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Archive for Friday, August 18, 2006

Gorey house charming, not gory

August 18, 2006

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— Two little legs, one slightly askew with a sneaker lace undone, poke out from underneath the blue living room rug.

Sitting on a shelf, a little girl peers out from the ice block in which she's encased. Another little boy is the target of a ravenous group of mice.

The 26 doomed children at the Edward Gorey House are characters from "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," written and illustrated by Gorey.

His story begins "A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil, assaulted by bears," and continues through a series of fatal scenarios - "W is for Winnie, embedded in ice, X is for Xerxes devoured by mice."

Dolls posed as the children are scattered around the house, the illustrator's home from 1986 until 2000, when he died at age 75 of a heart attack. The Highland Street Foundation, an organization that funds nonprofits, bought the house for just more than $400,000 and reopened it as a museum showcasing all things Gorey.

Gorey's random collections, including one of cheese graters, have been turned into exhibits, displayed carefully next to glass shelves showing off original drawings, toys and a Tony Award he won for the costume and set design for the critically acclaimed 1977 Broadway play "Dracula."

His work in the theater inspired the museum's current exhibit, "Edward Gorey's Dracula," which closes Dec. 17. The exhibit features original art, set designs and costumes - including the evolution, in sketches, of the flowing black outfit that Frank Langella wore on stage as the count.

Gravestones stand in a make-believe cemetery near the Edward Gorey house in Yarmouth Port, Mass. The graveyard - the final resting places of the characters in his book "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" - is part of an exhibit that commemorates the life of artist and author Gorey at the house where he lived from 1986 until 2000, when he died at age 75.

Gravestones stand in a make-believe cemetery near the Edward Gorey house in Yarmouth Port, Mass. The graveyard - the final resting places of the characters in his book "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" - is part of an exhibit that commemorates the life of artist and author Gorey at the house where he lived from 1986 until 2000, when he died at age 75.

And next week the museum will host a Dracula-themed blood drive. The morbidly philanthropic event will feature technicians in black capes and donors with the bite mark of Dracula - in paint - on their necks.

Gorey illustrated hundreds of other books, and drew the opening and closing scenes for PBS's "Mystery!" where shifty characters glide back and forth across the screen and three identical detectives follow their trail.

Despite Gorey's flair for the macabre, there is hardly any actual violence depicted in the books or displays at the Gorey House. Knickknacks and oversized drawings make it a blast for children.

Outside, under the magnolia, are graves for the Tinies children. A few other characters, including the Doubtful Guest, a creature from a Gorey book of the same name, linger in the yard.

Rick Jones, the director and curator of the museum, was also a friend of Gorey's for 15 years.

Jones said it would have been difficult to spend so much time in his friend's house right after he died, but he finds joy in his work.

"It's been a long time now," he said, sorting through pieces for the show. "It feels good to perpetuate Ed's legend."

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