For most of us our hearts beat with boring efficiency. Artists' hearts, however, beat with much more drama, passion and flair. And Edward R. Cox undeniably has the heart of an artist. Since the age of five, he's basked in the spotlight and reveled in the thunder of applause.

“This is how I've always been,” he says of his love of theater.  “I'm born for it.”

And the critics agree. He's the recipient of numerous awards and nominations, most notably the Teddy's Award for Excellence in Children's Theatre, which was established by the board of directors of Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré.

He's totally immersed in theater. A prolific actor, he's appeared in thousands of stage roles and numerous films, commercials and videos. He's worked on stages all over New Orleans, done a Broadway play and spent four years at Walt Disney World where, among other things, he was a “close personal friend” of the Mad Hatter.  He's also a consummate designer, creating award-winning costumes, sets and props.

“You name it and I'll do it,” he says.

A few years ago he started his business, Simply Stunning Designs.  It specializes in, well, everything: theatrical posters, fliers, hats, wreaths, table decorations, costumes and even Mardi Gras floats. He is currently working on several commissioned Halloween costumes.

“A family in New York are going to be very posh vampires,” he says, a bright glint in his hazel eyes. “And I'm working on a great costume for a friend who's going on a Halloween cruise.”

Steeped in the Gothic spirit of the upcoming holiday, Edward is also very busy performing two of  his favorite characters: Monsieur Darque de la Nouvelle-Orléans, who is currently cast in the feature film "One of Us Must Know," and Señor Muerte, who recently participated in a very special Day of the Dead Celebration. He created both characters and designed their costumes and makeup.

Edward is happily married to the love of his life, Vatican Lokey. The couple, who have been together for 20 years, proudly say they live their lives to the fullest. Edward and Vatican (who is also in the theater) are working together on several projects.

On Nov. 17, the couple will appear in a performance of Shine!, The Horatio Alger Musical. It's a benefit for The National World War II Museum and for Mainstreet Musicals, and features veteran actor Hal Linden.

“This performance is a great honor for the New Orleans theater industry, but it will also bring much-needed national attention to the exceptional talents of our local acting community,” Edward says.

The couple is also creating Jitterbugs, a musical based on the fable about the grasshopper and ant. They hope to be in production soon.

A side note, but worth mentioning, is that Vatican is also appearing in Nine Lives: The Musical, which was created by New Orleans musician Paul Sanchez and Colman DeKay. The play chronicles the lives of nine native New Orleanians during the 40-year period between hurricanes Betsy and Katrina.

Edward clearly loves the theater and absolutely understands the importance of giving back. He's the first to lend hand and the last to leave the set.

“It's noble to volunteer,” he says. “It helps the theater community, and whatever I can do to make the New Orleans theater community successful I'm going to do it. It's a matter of respect for what all of us do and give.”

Those efforts are appreciated by legions of his friends and peers. Sid Arroyo, who shared the stage with Ed this summer in Crescent City Lights Youth Theater's production of Disney's Camp Rock: The Musical shares his feelings about his fellow actor:

“Ed is an extraordinary and colorful force of nature. His boundless artistic spirit is evident in everything he touches. There isn’t a theater I know of within a hundred miles of New Orleans that hasn’t benefited from his myriad skills as an actor, director, mentor, set designer, costumer and more.”

So this Halloween embrace the terror and enjoy the horror of the ghosts, goblins and ghouls and do what Edward does:

“Whatever the milieu, I will always figure out how to fit in and enjoy the experience.”