About The Play
This inspiring one-woman show spans over four decades in the life of beloved and reclusive nineteenth-century poet, Emily Dickinson. Set in her Amherst, Massachusetts home, Emily invites you into her parlor for an afternoon of tea, black cake and stories of her life. She opens her heart and tells the truth… sometimes slant. The story unfolds through the use of her life’s work, her diaries and letters. The audience is introduced to 15 leading characters and the impact they had on her life. William Luce’s The Belle of Amherst shows us both the heartbreak and the joy of Dickinson’s secluded life. A life she crafted through her passion and pain.
The Belle of Amherst of the title is Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), a pioneering female American poet, who remains influential to this day. Although only ten of her poems were published during her lifetime, some 1,800 were published after her death, not including two new collections published since 2013 consisting of poems collected from scraps, chocolate wrappers and envelopes. Her concerns regarding her compositions extended beyond themes and the choice of words to the way the word visually appeared on the page.
Dickinson, an educated woman from a prominent family, was considered an eccentric. Living in a house on Amherst, Massachusetts’ Main Street, she became gradually more reclusive as she got older. Neighborhood children referred to her as “the Myth.” Her closest associations were with her devoted sister, Lavinia, and her sister-in-law, Susan. Dickinson frequently wore white, and wrote often about death and immortality.
Ferrell Marshall stars as Dickinson, and also portrays fifteen other characters from Dickinson’s life in The Belle of Amherst. Dickinson is brought vividly to life as a woman capable of experiencing both intense joy and deep melancholy, a woman of passion and extraordinary intellect. Ms. Marshall also portrays the men, family members and friends that Dickinson loved and who loved her in return.
Bring Belle To Your Stage
Our production needs but a few set pieces and we bring the rest.
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of Eye –
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupations – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
~ Emily Dickinson
The first performance of The Belle of Amherst was at the Moore Egyptian Theatre in Seattle, Washington on February 21, 1976. It went on to play in Denver, Chicago & Boston before heading to New York City. The play premiered on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, opening on April 28, 1976. It was directed by Charles Nelson Reilly; the scenic and lighting designs were by H. R. Poindexter; the costume design was by Theoni V. Aldredge; and the production stage manager was George Eckert. Emily Dickinson was played by Julie Harris. Ms. Harris won the Tony for her performance.