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Kathleen Ann Thompson: Why You Should Come & See ... Belle of Amherst: Double Vision

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Belle of Amherst: Double Vision brings one story in two different perspectives. Drama and dance will be used to bring William Luce's play to the stage, trying to shed light on the elusive American poet Emily Dickinson. Artistic Director of Belleherst Productions and performer Kathleen Ann Thompson shares her thoughts on the show.

The Belle of Amherst by William Luce is a witty, entertaining and profoundly moving drama on the gifted and inspired life of poet, Emily Dickinson. By presenting a duo performance of Luce’s play, actress/dancer, I offer viewers a unique and evocative encounter with the mysterious, ever-elusive American poet, whose personality remains as enigmatic as her poetry remains infamous.

The self-proclaimed anchorite of poetry, Emily Dickinson, dressed always in vestal white, often receiving guests as a disembodied voice behind a screen at the top of the stairs. Only once in twenty-five years was she seen outside her father’s house. Still, through both friendships and correspondence, she negotiated passage through the most prestigious international literary groupings of her day.

I wanted to weave an insightful and moving composite picture of this intriguing figure by contrasting Emily’s culturally shackled 19th- century life style with her passionate and bold inner spirit. I always felt that Emily was dancing in her spirit and wanted to reveal this inner animation of her poetry which I experienced when I read her.

At the Festival I will be alternating performances; one drama, one dance. The contrasting perspectives of the two performances will, I hope, give the viewer a uniquely layered understanding of this unique and remarkable poet. In one performance, I am allowing the narrative and poetry to dominate the senses as Emily’s life unfolds on the stage in a straight dramatic style. In the other, I am wedding Luce's dramatic text to movement and music, depicting Dickinson’s inner life as a kinetic and visual poem.

I love using a variety of languages on the stage. The proto-surrealist quality of images in Dickinson’s poetry inspired a sense of surprise and suggestion to my dance pictures. Together, these two performances of the same text provide a privileged opportunity for the viewer to experience Emily from the inside-out and then to be able to place her magnificent poetry, so far ahead of its times, in its historical context. The resulting tension becomes a startling revelation.

There is a growing interest in this eccentric poet, observed by the new biographies and international translations of her poems published in recent years. This growing international literary audience designates her as a stunningly innovative 19th-century poet whose own words are the most telling; “Why did they shut me out of heaven? Did I sing too loud?”

I feel so privileged to be able to express in both dance and drama this brilliant, witty woman who transfixed the conventional literary critics of her day in ‘shock’ n’awe’. Now, she captivates a contemporary audience with the depth and penetrating precision of her distilled poetic images.

Belle of Amherst: Double Vision runs from the 15-27 August (excl 21) at Greenside. Times vary.


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