In the Moment: ‘A Dream Within A Dream: Madness’ Playing 9/7-10/31 at The Torpedo Factory

Many know Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Arts Center (TFAC) as a re-purposed war-time munitions plant now a prominent and beloved non-profit home for artists to create works in a publicly accessible environment.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a place and space to slowly stroll through for an arts experience like few others. Patrons and gawkers have the opportunity to gaze at artists who are deep into their creative work.

Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Clemm Poe photographed at Historic Christ Church Graveyard in Alexandria, VA.
Edgar Allan Poe (Ian Blackwell Rogers) and Virginia Clemm Poe (Bette Casatt) photographed at Historic Christ Church Graveyard in Alexandria, VA. Photo by John Nelson.

Now the Torpedo Factory Association is taking a big step beyond its usual visual arts mission; a step into being a performance arts venue. The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association is bringing a production of A Dream Within a Dream: Madness to the Torpedo Factory Art Center on Alexandria’s waterfront.

The Torpedo Factory will become the home of an immersive theater experience with a visit with the legendary poet, short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe with his surreal world and times. TFAC is bringing a production of A Dream Within A Dream: Madness to Alexandria’s waterfront.

The performance piece has been developed especially for the Torpedo Factory venue by Through the 4th Wall.

The show is based on the life and works of the famed Poe, who passed away at such a young age and is buried in nearby Baltimore

Doug Bradshaw.
Doug Bradshaw.

The 4th Wall company is an Alexandria, VA based theater, film, and multimedia enterprise led by Jennifer Schwed and Doug Bradshaw. For those who saw the site-specific, award-winning performances of A Dream Within A Dream: Madness at the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival, the TFAC production is unlike any previous iterations, since the performance site is way different.

“We are honored and excited to bring immersive theater to the historic Torpedo Factory Arts Center,” said Torpedo Factory Resident Artist and Chair of the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association Community Outreach Committee Alison Sigethy.

Jennifer Schwed.
Jennifer Schwed.

The Torpedo Factory is, “A perfect venue for immersive performances, where audience members are free to explore and encounter performers in unexpected ways,” Sigethy added. “So this real-time, up-close aspect of immersive theater is a perfect complement to the real-time up-close art experience the Torpedo Factory is known for.”

According to 4th Wall’s Bradshaw, over 30 actors and dancers will perform in Madness. Both patrons and the will have “access to the venue and room to explore its three stories in a very unique, site-specific, interactive performance.”

From an interview with Bradshaw, it is clear that the audience has a key role in unraveling what is before them. The audience will not be passively seated. The audience is not being “played” to, but is part of the performance. The audience and cast are not separated from each other.

On performance nights, the multistory TFAC will be transmuted into a Victorian era “House of Mental Health.” How will this all transpire?

Virginia Clemm Poe (Bette Casatt) and Edgar Allan Poe (Ian Blackwell Rogers). Photo by John Nelson.
Virginia Clemm Poe (Bette Casatt) and Edgar Allan Poe (Ian Blackwell Rogers). Photo by John Nelson.

For A Dream Within A Dream: Madness, folk will walk right into the middle of the action; even conversing with the characters from Poe’s world. At times, the strolling audience will be broken into small groups to experience and interact with Poe’s poems and short stories in different locations throughout the TFAC. Each vignette is meant to build an understanding of Poe’s state of mental health and reasons for his current emotional infirmity.

Here is a quick take on what to expect with A Dream Within A Dream: Madness, a 90-minute show is split into three (3) parts:

In Part 1, the audience enters the Torpedo Factory to have an opportunity to get a drink at a cash bar. Characters from Madness will interact directly with them and a short series of “set scenes” will play out right in front of them. Soon enough the audience will be transported back in time to 1849 to a Masion de Sante (“House of Mental Health”).

Then In Part 2, the audience will journey through the three floors of the TFAC in small groups encountering Poe’s works, and there are many.

In Part 3, the full audience returns to the Torpedo Factory’s main atrium for a dramatic finale and conclusion

Madness is led by featured cast members Ian Blackwell Rogers (Edgar Allan Poe), Bette Cassatt (Virginia Poe – Edgar’s wife), as well as Victoria Reinsel, Alex Tydings, and John Loporto. Dancers known as “The Ravens” with have a key role throughout the performance.

“People ask if it’s like a haunted house. It’s not.” said Bradshaw. “It’s actually a love story wrapped inside an eerily suspenseful exploration of Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre and twisted psyche. It’s a sophisticated experience and it will make you think.”

So gather up your courage. Here is a unique opportunity to live inside the mind of Edgar Allen Poe and to experience his works and life. You never know what you are going to encounter around each corner.

Come if you are interested in experiencing art (in this case, theater, dance and literature) in a new, exciting and personal way. Due to the interaction with the audience, each show is a little different.


A Dream Within A Dream: Madness  plays Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday evenings, September 7 through October 31, 2016 at the Torpedo Factory Art Center – 105 North Union Street, in Alexandria, VA. Purchase tickets online.

Lauren Katz calls A Dream Within A Dream: Madness, “Clever, fascinating, and visually striking… Dream Within a Dream is a must-see event” in her Capital Fringe Review on July 11, 2014.


A Dream Within A Dream: Madness is supported primarily through a commission by the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association.



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