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Stephen Mills’ Poe / A Tale of Madness

Stephen Mills’ Poe / A Tale of Madness


Explore the haunted life and works of America’s original master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. With a newly commissioned score by award-winning composer Graham Reynolds and libretto by Shawn Sides, this thrilling experience is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat!

MUSIC | Graham Reynolds (Commissioned)
LIBRETTO | Shawn Sides
SET DESIGN | Michael B. Raiford
COSTUME DESIGN | Margaret Mitchell
LIGHTING DESIGN | Tony Tucci & Erin Earle Fleming
HAIR & MAKEUP | Wendy Sanders
86 minutes including a 20-minute intermission
Graham Reynolds’ original score commissioned by Ballet Austin and funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts.


Videos by Paul Michael Bloodgood and Jazz Collins


Images by Anne Marie Bloodgood


“Stephen Mills assembled a team of collaborators from among Austin’s most exciting performing arts creatives. The result is a mysterious web of dance storytelling that explores madness, trauma, and loss, some of the themes Mills has returned to time and again throughout his career.”

Courtney Thomas

“…how this production drips with Gothic splendor. Mills has assembled his supersquad of local talent, atop-tier list of past collaborators creating Poe’s harrowing tale. Honestly, there’s too much to praise in this production.”

Cat McCarrey
The Austin Chronicle

“Since he famously set a full-length ‘Hamlet’ to the music of Philip Glass almost a quarter of a century ago, Mills has repeatedly found a knack for turning cultural artifacts into completely new, living, breathing ballets.”

Michael Barnes
Austin American Statesman



Costume designs by Margaret Mitchell


Scenic designs by Michael B. Raiford


Concept & Choreography
Scenic Designer
Costume Designer
Lighting Design
Lighting Design
Hair & Makeup

Known for his innovative and collaborative choreographic projects, Stephen Mills has works in the repertoires of dance companies across the United States and around the world.

His international career began in 1998 after being chosen Prix d’Auteur at les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris.  In his inaugural season as Artistic Director of Ballet Austin in 2000, Mills attracted national attention with Hamlet, hailed by Dance Magazine as “…sleek and sophisticated.”

Mills’ works showcased at The Kennedy Center include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, and performances at the Ballet Across America Festival in collaboration with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

In 2005 Mills developed a community-wide human rights collaborative dialogue culminating in his signature work Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project for which he received the Audrey and Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award from The Anti-Defamation League. Mills contributed a podcast about Light to the Voices on Anti-Semitism series at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was invited to speak about the work at The United Nations in 2014.  Light has been performed in five U.S. cities, in three cities in Israel, and was recently featured in an Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary, Sharing Light.


Called “the quintessential modern composer” by the London Independent, Austin-based composer-bandleaderimproviser Graham Reynolds records and performs music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls. He recently scored Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Annapurna Pictures) with Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, and Laurence Fishburne, Happy Jail (Netflix), Stop Hitting Yourself (Lincoln Center Theater), Out of Her Mind (BBC), Grimm Tales (Ballet Austin), and a multi-year commission from Ballroom Marfa, The Marfa Triptych, culminating in his Creative Capital Award winning project Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance. Amidst his many other projects, Graham also serves as the Artistic Director of the new music focused non-profit Golden Hornet. In 2020, Graham signed with London-based record label Fire Records and released his original score for Alfred Hitchcock’s silent classic, The Lodger, with a forthcoming album of original material in 2024.

Shawn Sides has been a performer, director and producer in Austin, TX and occasionally New York for 20 years. She’s a founder and a Co-Producing Artistic Director of Rude Mechs in Austin, TX where she has co-conceived, co-adapted, and directed a new work every year, give or take, since 1996, including Off-Broadway and touring productions of Lipstick Traces, Get Your War On, Stop Hitting Yourself, rudes’ Creative Capital supported project The Method Gun, and their ”re-enactment” of The Performance Group’s Dionysus in 69. Current projects include Rudes’ adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov Field Guide, and From the Pig Pile: Requisite Gesture(s) of Narrow Approach by Sibyl Kempson. Shawn is an Alpert/Hedgebrook Prize recipient and was inducted with her fellow Rudes into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2010. She recieved a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2015.

Michael B. Raiford (Scenic Design) Scenic and Costume designer from Austin, Texas.
For Ballet Austin: The Magic Flute, The Mozart Project, Belle REDUX / A Tale of Beauty & the Beast, Exit Wounds.

Additional Ballet: Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet.

Upcoming: Oklahoma City And Nevada Ballet. His Designs for Septime Weber’s “Wizard of Oz” Ballet were honored by the “Benois de la Danse” at the Bolshoi Ballet. “Oz” will soon be seen at the Hong Kong Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and Pittsburgh Ballet.

In Austin: ZACH Theatre, Rude Mechanicals, Hyde Park Theatre, and Zilker Summer Musical.

Additional Credits: Opera Boston, Central City Opera, South Coast Repertory Theatre, The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), City Theatre (Pittsburgh), Cleveland Playhouse, Geva Theatre Center, Playmakers Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.), New Victory Theatre (New York), Merrimack Repertory Theatre, The Lyric Theatre (Oklahoma City), Antaeus Company (LA), Shelter VG4 Theatre (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), 20 productions with Actors Theatre of Louisville, and twelve world premieres for the Humana Festival. Director of “Blast: The Music of Disney” in Tokyo, Japan. M.F.A. The University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for 10 years. He is a Member of United Scenic Artists.

Margaret Mitchell has designed costumes and scenery professionally for over 30 years across the USA and in New Zealand. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and is a Professor Emerita at the University of the Incarnate Word. Ms. Mitchell’s design work has represented the United States at the Prague Quadrennial three times and has also been exhibited at World Stage Design. Recently her costumes and costume designs have been included in two exhibitions at the McNay Art Museum and at El Centro Nacional a Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Ms. Mitchell’s costume designs are published in Rebecca Cunningham’s book, The Magic Garment, and in Brockett and Ball’s The Essential Theatre. Her design work is part of the permanent collection of Tobin Theatre Arts Collection housed in the McNay Art Museum.

Tony Tucci has been resident lighting designer for Ballet Austin’s repertory, for 34 years, lighting designer/director for Ben Stevenson’s Texas Ballet Theater and Bruce Wood Dance. Recently designed Flemming Flindt’s Phaedra Ballet for the Mariinsky Theatre in Vladivostok Russia. Tucci created the lighting designs for Bernstein’s Mass at the Long Center in June 2018. In September 2018, Tucci designed a new production of Cinderella, choreographed by Ben Stevenson for the National Ballet of China. Tucci and has created designs for national and international dance companies: Washington Ballet, Houston Dance Salad, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Colorado Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet West, Cirque Ziva-Golden Dragon Acrobats, Royal Danish Ballet, Winnipeg and Swedish Ballets, Hong Kong Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Ballet Contemporaneo de Caracas, Christopher Bruce’s Kingdom- Geneva Ballet, Flemming Flindt’s Caroline Mathilde and Lucifer’s Daughter-Royal Danish Ballet. Tucci has designed for musical theater, including Austin productions of Damn Yankees, Carousel, West Side Story, Annie, Gypsy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Music Man, Oklahoma, A Chorus Line, Carousel and Sound of Music as well as Charles Duggan’s productions of Dames at Sea in San Francisco and at the Goodspeed Opera House. For 1996 Summer Olympics, Tucci designed for the Cultural Olympiad, showcasing national and international companies. He is the recipient of two Iden Payne Awards and Critics Table awards for lighting in Austin.

Erin Earle Fleming is a NYC based lighting designer whose art illuminates the human experience through inclusive storytelling. Her work encompasses opera, dance, and plays across the United States. Her selected credits include: Kiss (Yale Repertory Theatre); Tosca, The Medium (Northern Lights Music Festival); A Woman’s Life (Da Camera); Xander Xyst, Dragon:1 (ArsNova ANT Fest); Sweat, If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka: An understanding of a West African Folktale, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Blood Wedding, and Macbeth (Yale School of Drama); The Feels…(KMS), Re:Union, MoonSong, Current Location, Kaspar (Yale Cabaret); Les Enfants Terribles (Butler Opera Center); Bus Stop, Love and Information (Mary Moody Northern Theatre); Pinocchio, ScienceTricks (ZACH Theatre); Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Doctuh Mistuh Production); and The Attic Space (Palindrome Theatre). Erin also previously worked as the assistant production manger of Ballet Austin. She is the Resident Associate Lighting Designer at Texas Ballet Theatre and teaches at Mississippi State University. A native Texan, she holds a BA from St. Edward’s University and an MFA from Yale School of Drama.

Wendy Sanders has been working in wigs, hair, and makeup for theater, film, television, and photoshoots for over 20 years. She has won awards for her theatrical makeup and wig work here in Austin as well as in Colorado where she went to college. Her work can be seen on the stages of Austin Opera, Atlanta Opera, the occasional local theatrical production, and of course Ballet Austin. She is thrilled anytime a production wants to bring drama, fantasy, or especially glitter to the stage! When not slinging wigs and makeup, Wendy is an award-winning performance artist in aerial arts and burlesque, performing and teaching around the globe, under the name Ginger Snaps.


October 7, 1849 – Baltimore.  Poe dies of a mysterious illness.  He had been discovered in a gutter, delirious, wearing someone else’s clothing.  His last confirmed contact had been five days prior in Richmond, Virginia, as he boarded a ship on his way to a speaking engagement in New York.  Poe spent his final days wavering between fits of delirium, gripped by hallucination.  The ballet takes place inside Poe’s mind during his last hours before death.

Act I –   Poe suffers in a hospital bed from delusions.  Death lurks.  The Imp of the Perverse (Poe’s doppelganger) appears as Poe, and Poe and his alter-ego begin their journey.  From the hospital beds rise the New York Literati.  The Imp urges Poe to impress this group of intellectuals.  He does so by sharing his most celebrated work, The Raven.  Suddenly the specter of his mother calls to him, but Death takes her.  Mother’s death spawns a vision of all the beautiful, dying women written by Poe. From the crowd, Poe spies his child-bride Sissy, and they fall in love.

In his small, poverty-stricken household, we see Poe at his writing desk while Sissy is not thriving.  The Folio Club appears.  These movers and shakers of the publishing industry gather around a large table.  Though they are impressed with Poe’s work, they will not let him join.  The men leave him to write, and The House of Usher materializes.  In the end, we see one of Poe’s characters, Madeline Usher, suffer a premature death as Sissy becomes more frail.

Act II – Everyone is having a raucous time at a party.  Poe and Sissy join the festivities, but while Poe is enjoying himself, Sissy doesn’t really fit in.  Poe is lauded and he flirts with the ladies.  Meanwhile, Death lurks and eventually takes Sissy.  Sissy is buried and Poe despairs, overcome with depression and hysteria.  Within Poe’s mind, Sissy and the Dead are revealed in their coffins, buried alive.

At the height of his desperation, Poe remembers his own Mother.  She appears and comforts him, but all too soon reality returns and Poe is restrained to his deathbed.


Licensing Information

Check back soon for information about licensing this production.

Paul Michael Bloodgood
Associate Director / Film & Video Production

Bill Sheffield
Production Director
512.476.9151, ext. 113

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