American actor David Crawford brings his solo show Poe’s Last Night to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, then to Pittsburgh's New Hazlett Theater. Crawford portrays Poe in his final dying hours on the streets of Baltimore as he is pursued by mysterious assailants both without and within his feverish brain. As he fights his demons, Poe performs several of his quintessential works, including “The Raven” and “The Cask of Amontillado.”
Crawford presented an earlier version of the play at the 2012 Fringe, where it was hailed as “stunning storytelling … a syllable-perfect ride through many of Poe’s most classic, spine-shilling tales” by P.W.&L. of Darkchat, with “magnificent moments, including an enchanting rendition of ‘The Raven’”—Lauren Paxman, The Stage Edinburgh.
The “Poe in Irvine 200” celebration in Irvine, Lanarkshire, hosted the show in 2015, among several other bookings.
The new version features both darker horror and more humor. This year’s Fringe engagement, its first booking, is in Sweet Venues at Apex Hotel, Grassmarket, Aug. 4-14 at 21:30 and Aug. 16-21 and 23-28 at 17:10.
Crawford embarked on a career in horror in 1978 with his portrayal of Dr. James Foster in George Romero’s zombie epic Dawn of the Dead. A veteran of the American stage, his roles include horror writer H. P. Lovecraft in “Lovecraft’s Monsters,” which he performed at the Fringe in 2014.
David Crawford has been a professional actor since 1980, when he earned his Actors’ Equity card playing First Murderer in a production of Macbeth starring Tom Atkins and Jean Smart.
He immediately put his union membership to work, playing Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet at Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, followed by nearly 200 other roles in American regional theater. He has worked in summer stock playing Fagin in Oliver!, Pickering in My Fair Lady, Basingstoke in Jekyll & Hyde, and many others. Most recently, he played Selig in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at the August Wilson Center.
He had trained with the likes of Cecil Kitcat of Carnegie-Mellon University, who had trained with Maria Ouspenskaya, who had trained with Constantin Stanislavski, which puts him at Three Degrees of Separation from the legendary Russian master. Another of his teachers, Lilene Mansell, went on to fame as a voice and speech coach in New York and co-author of the acclaimed Speak With Distinction.
His film work reached a peak early on, with the role of Dr. James Foster in George Romero's zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. That assignment, along with roles in several subsequent horror movies, have earned him appearances as a guest at horror conventions, where the talk often turns to such masters of horror as Edgar Allen Poe, and where Crawford was inspired to develop a solo show portraying Poe.
The result was a 50-minute production called Poe's Last Night, which debuted at the 2012 Edinburgh, Scotland, Festival Fringe. It was later expanded to an hour and twenty minutes for a Halloween appearance, then telescoped to thirty minutes for a New Year's Eve show.
Crawford was inspired to become an actor by his high school algebra teacher, Anne Louise O'Brien. Her love of performance didn't find adequate expression in algebraic equations, so she enlisted Crawford for coaching in the interpretation of classic texts. He cut his performance teeth on Shakespeare, Tennyson, and the King James Bible.
Crawford has taught acting at Civic Light Opera Academy in his home town of Pittsburgh. The Academy is a training ground for musical theater performers. He has also worked as a coach and judge for Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare performance contest.
His career has taken him to the Caribbean and Alaska on the cruise ship Universe Explorer, where he performed Love Letters and Dear Liar with Dixie Tymitz under the direction of Ruth Willis.
His most recent project is another solo show, this one about the American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was commissioned by Twelve Peers Theater of Pittsburgh on the strength of the Poe show’s success and had a successful run there and at the Edinburgh, Scotland, Festival Fringe.