The Belle of Amherst, the theatrical exploration of the private life of poet Emily Dickinson by William Luce, plays in Nashville for nine performances Nov. 6-22 at The Filming Station (501 8th Ave. South).
Presented by In Another Life and Maverick Entertainment Partners LLC in association with Genuine Human, The Belle of Amherst will run three weekends: Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
The 19th Century nonconformist is recognized as one of the finest, most influential and singular voices in the English language. Drawing from her poems, diaries and letters, Luce’s one-character show (which premiered to rapturous response on Broadway in 1976 directed by Charles Nelson Reilly and starring Julie Harris) brings Dickinson to life by using a stream-of-conscious flow of prose and verse.
Fifty-three at the play’s introduction, the notoriously reclusive Dickinson welcomes the audience to her home in Amherst, Mass., and reveals her longing to become a famous poet, shares recipes and small-town gossip, and paints lyrical portraits of her family. The twists and turns of her narrative include childhood flights of fancy, reactions to literary criticism, her naturalist view of the infinite Universe, and, ultimately, her acceptance of Immortality. As she wrote in one of her many letters, “Pardon my sanity. Pardon my jubilation in Nature, my terror of midnight, my childlike wonder at love, my white renunciation. Nothing more do I ask than to share with you the ecstasy and sacrament of my life.”
Directed by Melissa Carrelli and staged in the Filming Station’s intimate theater space, the production features highly-regarded veteran Nashville actor Caroline Davis as Dickinson. Scott Orr is producer and Daryl Pike is stage manager. The creative team collaborated on last fall’s Nashville premiere production of Twain and Shaw Do Lunch at the Filming Station, which was named “Best Salon Theater” in the Nashville Scene’s 2015 Best of Nashville issue. Carrelli and Davis have previously teamed locally on Lady Frederick, Enchanted April, Lady Windermere’s Fan and O Jerusalem among others.
Tickets ($25 that includes secure parking next to the venue plus $2.37 service fee when buying online) are available by clicking here or by calling (615) 734-9932. Seating is very limited in this production’s salon-style staging so advance reservations are encouraged.
The Belle of Amherst is produced by special arrangement with Don Gregory.
More about Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is easily one of the greatest American poets of the nineteenth century—or indeed of any century. In addition to her literary fame, most readers will know at least one other reputation for her, that of eccentric recluse. While this characterization of Dickinson as a white-clad, poetry-mumbling, erotically suppressed spinster has been robustly challenged, it remains true that Dickinson stayed very close to her New England home: she only left the state once, her hometown of Amherst rarely, and, after 1872, she barely left the confines of her family’s property, dying (perhaps of Bright’s Disease, or a stroke) in the house where she was born.
In her 55 years, Dickson produced nearly 1800 poems in manuscript; only seven were published during her lifetime. Both her life and her art were deliberate and deceptively simple: as she herself famously wrote, “The Soul selects her own Society.” Her relationships with the Society of men are likely her best known, among them her father, Edward; her brother, Austin; the Reverend Charles Wadsworth; and the critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Eschewing the conventional burdens of nineteenth-century female life—the consuming duties of wife, mother, and hostess—Dickinson instead chose to confine herself, both figuratively and largely literally—to the private role of poet.
Although she can seem to have more in common with the English Metaphysicals and Romantic visionaries than with her own compatriots, Dickinson is nevertheless a perennially “modern” poet with countless appreciators and literary descendants. As a person and as a poet, Dickinson still astonishes readers with the unapologetic freshness of her life choices and the formal austerity of her art—her surgical diction, her uncanny metaphors, and her unflinching view of human experience.
To give you a taste of this singular show, here’s a clip of Claire Bloom playing Dickinson:
*Photo of Caroline Davis as Emily Dickinson by Melissa Carrelli and poster designed by Danny Proctor courtesy In Another Life and Maverick Entertainment Partners LLC in association with Genuine Human.