. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as those just looking to set the Halloween mood, will want to head downtown this weekend as three theatre entities team up to present “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe.”

The Artesia Arts Council, Ocotillo Comedy Troupe, and Artesia Community Theatre join forces for this journey through the macabre mind of Poe, which will feature three plays fashioned from some of the writer’s most beloved works: “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

“They go back-to-back-to-back with a thin line tying them together, but we all have our own separate casts,” said Laurie Schotz, AAC executive director who will also be directing “The Raven.” “It’s a joint venture between those three entities, and I don’t think that’s ever been done before, so it’s really cool.”

Ocotillo Performing Arts Center education director Lauren Austin will direct “Usher,” and longtime ACT member Sandy Schuetz will helm “Heart.”

Schotz says the groups have been rehearsing separately but will get together this week to work on the piece-to-piece transition. The evening also progresses in time, with “The Raven” set in Poe’s own time – the early-to-mid-1800s – “The Fall of the House of Usher” a bit further along in that era, and “The Tell-Tale Heart” in the 1950s-60s.

Schotz says all the productions will also feature a few newcomers to the Artesia acting scene, with her cast containing Chicago and Texas transplants, Austin’s showcasing a pair of professors from NMSU-C and the head of the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Schuetz welcoming some former students she worked with when they were in high school.

The production will take the OPAC stage at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, and tickets – $15 for adults, $10 for students – may be purchased online at www.artesiaartscouncil.com or by calling the OPAC box office at 746-4212.

There are ways to catch a show at no cost, however, including joining Artesia’s painted-rock hunting pastime.

Schotz says several rocks painted in red, black and gold with Poe-esque themes have been hidden around town; those finding them are directed by a label on the back to call the OPAC, and once they do, their name will be added to the list for free admission to the showing of their choice. They’re then asked to re-hide their rock so others may have a chance.

“Another promotion is that people can come downtown for Trick-or-Treat Main Street Saturday, go do sugar skulls at the museum, crafts at the library, trick-or-treat on Main Street, and when that’s over, they can come to the last showing at 7 p.m. and get in for free if they’re wearing a costume,” said Schotz.

And if, as twilight falls in downtown Artesia, theatre-goers happen to hear a few eerie screeches and cries from the trees, it will be courtesy of the inspiration behind the entire production: the city’s inimitably lovable hordes of grackles.

“We chose to do this because of the grackles,” said Schotz. “So when you’re outside and you hear that ‘ree ree ree,’ we hope you think of ‘The Raven.’”