We’ve got some great news. PBD is joining forces with Actors’ Playhouse on a virtual coproduction of The Belle of Amherst, William Luce’s one-woman play based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Margery Lowe portrays the enigmatic poet and Bill Hayes directs. The show will be filmed on our mainstage, without the presence of an audience, and will be streamed from April 2-6.
“We’re very excited to be working together and mounting a full production even as our theatres remain closed,” said Hayes and Actors’ Playhouse Artistic Director David Arisco in a joint statement. “We’ve both done a lot of virtual play readings during the pandemic, and we wanted to try something different, to bring a full production into people’s homes. We want to set an example of two organizations that are moving forward and figuring out new ways to do things. We’ve known each other for a long time, and we share a mutual respect – for each other, and for each other’s work. So, it just seemed like a no-brainer at this moment in time to do a co-pro and share our talents, our ideas, and, of course, the costs.”
Tickets are $30, and all proceeds benefit PBD and Actors' Playhouse, supplying much-needed revenue at a time when the theatres are earning no income. Once a ticket is purchased, the play can be viewed at the ticket holder’s convenience any time from April 2-6.
Patrons who subscribed to the 2020-2021 season and did not ask for a refund, rolling over their subscription to the 2021-2022 season, get to watch for free. “It’s a thank you for having trust and confidence in our organizations,” said Hayes and Arisco.
Additionally, on Friday, March 26 at 10am, PBD will be offering a Dramawise program about The Belle of Amherst via Zoom. The first hour is a seminar with Director of Education and Community Engagement Gary Cadwallader, followed – after a brief break – by a discussion with Margery and the creative team. Tickets for subscribers are free; for non-subscribers, the cost is $15.
The artistic directors chose The Belle of Amherst for their first coproduction for reasons artistic and pragmatic. The play tells the story of the independent, reclusive, witty poet through her letters, verse, and the playwright’s rich imagination, interweaving the voices of friends, family, and acquaintances to create a vivid portrait of the artist. Luce, who adored Dickinson’s poetry, called his play “a love affair with language, a celebration of all that is beautiful and poignant in life.” He penned those words in an author’s note in the published version of the play, and also said he wrote the piece hoping to “depict an individualist of the highest order” and “the humanity and reasonableness of Emily Dickinson’s life.”
The play is a showcase for a gifted actress, and Hayes and Arisco believe they have the ideal artist in Lowe, who portrayed Dickinson in PBD’s world premiere production of Joseph McDonough’s comic fantasia Edgar & Emily. “Having seen Marge embody Dickinson in a very different play, and having developed a professional bond over 15 years and numerous productions, I know she has the range, the skill set, and the artistry to pull this off brilliantly,” Bill said.
Michael Amico is the set designer, Brian O’Keefe is the costume designer, Kirk Bookman is the lighting designer, and Roger Arnold is the sound designer.
From a practical standpoint, a large cast during the pandemic was out of the question; a one- or two-character play of substance was the only way to go. Actors’ Equity Association has very stringent rules and procedures that must be adhered to, and PBD spent thousands of dollars to get special union-approved filters that will purify the air in the theatre. “That’s just one indication of the many rigorous protocols we plan to implement when audiences return to our theatre,” Bill said.
We also want to remind you to reserve your free ticket for our Drama(in the)works reading on February 22 at 7:30pm, when we’ll be presenting Harrison David Rivers’ Parks, based on the story of the legendary Gordon Parks. Raised amidst the violent racism of the 1920s and ’30s, Gordon Parks chose to fight back with a camera instead of a gun. Inspired by the life of the iconic photographer, Parks tells the story of a young black man’s journey to becoming an artist: the trials and tribulations; the triumphs; the pain, the glory, and the love. Dylan T. Jackson, who was last seen here in the reading of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, plays Parks, leading a cast which also features Toree Alexandre, John Archie, Travante S. Baker, Steven Sean Garland, Darlene Hope, Gavin Lawrence, and Lamont Walker II.
You can make your reservations for Drama(in the)works and purchase/reserve tickets to The Belle of Amherst and Dramawise at www.palmbeachdramaworks.org or by calling the box office at 561.514.4042, x2. Mark and Diane Perlberg are the executive producers of our virtual play readings; Penny Bank and Roe Green/The Roe Green Foundation are the associate producers. PBDonline is sponsored by Louise and Barry Snyder.