Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
An interview with M.F.A. Acting Candidate, Danielle Scott, about her solo show, The Belle of Amherst by Wiliam Luce.
For my solo show I am doing The Belle of Amherst by William Luce. The show follows Emily Dickinson as she recounts stories about her childhood– all the way to trying to publish her poems etc. We see the stories that made her the Emily Dickinson we know today. I believe the play sheds light on the stereotypes women of that era, as well as gives the public a chance to unlock the mysticism that revolves around Emily.
Honestly, I was avoiding the piece at first, because I wanted to write my own thesis solo show. I have written small plays before, and I thought I could do it over the summer. Gary Sloan was hinting at it for most of the Spring semester to do the piece, but I needed to think over what I wanted to do. I finally decided to read the show in the summer, and quickly fell in love with play, and Emily. I had to do the show, and I am glad that I stepped away from trying to write my own thesis, although, that in itself is also a valuable skill to have.
What caught my eye was the way in which I was able to see Emily more as a human, and less as the mysterious recluse who hid from the world to write poetry…at least that was what I thought of her when I first read her poems as a young girl. Emily feels like a friend of mine now, and her writing has given me a refuge when I have been stressed. I have had circumstances that mirrored Emily, and I take solace in knowing that maybe we all have that writer or artist we can connect with intellectually or on a spiritual level.
The solo show relies solely…no pun intended… on being organized, taking time to rehearse, memorize, and not let your insecurities get in the way of exploring the character. But, I guess that is what we do in regular rehearsals as well, is it not? I honed in on that skill set, and I have become more confident while working on this piece.
One challenge that I have been dealing with was with the poetry. Emily has such a different mindset because she needed to write poetry; she needed the use of words and she needed to write. I soon came to the conclusion that her obsession for writing connects with my obsession for drawing. Personally, I use drawing in the same way as Emily used poetry. We all have that certain hobby or activity that we HAVE to do, or else it is like we are lacking something in life. The poetry is becoming easier, and being in Emily’s mindset has aided in that journey.
One of the most harrowing challenges I faced was cutting the script down to thirty minutes. At first thirty minutes seemed quite long in my head, and then getting up with the piece and working on it I soon realized I had to cut more of the script because I was at 50 minutes when I timed the piece. Cutting down the piece felt awful because the writing is so wonderful, I did not want to lose any of it!
I have had such a wonderful experience with rehearsals I have rehearsed since the end of September till two days ago, and I have loved it every step of the way. At first Nick Martin and I got together and read through the play, did research, and had in depth conversations about the life of Emily. We worked to create a rehearsal calendar that was beneficial for both of us, and then proceeded from there. We managed together how to go about rehearsing for a solo show, and would take chunks of the text and go over it, block it, and then I would come back with more of the script memorized. I would later bring in the chunks of text we work on and then show it to the class to receive critique and guidance. Nick Martin is a wonderful human being in general on top of being a great director. Nick has a way of phrasing questions that spark my mind and help me to process the actions and targets for Emily, and he is also very generous with giving me space to experiment and explore. He is a dear friend, and I am so glad that I got to share this endeavor with him.
I thank Emily for having the courage to write and to dwell in possibility, even when the world never wrote to her.