Akron Civic hosted killer party

Arts / Article

Akron Civic Theatre, a Knight Arts grantee, gave a killer masquerade party on Saturday, October 26, and not only because the theme of the event, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” has as its plot a masquerade party in which the host, Prospero, and all the guests are done in by the end of the evening by whatever the mysterious killer was.

The organizers structure the evening along the lines of the story, with the party beginning at 8 p.m. and going until midnight (with a clock striking the tones of each passing hour as in the tale). At midnight, the killer is revealed. This year it was the master of ceremonies himself, where in prior years it was another. There were several potential contenders (many if not all from James Slowiak’s New World Performance Laboratory) lining the main stage claiming responsibility for what was about to happen at the beginning of the evening. At the stroke of midnight, red confetti showered down on all on the main stage just as the red death descended on the people in Poe’s story.

The use of a literary device like a mystery story is a good organizing tool, but the layout of the Akron Civic Theatre itself seems to be a perfect spot for having it, for it seems, in Poe’s words, as “expansive” and “magnificent” as Prospero’s castellated abbey. The theater was, in its way, appropriately “gaudy” and “fantastic.”

Akron Civic Theatre, “Masque of the Red Death,” 2013.

Gargoyles everywhere, ornate Rococo trimmings galore, strong and contrasting colors, corridors going in several directions, and an abundance of rooms and stage space to put on a large party for hundreds of people, coupled with every attendee in a wide array of costumes, made for a visual spectacle and a fun night.

Revelers at "Masque of the Red Death," Akron Civic Theatre, 2013.

Revelers at “Masque of the Red Death,” Akron Civic Theatre, 2013.

As happened in Poe’s tale, the Akron Civic Theatre had dancers who cavorted about as guests arrived (via members of Neos Dance Theatre, a Knight Arts grantee), and it had music in the form of a band (Shivering Timbers) playing lively tunes, fencers, and like Poe’s buffoons, there were giant stalking creatures (carried by masked porters) who gamboled around as guests arrived. The sense of detail for the event gave a polished air to the goings-on.

In the mezzanine of the old theater local fortunetellers, mediums, and the like gave readings for attendees. The lines were pretty long as most people waited their turn. In the upstairs room on the fourth floor, a cameraman was busy creating a 2013 version of the tale by having attendees read a line or two from Poe’s tale. He will edit the takes and put the whole thing together, a nice online souvenir for guests who came for the evening.

Organizers had two pricing levels, both of which made sense for an entire evening. $50 got you good and beer, wine, soft drinks, and water, and $75 added on stronger spirits. Thus the 21-year old age limit made plenty of sense. The food was various so that no one should have wanted for something to eat.

This is the fourth year for Masque of the Red Death. By seeing how much fun attendees were having, the tradition should live on.