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The Poets' Theatre

After graduation in 1950, Gorey stayed in Cambridge and helped to establish the Poets' Theatre. The Poets' Theatre was first established by a group of poets living in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the fall of 1950. Their objective was to revive poetic drama and generate work by poets who "would act, administrate, direct, and sell tickets, while retaining total control of their own writing." Members included Richard Eberhart, John Ciardi, Richard Wilbur, V. R. (Violet Ranney "Bunny") Lang, Hugh Amory, John Ashbery, Edward Gorey, Donald Hall, William Matchett, George Montgomery, Frank O'Hara, Lyon Phelps, and others. Except for V. R. Lang, they were all attending Harvard College, or had recently graduated from it. Other names associated with the theater were: Alison Lurie, Kenneth Koch, Mary Manning Howe, Catharine Huntington, Edward Albert Thommen, and William Morris Hunt. In 1968 the theater building on Palmer Street burned down and the Poets' Theatre ended. In October of 1986, a celebration was held in the Agassiz Theatre in Cambridge to memorialize the Poets' Theatre, called by Edward Gorey a nostalgic "wake." Source:  Houghton Library, Harvard University.

In a talk given at The Edward Gorey House in October 2008, Alison Lurie reminisces, "In 1950 we both became involved in the Poets’ Theatre of Cambridge—Ted designed the posters and programs, I worked on costumes and makeup—eventually we both wrote short plays for performance—his was called Amabel, or The Partition of Poland. I’ve written about all this in a memoir of V.R. (Violet Ranney “Bunny”) Lang, the poet who was one of the founders of the Poets’ Theatre, so I won’t say much about it, except that Ted helped to create its distinctive style and was one of the sanest and calmest people in the whole organization.” Curious, Beastly & Doubtful Days: Alison Lurie on Edward 'Ted' Gorey. October 4, 2008, Yarmouth Port, MA.

 Gorey’s extensive involvement in The Poets’ Theatre, writing, directing, and doing sets is demonstrated by a double sided flyer (20” x 5”) for an entertainment in February 1952.  At the request of Andreas Brown, Gorey indicated his extensive involvement in these entertainments by signing next to his pseudonym.  Pseudonyms which heretofore were unknown.  Relevant portions of the flyer are provided here.

Poets’ Theatre
An Entertainment
20-21 February 1952


The Children’s Hour
By Miss Mary Manning and Mr. Edmund Godelpus (Edward Gorey)
One:  Sir George and the Dragon a Marionette Play by Miss Alison Lurie
Two:  Undine by Mr. Eldritch Gorm (Edward Gorey)
Three:  A Bottle of Wine. A Pathetic Play by Mr. Lionel Philips
Four:  At Battles End. A Big Play by Miss Perl Gans
Five:  Living Statues. Five Tableaux on Classical Themes




Six:  A Poetry Reading with Lantern Slides an Interpretive Dance
Seven:  The Federalist Papers by Mr.Hugh Amory
Eight:  Three Songs by Mr. Ladislaus Prawn
Nine:  The Teddy-Bear a Sinister Play by Mr. Egmont Glebe (Edward Gorey)
The Last:  Henry VIII, Part II; or, the Change of Wife by Miss Maud Locksley
The Entertainment directed by Mr. Ector Gasmantle (Edward Gorey)


Gorey is also listed on the flyer.

For the Poets’ Theatre
Mr. Richard Eberhart
Mr. Lyon Phelps
Miss V.R. Lang, Secretary
Mr. William Matchett, Treasurer
Mr. Edward Gorey, Art

End of Flyer