‘The Belle of Amherst’ runs at the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge
Hope is the thing with feathers; That perches in the soul; And sings the tune without the words; And never stops at all.’ So penned Emily Dickinson – a hopeful woman despite her perceived peculiarity, said Paige Lynn Larson, who plays the 19th century poet in ‘The Belle of Amherst,’ coming to the Backstage Theatre this weekend through Oct. 6. The play is a one-woman act that explores various stages in the life of Emily Dickinson – who is widely considered America’s greatest female poet – from the age of 15 until shortly before her death. Her life is recreated with liberal excerpts from her poetry and flashbacks.”It’s a beautiful piece of theater that combines all the greatest things – the history of Emily Dickinson, a wonderful story, beautiful poetry, music by Vivaldi and a wonderful setting that really takes you away to a very magical place,” said Rick Bernstein, executive director of Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, where the play ran before coming to Breckenridge. “Our star does a great job creating a fantasy world for the audience that really makes you feel like you’re listening to Emily Dickinson telling her story in her living room within the first five minutes of the show.” William Luce wrote the Tony award-winning piece, which Bernstein called “one of the nicest plays that I’ve read in a long time,” in 1976. “The playwright made a career taking celebrities from history and doing incredible research and telling the story of these people’s lives,” Bernstein said. Because Dickinson was a very private person, he had to search far and wide to find information about her, much of which came from her letters. “He does a very, very honest reenactment of her life,” Bernstein said.”It’s been incredible getting to do the show because I’ve found so much about her and really grown into her,” Larson said. “Many people considered her crazy … but I think she was just very aware of everything and made very conscious choices – her seclusion, her dressing in white. She was not crazy. She loved her family; she love nature; she loved words and she always had hope,” Larson said. One of Dickinson’s greatest dreams was that her poetry would be published. Sadly, it did not come to pass in her lifetime.Scholars debate whether Dickinson published seven or 10 poems, anonymously, before her death, Larson said. “She has a great dialog in the play with Thomas Wentworth Higginson where she talks to him [in absentia] and thinks she will finally have her poems published. He says her meter is spasmodic; she has bad rhymes and the poems seem uncontrolled.” “It’s so interesting when you delve into her life,” said Larson. “She’s a pistol. She’s smart; she’s funny; she’s got great depth of emotion – a really neat lady. People left the play enamored of Emily Dickinson.” “The Belle of Amherst” will run at the Breckenridge Theatre tonight through Oct. 6. “I was so thrilled Chris [Willard] and the Backstage Theatre asked us to come up,” Larson said. “I wasn’t quite ready to put her to bed yet.”Online reservations: http://www.backstagetheatre.org
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