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For Immediate Release: 08/09/19
Sold-Out Ojai Production of The Belle of Amherst
Starring Anna Kotula Comes to Ventura for
One-Night-Only Benefit for Rubicon Theatre’s Education Programs
“Forever is composed of nows.” – Emily Dickinson
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
(Ventura, CA) – The life and writings of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most treasured poets, comes vividly to life in a one-night-only reprise of the acclaimed Ojai Arts Center production of The Belle of Amherst by William Luce. The production is presented on Saturday, August 31st at 7:00 p.m. at Rubicon Theatre Company as a benefit for Rubicon’s Education and Outreach programs, and stars Ojai actor and choreographer Anna Kotula (Mamma Mia!) under the direction of Steve Grumette, Artistic Director of the Ojai Film Festival. Tickets are $25; VIP tickets are $35 and include a champagne and cake reception with the artist. All proceeds are tax-deductible. For tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.org or call 805.667.2900.
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts and is a towering figure in 19th century literature. She was the middle child born to Emily and Edward Dickinson. Her grandfather, part of a prominent New England family, founded Amherst College and her father was a trustee of the college and a state legislator. Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems and letters, but very few were published in her lifetime. It was not until after her death that she became one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century.
Dickinson attended Amherst for seven years and Mount Holyoke for a year before returning home for reasons that have long been debated by critics and scholars. Some feel that she was fragile emotionally and suffered from agoraphobia and depression, while other biographers indicate she came home only to care for her ailing mother.
Regardless, Dickinson had few close friendships, seldom left her Amherst home, and wrote many of her poems and letters unbeknownst to her family.
After Emily’s death at the age of 55, her sister Lavinia found hundreds of poems that Emily had crafted over the years. The first volume of her works was published in 1890; however a full compilation, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, wasn’t published until 1955.
William Luce’s The Belle of Amherst is based on Emily Dickinson’s life from 1830 to 1886. It is set in her family home and uses Dickinson’s diaries, letters and poems to recreate encounters with the few people to whom she was close — family, friends and acquaintances who were significant influences on her poetry.
The Belle of Amherst originally opened on Broadway in 1976 starring Julie Harris and was directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. The production ran for 116 performances, garnering a Tony Award for Harris and a Drama Desk for Unique Theatrical Experience. The production was later recorded (winning a Grammy Award), televised on PBS, and has been performed in multiple language on stages throughout the world.
The Arts Center production was praised for balancing Dickinson’s solitary life with the lively, witty, provocative and independent woman revealed in Dickinson’s own writings. As the production unfolds, audiences experience Dickinson as a vibrant genius with a robust sense of self.
When Anna Kotula first performed The Belle of Amherst at the Ojai Art Center Theater last December, the show quickly sold-out. Reviewer Sami Zahringer of Ojai Valley News wrote, “Actress Anna Kotula of Ojai robustly fleshes out the myth of Dickinson, making of her a real-life presence we can warm to personally, not just on the page. No quaintly spectral, shrinking violet here, Dickinson has girlish vivacity, wit and charm, captured by Kotula who manages to preserve the ephemeral luminosity of Dickinson that has fascinated us on the page for the best part of 200 years.”
Zahringer further effused, “Kotula takes the extraordinary challenge of playing this off-kilter genius, meets it and, under Steve Grumette’s direction, molds it captivatingly across two hours of riveting, first-rate theatre. Dickinson fans will rejoice in this performance, but people new to Dickinson will find a ‘phosphorescent’ new world of language and perspective.”
“Emily boldly pierces our assumptions about who we are and how we are created,” says Kotula.
“She was an avid reader, had a great fondness for nature, and was a deep thinker with a love of language,” continues Kotula. I find that the play offers original and remarkable insights into this life and the beyond and am excited to bring The Belle of Amherst to Rubicon as a fundraiser for these programs that enrich our community and that have been important to my family and to me.”
Support for Rubicon’s Education Programs
Anna’s daughter Coree recently starred a Ti Moune in Once on This Island, Jr. as a part of Rubicon’s summer education programs and opens this weekend in Into the Woods as a part of the Musical Theatre Intensive. Coree also played Fan in Rubicon’s mainstage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
According to Anna, “Rubicon education programs have been a formative part of Coree’s growth as an artist and as a young woman. She has developed and refined her skills as an actor, singer and dancer and gained confidence through the opportunities she has had at Rubicon.”
“I appreciate the professional training opportunities Rubicon offers to young people in our region,” says Kotula, “and approached the company about bringing the show there to contribute to the scholarship fund which makes it possible for students to be a part of the summer programs who might not otherwise be able to participate.”
Performance Details and Tickets
The benefit performance of The Belle of Amherst is presented on Saturday, August 31, at 7:00 p.m. at Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. VIP tickets include preferred seating and a reception with the artist where champagne will be served, along with a slice of “Black Cake” specially made using Dickinson’s famous recipe. Other tickets are $25.
For more information, or to order tickets, call 805.667.2900 or go to www.rubicontheatre.org.