A poet and his defender

The South Jersey actress Helen Uff will perform her one-woman, two-act play “Tell-Tale Poe” at 7:30 Wednesday, October 26 at the Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township.

That’s Poe, as in Edgar Allan, by the way.

Uff, who’s a friend of mine, will perform the roles of Sarah Helen Whitman, the poet’s most ardent critical defender, in the first act, and Poe in the second.

Tickets are $15 and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Edgar Allan Poe house and museum in Baltimore.

“This is absolutely a labor of love for me,” says Uff, a longtime park ranger at the Poe national historic site in Philadelphia. “I find everything Poe has written fascinating.”

The actress has performed as Poe and Whitman since 1999, often at the Ritz but also in Philly, Baltimore and elsewhere.

More than 150 years after Poe's death, readers are still discovering the bleak majesty of his work -- a fact for which Whitman surely deserves some credit.

The critic Rufus Griswold attacked Poe relentlessly and ruthlessly, and Whitman emerged as the poet's staunchest ally, making her case in a book, “Edgar Allan Poe and His ritics.”

““She was courageous, taking on one of the most powerful publishers of her time,” says Uff, who lives in Oaklyn. “She’s a wonderful character.”

Photo credit: Gene Bradford