“PHOSPHORESCENCE. Now there’s a word to lift your hat to… to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.” Emily Dickinson
If you are a lover of poetry and theatre and looking for some budget-wise charm this weekend, order some Chinese food, set out the candles and wine, and stream William Luce‘s one-woman bio-play on Emily Dickinson, The Belle of Amherst, with Julie Harris. I don’t see it on iTunes, but it is on Amazon Instant Video.
Based on the life of poet Emily Dickinson from 1830 to 1886, the play is set in the family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. It incorporates her work, diaries, and letters in a reenactment of her life with family, close friends, and acquaintances. Enchanting and often funny.
After one preview, the original Broadway production, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly and starring Julie Harris, opened on April 28, 1976 at the Longacre Theatre. It ran for 116 performances. A Wall Street Journal reviewer wrote
With her technical ability and her emotional range, Miss Harris can convey profound inner turmoil at the same time that she displays irrepressible gaiety of spirit.”
In The Belle of Amherst Harris portrays fifteen characters and won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience, and won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording. She appeared in a televised PBS production and toured the country with the play for a number of years [sources: Wikipedia and NY Times]
Luce and Harris collaborated on other wonderful plays including Bronté. A broadway playwright, Luce also wrote Barrymore, which with family I was fortunate enough to see on stage starring Christopher Plummer many years ago. That was a bit of heaven. Luce wrote Lucifer’s Child based on the writing of Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Lillian about Lillian Hellman and Zelda, which became The Last Flapper, about Zelda Fitzgerald. If script writing is one of your interests, you could probably do worse than reading a few of Luce’s plays.
Cover art © publisher and/or playwrighter