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Behind the ‘Masque’: Dance Student Carrie Moore Brings E.A. Poe’s Work to Life on Samuels Theatre Stage

Carrie Moore and Hannah Walters
Carrie Moore and Hannah Walters

Senior dance student Carrie Moore has participated in many dance concerts at Cedar Crest, as well as a few theatrical productions, but she has taken her efforts to another level for her dance and honors capstone projects: the soup-to-nuts production of an original work titled, Prospero’s Masque, based on the writings and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, which will appear on the Samuels Theatre stage on Saturday, April 17, at 2 p.m. This brief article, which addresses the composition of Prospero’s Masque—as well as the reasoning behind Moore expanding her final project into a full-blown, 70-minute production—is the second in a series examining various aspects of the production.

Prospero’s Masque is a dance and theatre retelling of five selected works by one of Carrie Moore’s favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe. The plotline closely follows Masque of the Red Death, with character influences from Hop Frog. Poe’s Black Cat has been adapted into a monologue, The Raven is a recitation/dance piece, and The Fall of the House of Usher is retold solely through movement.

While the ambitious performance packs quite a bit into the space of little more than an hour, Moore said Prospero’s Masque has been nearly two years in the making.

“At the beginning of my junior year I began working closely with my advisor, (Director of Dance) Robin Gerchman. We read and analyzed countless pieces by Poe and decided which would be best adapted for stage. The pieces I chose are highly visual with interesting characters, detailed settings, and intriguing storylines,” she said. “With help from (Performing Arts) Professor Marion McCorry in compiling the script and developing the characters, I had the entire script written by the end of my junior year.”

Much of Moore’s senior year has been dedicated to selecting a cast and rehearsing Prospero’s Masque, as well as taking on the challenging assignment of creating choreography for a large cast.

Due in part to the complexities of the production, Moore decided to pass on traditional auditions in favor of hand-picking her cast. The lead character, Prince Prospero, is played by Tom Amico—spouse of Cedar Crest Performing Arts Professor Roxanne Amico—who earned his bachelor’s degree from Heidelberg College and his master’s degree in developmental theatre from University of Colorado. The supporting role of Hop Frog is played by senior dance and theatre major Brandy Hill, who is using her performance in this show as part of her own senior project. Hop Frog’s ballerina sidekick, Trippetta, is played by sophomore dance major Hannah Walters.

High points of the show include senior theater and math major Yumiko Sugawara taking the stage for the dynamic Black Cat monologue, and Assistant Professor of English Robert Wilson reciting The Raven, accompanied by dancers Desiree Cosgrove and Katherine Stevenson.

“Not one of these choices has disappointed me,” said Moore, who said combining her dance and honors capstone projects into a much larger, two-year project was a no-brainer.

“I have been choreographing for years and I also recently discovered a love for acting. To me, it was obvious that I should choose the two-year project and create a full, main stage show that combined both dance and acting,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything less, and those glittering masqueraders who have been twirling in my head for 14 years deserved my best!”

With a script that intertwines the humorous and bone-chilling, a large and experienced cast, and painstakingly crafted choreography, Moore feels like those in the audience on Saturday for the one-and-only scheduled performance of Prospero’s Masque are in for a treat.

“I invite everyone to see the glittering and multi-colored scenes from my dream come to life on April 17,” she said.

The third and final installment will chronicle Moore’s growth as a performer at Cedar Crest. The April 17 performance is free and open to the public.