Actor John Astin stars as Edgar Allan Poe in his one- man show, Edgar Allan Poe--Once upon a midnight , at 8 p.m., Friday, April 20, in Shriver Hall of The Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. The performance celebrates the official opening of the Homewood campus's new student arts center, which will be named and dedicated that day at 4 p.m.
Astin is currently a visiting professor of dramatic arts in the Writing Seminars at Hopkins. He is teaching three classes in acting and directing this semester for Hopkins undergraduates. He is the first of what the university hopes will be many distinguished actors, directors and playwrights in residence at the students' arts center in the coming years.
His stay at Homewood is a return appearance for Astin. He is a 1952 graduate of Johns Hopkins who holds a degree in drama, from the days when the Writing Seminars was known as the Department of Writing, Speech and Drama.
Astin has performed Edgar Allan Poe--Once upon a midnight , written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid and directed by Alan Bergmann, to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in over 50 U.S. cities and Australia. This summer, he plans to perform the play in festivals in Europe. This is his fourth tour of the play, which he hopes will help to deepen interest in Poe's brilliance and versatility.
"I feel that Poe, through his own tortured existence, gained deep insight into the nature of the universe, along with an intense love and appreciation for life itself," Astin said recently. "Through this play, I want to share that impression with others."
Astin is, of course, best known as Gomez Addams, the lovable, slightly crazed patriarch of the original Addams Family television series, the myriad repeats of which have led to the frequent reference to Astin as a "pop-culture icon." Gomez remains one of his favorite TV characterizations, along with Buddy Ryan in Night Court and the title role in Evil Roy Slade.
Among Mr. Astin's films are West Side Story, That Touch of Mink with Doris Day and Cary Grant, The Wheeler Dealers, Move Over Darling, Candy, Viva Max, Pepper, Get to Know Your Rabbit, The Brothers O'Toole, Freaky Friday, European Vacation, Nightlife, Gremlins II, Stepmonster, Huck and the King of Hearts, Peter Jackson's The Frighteners, and Betaville.
Astin received an Academy Award nomination for Prelude, a short film he wrote, produced and directed. He was nominated for an Ace Award for his work on Tales from the Crypt, and received an Emmy nomination as the cartoon voice of Gomez on ABC-TV's The Addams Family. His voice is popular on radio and in animation series. He served for four years on the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America West, and is active in community affairs in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
He was born in Baltimore and grew up in Washington, D.C. After he graduated from Hopkins, he did graduate work in English literature at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Valerie. He has five sons and a 4-year-old granddaughter.
Tickets are $20 for the general public, $10 for students. Proceeds from the performance will go to the Writing Seminars' Graduate Fellowship Fund. For ticket information, call Crystal Hooper, 410-516-8209. Hopkins alumni should call 410-516-5185.
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