Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Joan Hart Willard
Visual and Performing Arts
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Acting | Theatre and Performance Studies
The goal and purpose of this thesis was the cohesive performance and production of The Belle of Amherst by William Luce. The play is a fictionalized account of the life of the poetess Emily Dickinson, taking place in a day late in her life where she reminisces on all her experiences from childhood to the present. Emily is the only character physically on stage, and all the rest are created through her descriptions and representations of them for the audience. The play is also an insight into her poetry, using the actual poetic text throughout the script. The audience never quite knows when Emily is speaking prose or poetry, but every so often a famous line is detected, and the possible context of its writing revealed through the dramatic action. For example, Emily loses the love of her life, Charles Wadsworth, and immediately afterwards she recites the poem with the first line “Will there ever be a morning?” The poem is driven by the particular emotion that Emily is experiencing at the time, and gives a possible explanation of her motivations for writing it. The play is an exploration of her personality as well as her artistry. Indeed, it presents the idea that they are one and the same. Creating this role required research, preparation, physical warm ups, voice work, months of rehearsal, and lots of writing and cooperative work with a director and assistant. Performing a one-person piece is one of the greatest challenges for an actor, and a perfect culmination to a senior year of a four-year study of the craft. Additionally, a goal of creating this role was to produce the entire show. This included finding a space, acquiring designers, creating sets and costumes, stage managing, publicizing, and producing the event, all of which ended with three performances on March 3,4, and 5, 2006 in the Sutton Pavilion at Syracuse Stage.
Gaynor, Evelyn, "The Belle of Amherst: A Reflection of Life in Art" (2006). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 610.
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