On a role as Poe

Conversations

August 01, 1999|By ROB HIAASEN | ROB HIAASEN,SUN STAFF

David Keltz from Seton Hill has been portraying Edgar Allan Poe in one-man shows since 1992, and regularly performs at the Poe museums in Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia.

This weekend, Keltz arrives in the Czech Republic capital of Prague for the International Poe Festival, where the 54-year-old actor will be performing through October. We talked with Poe's impersonator -- out of character -- before he left Baltimore:

Your resume says you perform an abbreviated one-man show. How much do you charge for 10 minutes?

Two hundred and fifty dollars. If I'm just mingling and interacting at a party, I charge $150 an hour. A full-length, one-hour performance in season costs $1,500.

In season?

Yes, the Poe busy season is October. Halloween.

Whose Poe is better -- yours or [actor] John Astin's?

I prefer mine very much to his. He's a very nice guy, but I'm a more well-rounded actor. I have more of a feel for the character than he does.

Your resume says you trained at Barry Price's Stage Combat Workshop in Baltimore. Who is Barry Price and what did you learn?

Barry Price is an actor and a stunt man. ... What I learned is the person being hit draws the most attention.

If Poe had a Web site, what would it be?

www.stylist.com.

In your Poe character, you have done commercials for the Baltimore Ravens and for Raven beer. Have you ever drunk Raven beer?

Oh, yes. I like it. I think they gave me a six-pack at the time I was doing the spot.

You've also portrayed H.L. Mencken and D.H. Lawrence in one-man shows. Are folks clamoring for you to perform as, say, Art Modell?

No, they are not.

Tell us a good Poe story.

I was asked to perform at a convention. They asked me if I could have something in the show that would appeal to their group. "What do you have in mind?" Well, the man said, did any of Poe's stories say anything about bones? "The Cask of Amontillado," I said. "Good, good," the man said. It was an ultrasound group. "And we study bones. Do you think you could mention the fibula? We really study the fibula," the man said. I told him that would be fine. "Now," the man said, "the outer shell of the bone is called the cortical. Could you mention the cortical?" And so, thinking fast, I changed a line in "Cask of Amontillado." I said something like, "Throwing the bones aside, removing a large quantity of fibula ... and crushing a great deal of cortical." They responded by laughing.

What's the strangest place you have ever performed?

I don't know if you consider this strange, but I played Poe on a charter bus tour in Baltimore.

Ever play bachelorette parties?

Those I have not done.

Poe married his 13-year-old cousin. How do you think that would go over today?

Years later, Jerry Lee Lewis did the same thing and it caused quite an uproar. It would be even worse today for Poe. He would be looked upon as a child molester.

Did he have a sense of humor?

Oh, he did. It was just not one many people saw at the time. Poe wrote a comic story called "The Spectacles" about a man too vain to wear glasses. He ended up marrying his grandmother.

Is Poe's life more interesting than your own?

Well, I'm glad I'm not Poe ... my life is a lot happier than his was, certainly.

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