moments of love and romance.

book cover of The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allen Poe

Trust Arts Education brought together a group of local professional artists to begin the creation phase, with a mix of artistic backgrounds, including: actors, directors, theater designers, music producers and composers, and choreographers.


The first half of the process was dedicated to creating the world of Edgar Allan Poe. Weekly brainstorming sessions were held to look deeply into the volume of work and pull out themes that we wanted to highlight. The group was drawn to Poe’s themes of love and death, hope and despair, science and religion. Most importantly, we wanted to know about the women he wrote about, and find a way to give them a presence.


The Poetry Project explores different aspects of the heart, including passion, commitment, and loss/mourning. It was important to create physical spaces that really embodied the imagery and emotion within the text. The fourth floor of the Trust Arts Education Center is broken into three different rooms, where participants will be split into small groups and escorted into one of the rooms.

4th floor rendering

Several of the elements experienced upstairs will show up in the Peirce studio performance space, where the audience is invited into Poe’s writing room, getting a deeper look into some haunting memories.


The Poetry Project, of course, features Edgar Allan Poe in his writing room. But it also gives voices to three women from his poems: Annabel Lee, Isadore, and Lenore. Here’s a look at the table work with the actors in creating these characters.

Character breakdown and worlds


The final phase of The Poetry Project was getting everything on its feet and ready for an audience. The team worked for two weeks completing music composition, soundscaping, set building, and creating movement with the text. The entire team worked diligently to piece together a story that will leave audiences contemplative, curious, and eager to learn more about the Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar alone at his desk

Two women tilted away from Edgar

Woman wrapping fabric around Edgar


The Poetry Project: The Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, runs October 23-25, with three matinee performances and one evening performance on October 25 at 7:30pm. Performances will be held in the Trust Arts Education Center, 807 Liberty Avenue.

The Poetry Project Team
Director: Parag S. Gohel Producers: Seth Laidlaw, Lisa Leibering
Music Composers: Liza Barley, Amos Levy, Gil Teixeira
Scenic Designer: Tucker Topel
Costumer: Lisa Leibering
Performers: Cassidy Adkins, Hope Anthony, Brenda Giraldo, Seth Laidlaw

  • The Poetry Project
  • Trust Arts Education Center
  • Edgar Allen Poe