What do classic literature, murder, and food all have in common? Nothing — until now. Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Invite-Only Casual Dinner Party/Gala for Friends Potluck (or "Poe Party" for short) brings all of those things together in a web series unlike anything you've seen before.
Poe Party exists thanks to Shipwrecked Comedy, an L.A.-based company that specializes in literary historical comedy. Sean Persaud, Sinéad Persaud, Mary Kate Wiles and Sarah Grace Hart, the team behind Shipwrecked Comedy, all star in Poe Party and did everything from writing to costume-hunting in order to bring the series to life.
Poe Party is a hilarious, whip-smart murder mystery that will take you from laughing to crying in the span of a minute. Forging strong emotional connections with the characters is easy thanks to the cast's incredible chemistry. Whether they're siblings or simply met working on the project, all of the actors have a connection with one another that's impossible to fake.
I got the chance to experience that chemistry first-hand at Buffer Festival, an annual showcase of Youtube video premieres where Poe Party was screened in its entirety for the first time ever. Shipwrecked Comedy stopped to chat with us before hitting the red carpet, and here's what they had to say.
Spoon: The idea for Poe Party has been around for a while, I assume, because some of the characters existed in previous works you've done. How did the idea for Poe Party come about?
Sinéad: Everybody looks at me! [Laughs.] When we made our first series, A Tell Tale Vlog, that was really improv-based and Sean and I were just kind of talking to the camera. It came up that Lenore [a ghost played by Sinéad] had to throw a dinner party for Edgar [Allan Poe, played by Sean] with some of his author contemporaries, so there was Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson and Dostoyevsky.
Later on, me and Sean were like, "This would be a good idea for a series." We started coming up with a bunch of authors that Poe would hang out with or have a fun foil with, and made it into a murder mystery because we love Clue!
Spoon: That's awesome! Other than the way the idea came to you, do you have a reason for setting it at a dinner party or reasons why you think that format really worked?
Sean: I think it was just a natural way to get a bunch of characters together and to have those relationships form. It starts out pretty awkward, and it... gets more awkward, I guess. [Laughs.] It's just a cool and interesting format—a good excuse to have these characters come together and get murdered.
Sinéad: We also hadn't really seen a mystery play out on the Internet, because there've been literary web series before, but not really one that's mystery-based. This one is all like a whodunit. It's been really fun to see people interact with it and try to figure out who it is and talk to each other about who they think it is.
MKW: Also, Clue is an inspiration and they do sit down to dinner a little bit.
Spoon: Okay, so I'm going to take a question that I know everyone hates and just make it worse. If you could have a dinner party with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you make?
MKW: Oh, god — what would I make? I'm not a good enough cook. I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan, so I would love to have dinner with Tolkien. Cate Blanchett can come because she's my favourite actress of all time.
What would I make? Probably pasta with cream sauce. I make a lot of those around my apartment. Hopefully they would like it.
Sinéad: I mean, I would probably have a dinner party with my beloved David Bowie. I'm very good at making vindaloo, so I'd probably do that. It's my specialty. And it's like, hey, you probably don't eat this all the time.
SGH: The only person I can think of is Katharine Hepburn because she's my favourite actress and we were talking about The Philadelphia Story last night, so it's been on my brain. [laughs] I'm a terrible cook. Like, I'm really bad.
MKW: This is true.
SGH: So, grilled cheese? I can do that.
Sinéad: You guys could wear, like, really awesome pantsuits.
MKW: I think she'd be into it.
SGH: Right? Yeah.
Sean: Oh boy. I-
Sinéad: David Ortiz.
Sean: Thank you, wow. Can you just answer every question? David Ortiz.
MKW: What would you make?
Sinéad: Dunkin' Donuts.
Sean: I'd make salmon. That's the only thing I know.
MKW: I hope he likes salmon.
Sinéad: He probably does!
Sean: Yeah, it's got a lot of protein.
Spoon: Both the food and entertainment industries are really competitive. As people who've made their careers for themselves, do you have any advice for people who want to break into a competitive industry?
MKW: It's hard and it's going to be hard, but if you love something enough, then you should absolutely pursue it. Just know that it's going to be hard, but there are things about it that will make all of the hard parts worth it.
Sinéad: My little sister right now is deciding what she wants to do and she's in school for psychology, so I'm praying that she goes down that path. I can't recommend this life to anyone, but if you have to do it, you have to do it.
It helps if you find a niche of what you're doing, like we have. It isn't super crazy successful yet, but we have something we can sell and that we love to do and it's weird and interesting, so it's much easier when you have a specific thing.
MKW: Just find good people to work with and to collaborate with. That's been really important for us and really important for Poe Party. Everyone involved is awesome at what they do and they're our best friends as well, which is really cool. When you can make art with the people you like being around, it's an added bonus.
Sean: I would say that if you're on the fence and you want to do cooking or acting or writing but you also want to be a stockbroker, be a stockbroker.
Spoon: Last question — I have to ask about the red herring soup. It became like a character of its own and I have so many questions. Was it actually soup? Did you eat it?
Sinéad: Some people ate it.
MKW: Ryan Garcia had to eat it. Blake [Silver, who plays H.G. Wells] put his face in it.
Sinéad: It was like, dollar store tomato soup that congealed and the water separated.
MKW: They watered it all down to make more of it, and it sat there all day. We spent an entire day shooting that first dining room scene, and it separated and congealed and it was just not cute. But prop food never is.
Sinéad: Sean and I originally wrote it so that when I snap in the first episode, the whole table is covered with a roast and suckling pig and all of this food. Then we were like, oh, budget is — soup, that's gonna be great.
MKW: Plus, no one ever interacts with all that stuff so it didn't really seem to be a necessity.
Sinéad: We have a fanfiction/fanart contest, and someone actually made a recipe for the red herring soup.
MKW: It wasn't a real recipe, right? It was a little fantastical.
Sinéad: It was.
SGH: What was it? Red herring soup with a red pepper garlic sauce.
Thank you to Shipwrecked Comedy for taking the time to answer our questions (and for their top-notch modelling skills).If you weren't lucky enough to see Poe Party in its entirety at Buffer Festival, make sure to head over to their channel and get caught up before the series finale on Monday, October 31st.