Memories, malicious or otherwise, are powerful. They inspire. They terrify. They point to the truth. For Auguste Dupin, Edgar Allan Poe’s first sleuth and our tortured hero, these memories do all three as they reanimate and wreak havoc across his mind. Do they seek truth? Justice? Insanity? Or something far more intimate? For our cast to play five different sides of Dupin and his memories in a taut psychological thriller is a challenge for any performer. But they took it in stride and will now share how they viewed, approached, and created the malicious memories found in Lenore Nevermore.
MALICIOUS MEMORIES: The Making of Lenore Nevermore (Part 2)
Lenore is a rare and radiant maiden who is the romantic interest of both Auguste Dupin and Guy de Vere. Sweet, generous, and kindly in a dozen small ways, Lenore is generally adored by everyone, a beacon of light. But despite her brightness, there may be shadows lurking just out of sight. Devanne Fredette is the most prolific Master Mystery Productions performer in our history with Lenore Nevermore counting as her record-shattering tenth production with the company. Audiences may remember her as Phoebe Walliscroft in The Last Garden Party, Zoe Fox in Bury Me in Paris, Caroline Shaw in Ode to Agatha, the voice of Kyra Ganley in The Silent City, Chorus Member in Exit Prima Donna, Chloe Landis in Famous Last Words, Ensemble Member in What Happens at Sundown, Cutlass Kate in Mutiny on the Sea Witch, and Madame du Pommade in Eat Cake. A multiple award-winning actress, Devanne has won the Skeleton Key Award for her backstage work on The Silent City, the Diamond Mask Award for her spectacular performance as Captain Cutlass Kate in Mutiny on the Sea Witch, the Blood, Sweat, and Tears Award from the Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe for her work on Mutiny, and the coveted Founder’s Award from MMP honoring her work across the entire 2018 season. Here’s what Devanne had to reveal about Lenore’s character:
“Preparing for Lenore Nevermore began before getting the part. As preparation goes, it’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. In this case, preparation was given a direct path as we had to perform a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. In my case, I chose ‘A Dream Within A Dream’ as I felt it encapsulates the feeling of missing a loved one once they’re gone. This being from the opposite of Lenore’s circumstances as she is killed before her time. Further research was kind of methodical, desiring the part of Lenore, I started draw butterflies and flowers. Other inspirations came from Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, specifically with the songs ‘Israfel’ and of course ‘The Raven.’ All of these factors combined help me form Lenore from who she is as a person escaping through drawing, wanting to see the world and living until her untimely death, and lastly haunting Dupin to find her killer.”
Auguste Dupin is a deeply-hurt admirer of Lenore who has sunken into his grief and esoteric literature ever since her death. But while he tries to numb himself from his lingering suffering, his rational mind, honed through scholarly pursuit, continues to dissect the mystery surrounding Lenore’s murder. Sam Johnson returns to Master Mystery Productions for his first leading dramatic role after performing as Agent Sly in Anonymous in August 2017, where he won a Diamond Mask Award for his performance, a vocal performance in C. R. Rowenson’s The Silent City in September that year, and as Adam O’Neill in Famous Last Words in July 2018. A longtime actor, Sam has performed in shows such as Guys and Dolls, Taming of the Shrew, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooge and Marley, On Golden Pond, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sam has also lent his talent as our First Assistant Director for Lenore Nevermore. Sam divulges some details in how he created Dupin:
“Auguste Dupin is a man haunted not only by his love for Lenore, but also by his psyche. His conscience (or is it something supernatural?) manifests itself in quite an unusual and terrifying way. Auguste Dupin is unlike any character I have ever played before. Bringing him to life has been quite a challenge but it also been a fun and fulfilling experience. I based his character on Herbert west from Reanimator and Eddie from IT chapter 2. Herbert west has this morbid humor but also is a coward but tries to stand up to people and Eddie has the basis of how Dupin acts when he is scared. It was very difficult but I was soon able to morph the two of them into Dupin and personally I think the end result is pretty good. I’m happy how Dupin came out in the end.”
Guy de Vere is Dupin’s rival for Lenore’s affections. Suave, social, and immensely rich, he is the antithesis to the more miserly and introverted Dupin. Guy lavishes gifts and luxuries upon Lenore, aiming to make her his bride. Nevertheless, he is quite an authoritarian gentleman very particular with his ways. An amateur naturalist, he collects butterflies for their beauty and scientific study. Lexi Phillips made her Master Mystery Productions debut in our Summer 2019 life-sized murder mystery board game, Foul Play, in the role of the perpetually blue movie star, Iris Royale, where she also donated a number of delectable board game and chess-themed treats for our guests to enjoy. Audiences may also remember seeing Lexi perform in the Chorus of the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society’s production of Little Women: The Musical in September 2016. Lexi gives us her take on the peculiarly particular Guy de Vere:
“Guy de Vere was a fun character to get into. My second role in an MMP production and he’s an exact opposite of the first role I had, that being Iris Royale from Foul Play. Suave, sophisticated, I loved getting into his personality and picking it apart. So much so I accidentally wrote a musical number about him in the car one day. Well it’s good that I love him so much, I suppose. He’s controlling, manipulative, and so self sure, an obvious bad guy….Right? I wish I could spill all my thoughts on him but that gets into spoiler territory and we can’t have that. I just hope he’s as entertaining to watch as he is to play!”
Pallas Athena is a bust of the Greek goddess of wisdom that usually sits above the chamber door in Dupin’s library. Firm, uncompromising, stalwart, and sharp as a sword, Pallas Athena is determined to dig through Dupin’s murky and malevolent memories to dredge up what really happened when she fell off the chamber door. Beth Sparks-Jacques is a Master Mystery Productions veteran returning for her third show with us. She debuted as a member of the Chorus and a key figure behind our period costuming in our first musical, Exit Prima Donna, presented at Amargosa Opera House in Spring 2018. Her hard work and dedication to the show won her the Skeleton Key Award for Service Above and Beyond. She returned in September that year as an Ensemble member in What Happens at Sundown. Her first major role onstage was as Pamela in the Community Light Opera and Theatre Association’s production of The 39 Steps in July 2019. She has since followed that up with a performance as a Nun and a Chorus member in Newsies: The Broadway Musical, presented by the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society in Fall 2019. Beth gives her insights into the goddess of wisdom:
“Pallas Athena is at first glance merely a hallucination. As the story unfolds, she is shown to be the part of Dupin’s mind that is trying to make sense of what he has suppressed. She is the force of truth. She is his guide. A sometimes cranky guide. She won’t let him hide and not face his demons; and the truth.”
The Raven is a mysterious and malevolent presence whose shadow swallows the fragile Auguste Dupin. Perhaps a demon, perhaps a dark spirit, perhaps a hallucination spurred by Dupin’s grief, the Raven, styled as a plague doctor, utters only his tell-tale word “Nevermore,” which both infuriates and terrifies that hurt and haunted man. Nicole Johnson is an award-winning actress and audience favorite who has delighted patrons in several Master Mystery Productions. Debuting in our sold-out production of Ode to Agatha (July 2017), she won both the Skeleton Key Award and a Diamond Mask Award for the role of Miriam Lancaster, only the second person in our history to receive both awards for the same show. She followed that with voice acting in C. R. Rowenson’s The Silent City. In Spring 2018, she received universal praise for her role as Leonora in Exit Prima Donna at Amargosa Opera House, earning Nicole her second Diamond Mask Award. In Spring 2019, she performed brilliantly as the rebel maid, Marianne, in Eat Cake. Nicole received unanimous praise from audiences and critics for her performance as Big Red in Monica Dwyer’s Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind in September 2019, leading to her third Diamond Mask Award. Nicole now provides her take on the world’s most famous raven:
“What or who is the Raven is actually the question. Omen? Harbinger of evil? The Raven is a mysterious presence. This Raven is a complex creature. Dupin thinks the Raven may either be a demon or a hallucination concocted by his fragile mind. The Raven only says one word: Nevermore. This both infuriates and terrifies Dupin. To create this iconic character, I have read up on my Edgar Allen Poe and thrown a bit of myself in there as well. It’s a unique character and one that I treasure playing.”
These memorable characters are going to hit the stage this Saturday at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. But we’ll have one last behind the scenes post before the show closes at Amargosa Opera House. Our feathered friends have had quite a lot of fun at MMP as we show you the past and the future of our peerless puppetry in Birds of a Feather: The Making of Lenore Nevermore (Part 3).
And get your tickets to see Lenore Nevermore before they fly away. Ridgecrest show tickets are sold at Red Rock Books and at the door. Amargosa Opera House show is sold through the Amargosa Hotel Front Desk. Reserve your seats there by calling (760) 852-4441 8 AM to 8 PM daily. All tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for kids 12 and under.
We’ll see you there!
–Master Mystery Productions