Meet Emily Dickinson, Paranormal Investigator!

It's 1849 and New York is a gritty, grimy city filled with ghosts, ghouls, and irresponsible transcendentalists. After a string of curious incidents Emily Dickinson, New England's premiere paranormal investigator, and her estranged mentor Edgar Allan Poe are on the case! Armed with esoteric knowledge and brass knuckles—not to mention a strong grasp on both blank and metered verse—they venture to Brooklyn on the trail of a horrifying new adversary.

Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator is an ahistorical romp through poetry and Americana with ghosts, ghouls, and more!

Part of the 2016 FRIGID festival.

Follow the tag #spookyscaryliterary on Twitter and Tumblr for behind-the-scenes goodies.


Praise for Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator

"This is a new level of geek theater." - Michael Block, Theater In The Now

"Todd Brian Backus’s period fantasy-comedy gleefully incorporates poetry, old-style speech patterns, fight choreography, dance, and even a rap number into its over-the-top story of paranormal doings and literary sleuthing." - Jon Sobel, Blogcritics

"A speedily paced opening promises a bloody comic-book joyride à la the great imaginative sagas of the Vampire Cowboys."- Jon Sobel, Blogcritics

"An exciting combination of camp, suspense, and nerdy literature references, Emily Dickinson is a fun ride for anyone who enjoys genre mashups." - Sarah Weber, Theater is Easy

"Backus’ quick-witted characters and his knack at genre-bending when you least expect it keeps the audience wrapped up in the adventure.” - Sarah Weber, Theater is Easy


Publicity Photos

Photos by Todd Brian Backus
Shown: Heather Harvey, Briana Sakamoto*, Daniel Morgan Shelley*, Marina Shay*, and Leigh Poulos.

Hot Pepper Theater

Playwright Todd Brian Backus and Director Ben Ferber talk about the play after taking a taste of Wicked Nightmare 2 Million Scoville extract.


Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator

a new play by Todd Brian Backus | directed by Ben Ferber

Featuring: Heather Harvey (Emily Dickinson), Leigh Poulos (Walt Whitman), Briana Sakamoto* (The Fox Sisters),
Marina Shay* (Helen Hunt Jackson), Daniel Morgan Shelley* (Edgar Allan Poe)

Nora Sørena Casey (producer), Ellie Frances (stage manager), Emily White (costume design), Rachel Graf Evans (properties design),
Jeff Sherwood (sound design), Cheyenne Sykes (lighting design), Conor Mullen & Callan Suozzi-Rearic (fight choreography)

*Member of Actors' Equity Association


Who's Who

Todd Brian Backus (Playwright) is a director/producer/illustrator/photographer and now playwright. Directing credits include: Derek & the Sheep by Nora Sørena Casey, Let’s Play Play by Ben Ferber (GamePlay, FRIGID), The Shadow by Shannon Stockwell (PortFringe), For the Lulz by Ben Ferber (Portland Stage Studio Rep), Bystanders by Shannon Stockwell, and three installments of his staged reading series StageWhispers all with PowerOut. As an illustrator Todd has designed for LCT3, The NY Neo Futurists, and Portland Stage. He is a cofounder of the NYC-based PowerOut (poweroutnyc.com) and its webseries Hot Pepper Theater (youtube.com/hotpeppertheater) where he eats habaneros while reviewing theater (it’s just as idiotic as it sounds). Todd’s obsession with the occult led him to wonder "which writers might be ghost hunters?" Find out more at toddbrianbackus.com and follow his rants just about everywhere @TBBackus

Ben Ferber (Director) is a director/playwright whose work focuses on technology and the Internet, and sometimes literature and authorship. Recent directing credits include For the Lulz, Take the Car (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Not Afraid (PowerOut), and Aliterary Reading (The Shed). He has created and directed short works for Brain Melt Consortium titled Illuminati Confirmed and Keynote Speech and a short work for the WCMA museum titled Andy Warhol Was Actually Part of a Heist on the Moon. He is a directing company member of New York Madness and has worked in the artistic departments at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Lark, Portland Stage Company, and Cape May Stage. He is a co–Artistic Producer of PowerOut and co-runs the theater review show Hot Pepper Theater, on which he eats very hot peppers for art. You can find info about him at benferber.com.

Nora Sørena Casey (Producer) is a playwright, dramaturge, and co-Artistic Producer of PowerOut. Recent plays include Take the Car (Williamstown Theatre Festival Director’s Lab); Not Afraid (PowerOut); and the site-specific Derek & the SheepIntimate Bar Plays, and Absolutely Somewhere (The Motor Company). Nora is this season’s Playwright-In-Residence for Athena Writes. Dramaturgy projects include the development of The Universe is a Small Hat by Cesar Alvarez (Joe’s Pub, Prelude 2013); workshops of LYLAS by Jackie Sibblies Drury (Lark Studio Retreat); and contributing to The Civilians cabaret Holy Matrimony! (Joe's Pub).

Heather Harvey (Emily Dickinson) is a Brooklyn-based  performer, producer, and writer. She is a founding member of Black Revolutionary Theatre Workshop, with whom she recently performed Revolution at Bridgeport PAC and is developing new work. She is also an executive producer and writer for the sex-positive feminist webseries, Awkrotika. Favorite credits include Medea in The Colored Museum and Viola in Twelfth Night.

Leigh Poulos (Walt Whitman) has worked regionally (Portland Stage, Luna Stage, Shadowland Theater) and locally at many venues, including recently Off Broadway in the Saved by the Bell parody Bayside! the Musical. She co-created, wrote, and starred in two seasons of the award-winning LGBT web series Dates Like This (www.dateslikethisseries.com). Film: The Color Wheel, Neighbors (upcoming), The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac (upcoming). This spring, Leigh will be part of Meet Me at the Fountain, a promenade style, immersive theater experience for families with Lincoln Center Education at the Lincoln Center campus. She's a sixth year Story Pirate actor and teacher, as well as teaching artist with The Park Avenue Armory and the Stuttering Association for the Young, among others. Infinite xo's to her peeps. As Walt says, "I have learned that to be with those I like is enough". BFA NYU. www.leighpoulos.com

Briana Sakamoto* (The Fox Sisters) is thrilled to make her FRIGID Festival debut with PowerOut. Selected credits: Third Witch in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (of the Oppressed); Betsey (lead) in TheatreworksUSA’s The Adventures of Curious George national tour (including Off-Broadway); Julie in Julie of the Wolves at the American Museum of Natural History (after two years of creative involvement in the project); Vivian (lead) in Magic, an NYU film. She is also a member of the NJ Repertory Company. Briana has sung operatic roles with Opera on Tap NY, dell’Arte Opera Ensemble, Underworld Productions Opera, Manhattan Opera Studio, and Garden State Opera. She has premiered music by composers David Gaita and Jeremiah Bornfield. Briana is a Feldenkrais ATM Teacher, and will be a full practitioner in 2017. She is a singer-songwriter, occasional yoga model, children’s concert performer, and music and theater teacher. Briana is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. She is represented by Francesca Francois-Grimaldi, Plaza 7 Talent.

Marina Shay* (Helen Hunt Jackson) is a Brooklyn-based actor and playwright hailing from the Chicago area. Favorite roles include Sasha in Ivanov (Trinity Repertory Company), Iphigenia in Iphigenia 2.0 (Cleveland Public Theater), Eleanor in Pulse (The Guthrie), and Roxanne in Cyrano De Bergerac (Heartwood Theater). Marina is a graduate of Oberlin College and Brown/Trinity Rep's MFA program.

Daniel Morgan Shelley* (Edgar Allan Poe) is thrilled to be working with PowerOut and this amazing cast and crew. He was last seen at 59E59th in Pimm's Mission with Oberon Theatre Ensemble. He also played the title role in Oberon's production of Othello. Other favorite credits include Devil Music at the EST One-Act Marathon; Hamlet at Classic Stage Company; Romeo & Juliet, King Lear, The Three Musketeers, and Love's Labour’s Lost at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival; Romeo & Juliet with Classical Theatre of Harlem; Safe House at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; and Clybourne Park at the Geva & Cleveland Playhouse. Mr Shelley originated roles in the world premieres of The Insurgents at Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Find & Sign at Pioneer Theatre Company, and The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller at the ArcLight. TV: Law Order, Blue Bloods, Law & Order: SVU, Person of Interest. Training: Juilliard. DanielMorganShelley.com "No Day But Today!"

Ellie Frances (stage manager) is thrilled to be joining the PowerOut team for this exciting new work. Her background in production is everything from properties design and stage management, to directing and producing. Some of her favorite projects include: The Ladies Man (GRCC), 4Stories (ArtPrize 2014), 4000 Miles (Actors' Theatre), If They'd Only Let Me (Actors' Theatre), The Garden Of Good and Evil Fundraising Gala (Grand Rapids DownTown Market) and New Bride Bridal Show -4yrs (New Bride Magazine).

Emily White (costume design) is a freelance costume designer and current MFA candidate at Tisch School of the Arts. Recent work includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with NYU’s Graduate Acting Department and directed by Tamilla Woodard, as well as  Let’s Play Play for the FRIGID festival and the Brick’s Game Play festival, and Joker at the New York Fringe festival. Assistant design work includes Awake & Sing (NAATCO & the Public Theater) and the new musical Hundred Days at Z Space. Regionally she has worked for The California Shakespeare Theater (Costume Design Assistant) and The American Conservatory Theater (Costume Shop Admin Assistant) among others.

Rachel Graf Evans (properties design) is a feminist writer and theatre artist (& generally craftastic maniac) most interested in silenced and forgotten stories. She is returning to PowerOutPropWorld after designing last season's Not Afraid. She has also propped with New Georges (Primal Play; The Vaults; Goldor$Mythyka; AliceGraceAnon); LCT3 (Verité); and Kathy Fabian's Propstar! NYC Playwriting Credits include Stranger Odds: A Queer Little Rom Com; Ravishing Medusa; Inch by Inch; and Mary, My Belovèd. RGE is the founder of the new theatre laboratory Mots de Changer, sings barbershop with the Sirens of Gotham, and appears from time to time on everyone's favorite web series Hot Pepper Theater. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. www.rachelgrafevans.com

Jeff Sherwood (sound design) Recent Sound Design credits include Williamstown Theatre Festival PTP (MA): Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline, Take the Car; VH Theatrical Development (NY): For Heavens’ Sake! (Associate); Marymount Manhattan College (NY): The Light in the Piazza, O Pioneers!, Polaroid Stories (Co-Design); Totem Pole Playhouse (PA): The Nerd, A Christmas Carol, Godspell, The Foreigner, Steel Magnolias; Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (OK): The Mystery of Irma Vep. Special recognition includes two-time award recipient of the KC/ACTF Region VI Sound Design Award and National Finalist; John and Helen Meyer Scholarship for Live Design Broadway Sound Master Classes (2012).  BFA Theatre Design and Production, Oklahoma City University.  www.sherwoodsound.com

Cheyenne Sykes (lighting design) is a multi-disciplinary designer and graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Theatre Design Program; she has recently relocated to New York City from Edmonton, Canada. This past summer Cheyenne had work displayed in the Canadian Student Section at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial. In the summer previous she served as an electrics intern at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Currently, she is a studio intern for Justin Townsend. Recent credits include: Set Design for Rock and Roll Refugee (Royal Family Productions), Lighting/ Costume Design for Ursa Major (Catch the Keys Productions), Lighting/Set Design for The Seagull (Schapiro Theatre), Lighting/ Projection Design for The Rocky Horror Show LIVE (Merchant’s Hall), Costume Design for We Were Wild Once Episode 6 (Built for Collapse). Upcoming: Lighting/Costume Design for Underwater (Built for Collapse), Co-Design for The Runcible Riddle (Catch the Keys Productions).

Conor Mullen (fight choreography) is possessed with excitement to be a fight choreographer on this show. Previous fight choreography work includes productions of Twelfth Night with Foothills Theatre Company in Colorado as well as productions of Taming of the Shrew and Romeo & Juliet alongside Callan. Conor is also an actor, director, improviser, and teacher (including stage combat). Check him out at www.conordmullen.com! He would like to thank his friends, family, and his partner in combat: Callan, with whom he would gladly fight ghosts and demons any day.

Callan Suozzi-Rearic (fight choreography) is excited to be part of the world premiere of this new work. Her recent fight work includes the Fools & Kings Project's Julius Caesar (Fight Captain/Blood Tech), Saratoga Shakespeare's Macbeth (Fight Captain), and Lion's Tooth Theater Company's Romeo & Juliet (Fight Choreographer/Fight Captain). She has apprenticed under Doug Seldin and worked with Shakespeare & Company's Jason Aspery. Callan is also an actor based in NYC. Her recent NYC acting credits include Vulcan Production's world premiere of The Island Boys (Elizabeth/Others), Princess Bailey in Green Spark Production's Here We Dance, and Biondello/Curtis in the Fools & Kings Project's the Taming of the Shrew. Callan is a graduate of Skidmore College with a B.S. in Theater and has studied with Shakespeare & Company and the Humanist Project. She currently studies acting with Ken Schatz.

*Member of Actors' Equity Association