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‘Nightfall’ student actors darken stage for full season


After more than a year of performing restrictions, UNK Theatre is back with its first full season since the onset of the pandemic with “Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe” by Eric Coble. From beating hearts to closed-in dungeons, the production touches on a number of Poe’s classic works just in time for the Halloween season.

The macabre world of Poe provides an escape from the realities the world has faced over the past year. 

“Every year we always kind of think ‘What’s a great Halloween show?’” said Darin Himmerich, director of the production. “I know it’s macabre… but there’s so many bad things going on in life. I think it’s a release. Even though it’s horrific stuff, it’s a relief from the horrific stuff we deal with day to day right now.”

The realities of the pandemic didn’t leave the production process unhindered. 

Daily temperature logs and masked rehearsals were standard for the cast and crew of the show. This process was also followed last year for Miriam Drake productions.

The lead actor caught a slight fever during one daily temperature check, prompting the stage manager to send him home to protect the cast.

“There was one Sunday where I was sent away because I had too high of a temperature,” said Bryce Emde, who plays the titular character as a mostly narrative lead to the story. “I didn’t feel like it, but my head was like, ‘Yeah, no, you’re about a 99. Go home.’”

Despite the hiccup, rehearsals continued without a hitch the rest of the week as his temperature readings cleared up. 

“When people came back, they sort of jumpstarted everybody else because they had had a night off,” Himmerich said. “They’re revving to sort of show everybody that they missed a night, but they’re not going to be behind the eight ball. It sort of propelled us forward to a certain extent.”

Headed into opening night, the cast is excited to share the stories of “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell Tale Heart,” some of Poe’s darkest and most dramatic works.

But despite the heavy themes, the show manages to keep its head above the water and still provide an enjoyable experience for Poe fanatics and more casual audiences alike.

“Everyone loves a good spooky story, and I think Darin did a great job creating this really interesting dynamic where it’s a scary story on stage,” said Tony Koetters, a senior entering his last semester of collegiate acting with the role of Edgar. “ You don’t see that — you never see that. Yes, it deals with some uncomfortable subject matter as horror stories do, but it still has it’s way of engaging the audience and knows how to lighten the mood.”

From wry-laugh inducing one-liners to a viscerally mimed dungeon experience, the actors provide a sweeping range of moods for an audience to enjoy and immerse themselves in. 

“It’s the way he tells it — it’s sort of juicy,” Himmerich said. “I mean if we’re talking about the Iraq War, there’s nothing juicy about that. But this guy being driven insane because he’s looking at an eye that bothers him to the point where he kills him? There’s something juicy in that.”

The descriptive aspects of Poe’s writing pulled Himmerich toward the play for his first directing experience.

“I’ve always loved Poe and when this came up I was like, ‘I want to do it,’” Himmerich said. “I’ve actually never directed before, so for me everything has been a new discovery. I think it’s a lot of fun coming back from COVID.”

“Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe” opens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6.-Oct. 9, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Oct. 10. 

Precautions for COVID should be taken as according to UNK guidelines.  

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