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One-man performance offers mystery with a twist

102716RomanLeary

Roman Leary, director of the Edgecombe County Memorial Library, continues his tradition of one-man presentations for Halloween, offering Henry Slesar's story 'The Right Kind of House' at 7 p.m. Friday at the library.

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Ross Chandler
Life Editor

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Edgecombe County Memorial Library takes on an air of mystery Friday night for a one-man production in the run up to Halloween.

Roman Leary, the library's director, will present "The Right Kind of House," a mystery written in 1958 by Henry Slesar. The 7 p.m. performance will be the eighth consecutive year Leary has offered such a show.

While Halloween is a night for fright, "The Right Kind of House" strikes a different tone. Without giving away the ending, Leary described it as a mystery, but not a whodunit, in which the two characters are doing some "unusual things."

"The mystery is, why are they doing this? What are they after?" he said. "This is a story with a classic, almost O. Henry-like, twist ending."

The selection also is a twist in the series. Leary started doing the one-man shows in 2009 with "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. He continued with Poe, doing "The Cask of Amontillado" and "Hop-Frog" in following years. But wanting something different, he branched out to other authors.

"I've done Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, and the last couple of years, I've done something a little more off the beaten track," Leary said.

Picking the story sounds as if it is almost as much of a work of art as the performance. First, the story has to be something that can be adapted; not everything a person reads will fare well as a one-man show. Leary cited another Poe story, "The Masque of the Red Death," as a great read but something that would not work on stage.

Length and intensity also are considerations. The work has to draw an audience in, but it can't run so long that guests begin to sneak glances at their watches. And while the work can be unsettling, it also needs an element of fun, even humor.

It also can't strike inordinate fear. Leary likened this to people going into a Halloween haunted house.

"They want to walk out with a grin on that face saying, "’Man, that was wild,'" the librarian-performer said.

Finally, there is the dearth of options to choose from.

"I tend to go through a lot of stuff, and it gets harder and harder every year to find something," he said.

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Coming in at about 3,000 words, "The Right Kind of House" will run about 30 minutes.

Preparing a solo performance that long sounds daunting, but Leary has a system. He starts by reading the story over and over. Along the way, he zeroes in on the personality of the characters. Each must be distinct.

"The real mastering of the material is about two weeks prior to the performance," he said.

As to memorizing a lengthy work, it's little different from something else most people do.

"I've had people say, "'I could never do that.' The truth is most people could," he said. "Everybody has memorized tons of stuff over the years. I treat this like I'm learning a song. I find the rhythm of it."

Doors open for the performance at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door or in advance at the library which includes wine, nonalcoholic beverages and heavy hors d'oeuvres at a reception before and after the performance. Proceeds benefit the Friends of Edgecombe County Memorial Library.

The library is at 909 Main St., Tarboro.

For information, call 823-1141.

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