Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wider Than the Sky - Emily Dickinson International Society

Founded in 1988 and now celebrating its 25th year of existence, the Emily Dickinson International Society (EDIS) encourages the continuing study of our great poet's life and works.

Their presence is felt in local chapters worldwide, through continued publication of scholarly papers published in journals, sponsoring international conferences and awarding scholarships to promote the continued study of Emily's impact not only in the literary world but on the world stage. 

The University of Maryland at College Park hosted this year's international conference from August 8-11th.  A gathering of Emily scholars celebrated "Emily Dickinson, World Citizen"  with research papers, panel discussions, creative presentations and performances by a variety of actors and musicians. 

 To fit into an evening of Emily Dickinson musical performances, Barbara Dana trimmed "Wider Than the Sky" to 30 minutes highlighting scenes from the show.  Again, we had the lovely Elizabeth Morton as Emily and Martin Hennessy playing piano. Jamie Smithson and Laurie McCants joined us to create several characters in Emily's life. 

Having an audience filled with Emily Dickinson scholars and afficianados could be a bit daunting.  Yet, they were attentive and drawn into the story and show Barbara and I have developed.  What a pleasure it was to bring a new facet of Emily to the Emily Dickinson International Society conference.

"Wider Than the Sky", as I've said several times, continues to be a work in progress and a journey ever so worth the process!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Emily Dickinson - The Next Chapter

"I Told Myself to Sing" is now titled "Wider Than The Sky".  Powerful new avenues have come to Barbara Dana's and my dream of a play with music.  With each revision the show gets stronger and deeper.  Emily Dickinson's spirit and spunk sparkle with intensity and purpose.


On Friday evening June 7th, Hudson Stage Company in Croton-on-Hudson sponsored our staged reading of "Wider Than The Sky".  The newest version of Barbara's brilliant script inspired all of us to new levels of performance.  With songs and music that were further adapted to fit the flow of Emily's journey of accepting her own death, the show was an emotional success for the actors and audience members alike.

We welcomed Susannah Jones and Morgan Auld to the cast who found voices for multiples of characters who enter Emily's life.  Elizabeth Morton as Emily delved into the poet's soul with elegance.   Again, Martin Hennessy and I offered our musical and dramatic talents.

Also, new to this reading was our director, Anthony Arkin.  A veteran actor and film director, Anthony brought great insights to the show, to our characters and the overall shape of the story. 

Thank you to Hudson StageCompany, Denise Bessette, Dan Foster and Olivia Sklar for making this performance possible, for providing dinner between the rehearsal and performance and for your dedicated audience who attended. 

Emily Dickinson has taken us on an ever evolving dramatic journey.  Next stop on our staged readings calendar was a performance for the Emily Dickinson International Society's conference in College Park, MD.  As I have said before, "Wider Than the Sky" is a work in progress.  Emily Dickinson's inspiring life and poetry cheer us on. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

People Living Through Cancer

Giving of your musical talent for an organization that has been your support group through life-threatening  health issues is a gift of gratitude and a way of paying forward for the people who will need assistance in the future.  This describes my friend, tenor Alex Charles Klebenow, who has organized, produced and performed three concerts benefitting People Living Through Cancer (PLTC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

 In 2007 Alex was diagnosed with cancer of the groin which metastasized to his spinal column and then his brain.  His fight to hold onto life was won with the help of wonderful doctors, family and friends.  Surviving is only part of cancer recovery.  A patient needs emotional support and a secure place to share as well as express their anger, frustration and issues related to cancer.  Alex found such a place in PLTC and over the past five years since his recovery, he has attended group sessions regularly. 

Gathering his Albuquerque singer friends, accompanists and instrumentalists, he asks them to donate their time and talent.  Alex carefully chooses music that draws in an audience.  He programs  repertoire familiar and not so familiar, finds solo pieces for everyone, features a composer from the American song book, finds audience sing-along pieces, writes spoken dialogue for the performers, makes floral arrangements for the stage, arranges receptions to follow the concerts and then, it seems, "VOILA" he has a fund raising concert for PLTC.  Of course, we know it takes countless hours plus much more than what I've written to produce a concert of quality that will raise money.  With heartfelt dedication, Alex has given of himself without reservation to benefit and thank PLTC.
This year I was able to join Alex and his friends for their third annual PLTC concert.  Entitled, "I Shall Hold to Life" the music inspired survival and the gift of life for all.  What an honor it was to be able to perform with Alex, tenor Tom Crow, baritone Alfredo Beltran, bass Peter Tras, wonderful accompanists Daniel Cummings and Mackenzie Reed and instrumentalists Wake Patterson and Chuck Lucero.   Each of the performers was either a cancer survivor or has had cancer touch their lives in family members or friends. 

 Two well-attended concerts raised money for PLTC.   New cancer survivors in Albuquerque will have People Living Through Cancer support in part because of Alex's musical talent and generosity of creating these concerts.  Bravo, Alex.  Mary Ellen, Cindy and Leslie of the People Living Through Cancer organization, thank you for your work helping people through their cancer journey.  You are much needed in this world. 

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, is indeed enchanting.  The beauty of the land can take your breath away.  The people... friendly, welcoming, warm and with a great sense of humor.