The Belle of Amherst – Not Always a Vehicle For Success

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

I saw “The Belle of Amherst” starring Joely Richardson at the Westside Theatre on Broadway Oct. 23, 2014. Ms. Richardson portrays Emily Dickinson at the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1883. Book by William Luce, the run time is approximately 100 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

The full brunt of the performance rested on Ms. Richardson, who was entrusted with the Herculean task of  delivering a monologue including poems  and letters throughout the performance. Without interaction from any other actor, Ms. Richardson was the only dynamic element on stage. Furnishings were sparse and props were few. Conversations with nonexistent characters made it even more difficult to show emotion. At first, I thought she was delusional – having full conversations with people who weren’t there. Then I realized, that she shared her past and discussed her present in one-sided conversations. No actors were provided to play these roles, however small, so that her memories and musings could have an actual presence on stage to react to, interact with, take the pressure off her for even a minute to catch her breath, to rest her voice, to share the spotlight. Every minute on her and only her. And yet, she did a very good job emoting and gesturing, holding the audience’s attention and only flubbing her lines a few times.

Ms. Richardson, a member of the famous Redgrave acting family,  became increasingly exhausted and returned from intermission obviously spent from her first 45 minutes and getting more and more tired as the play progressed.  She accepted the role, did a very good job with it but the physical impossibility of the task at hand took its toll. I can only imagine that her energy level decreased as weeks passed. I don’t know this as a fact, but I can’t see it any other way. The play opened to previews on Oct. 7, 2014 with regular performances beginning Oct. 19.  Unfortunately, the play was scheduled to close Nov. 23 instead of Feb. 1, 2015 as expected.  I have not seen any explanation for this. American actress, Julie Harris won a Tony award for her performance in this play in 1976. How was she able to sustain the physical demands of the role?  Ms. Harris portrayed Dickinson as shy, but engaging. Maybe Richardson’s performance had too much physicality – walking frantically back and forth on stage, throwing herself on the floor – adding to her exhaustion. I don’t know, I’m only speculating. Maybe Richardson’s portrayal could be compared to a big cat pacing back and forth in its cage, reinforcing the idea that Dickinson was frustrated by her life, while Harris’ portrayal was less frantic, reinforcing a conscious acceptance of her life with her reticence intact?  I’m sure Richardson didn’t make this decision alone but was directed by Steve Cosson to play it this way. This may have served to undermine the play by making the actress too exhausted OR maybe Emily Dickinson is an anachronism who no one studies about in school anymore and who is virtually unknown, so who cares, anyway? Maybe it’s more about the limited attention span of the American theater-goer rather than the limitations of the actress?  But, no, that doesn’t make sense. The audience chose this play. They wanted to share in Dickinson’s story. Broadway theater-goers have long attention spans for what is excellent. So, what went wrong?

Maybe this is where a multi-media, bring it into the 21st century presentation, would spark interest. I wondered why the play wasn’t formatted differently. If they didn’t want to hire actors to portray the characters with whom she had conversations, then why not make use of modern technology with a slide show or a pre-recorded video clip – making it a multimedia performance?  Or have mannequins dressed as the characters mentioned and play a  recording of their voices in full conversation or in interactive conversation cueing each other as actors do? Basically, anything to take the pressure off the exhausted Ms. Richardson. Not everyone can function as a star. Some actors are better as co-stars or  ensemble performers.

I have to say I was surprised at the choice of Ms. Richardson to play the Belle of Amherst. I  always thought of Emily Dickinson as plain, frail, dark-haired, timid, reclusive with no desire to participate in life in the outside world. Ms. Richardson is pretty, very tall, athletic, obviously blonde but wearing a dark auburn wig, assertive, bursting with energy and desires. She portrayed Dickinson as a dynamic, ambitious figure frustrated by things life didn’t bring her: husband, children, an active social life, acceptance and acclaim for her poetry. We see Ms. Richardson watching life through her window, maybe a metaphor for Dickinson watching life pass her by as she waits and hopes for something or someone to come into her world to change its meaning. But no, the biographers tell us. She chose her life and lived it as she wanted it.  I didn’t feel she wanted it that way. From the portrayal, I believed her life panned out the way it did, and she reluctantly accepted it, played into it, becoming more and more what she was destined to be rather than what was bursting inside of her to break free. Maybe it’s this portrayal that did her in. The audience is held captive by her frustrations and emotional swings. The lines in her poems are recited in the same voice as her musings, without a change of emotion or a pause to let us know she moved from her thoughts to verse.

It’s a reminder of the passive existence of so many women in days gone by. Sheltered and protected, waiting to be chosen – either by a potential suitor or a publisher – waiting for life to include them – waiting to be acted upon. Biographers describe Dickinson as reclusive and morbid, perhaps suffering from agoraphobia. It’s hard to see this with Ms. Richardson’s portrayal. Doom and gloom were not communicated as much as hope and disappointment for what could have been. Although death is a main theme of Dickinson’s poems, this aspect of her life is played down and overshadowed by her optimism. Would the assessment of Dickinson’s life and work have been different if she were socially active? Married? What came first, society’s labeling her or Dickinson playing out the scripted life?

It was my understanding that Dickinson chose the circumstances of her life, but Ms. Richardson portrays Dickinson as a casualty of her circumstances. Dickinson was always labeled a spinster – a term that denoted unattractiveness, mental illness, social ineptness.  Dickinson would not have been judged so harshly in modern times. Marriage is a lifestyle choice, not a necessity. Many women still wait to be acted upon while others have chosen an alternate option.

Hopefully, we’ll be appreciated before we die unlike Emily Dickinson who never knew she would be remembered for her greatest passion – revealing her soul, putting pen to paper, capturing in a poem what others would pass without a second look if it were not for her perspective and introspective.

Maybe she’s in heaven, looking down and smiling. I hope so.

Please take a look at the videos below to compare performances by Joely Richardson and Julie Harris. You’ll see what I mean about frenetic energy vs. quiet introspection.

Please join the discussion and let me know what you think.

Next week’s blog: “The King’s Curse-Philippa Gregory: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”

© 2014  All rights reserved. No part of this content my be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

Watch this video to see an excerpt from Joely Richardson’s performance.
http://youtu.be/-ia4TdsvCF0

Watch this video to see Julie Harris’ performance.
http://youtu.be/S6nw-ovaR1o

 

Cold Spring, New York : A Breath of Fresh Air

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

This will be my last Fall blog of places of interest in and around New York City. Our beautiful Fall weather propels me to enjoy the great outdoors. Unlike the winter when I hide at home as much as possible, or the summer when I’m content to stay outside in the shade or inside with the air conditioner and a cool drink, Fall in New York City makes me want to go, go, go!

My focus today is on the village of Cold Spring (not to be confused with Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island), located in the town of Philipstown in Putnam County in upstate New York. According to the 2010 census, the population was less than 2,000 – only five hundred more than the number of students at my high school! The central area of this village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as evidenced by its well-preserved 19th century buildings.

Cold Spring is bordered by the Hudson River to the west and Hudson Highland Park to the north with Mount Taurus and Breakneck Ridge popular sites for hiking, camping, fly fishing and boating and kayaking in nearby towns. Cold Spring is an outdoor, daytime town. Don’t look for night life here, you’ll be disappointed.

One of the best things about this town is its proximity to New York City. It’s less than one and a half hour drive from Queens up the Taconic Parkway to the Cold Spring/ Rte. 301 West exit. There are no exit numbers, but the exit immediately before is Carmel/ Rte. 301 East. The Cold Spring exit is about 10 feet after the Carmel exit, so  you must s-l-o-w  down. I slam on my brakes every time. If you prefer to take the Metro-North from Grand Central Station, it’s one hour ten minutes to the Cold Spring stop. Definitely day trip material.

Driving into town on Rte. 301 West, you’ll pass Stonecrop Gardens which is opened from late March until the end of October. It will be on your right when traveling west.

Just before you get into town, if you turn left going south on Rte. 9D, it’s a five minute drive to Boscobel with its beautiful house and gardens tour. The house was built in the very early 1800’s and is one of the finest examples of federal-syle architecture. If you choose not to tour the house, you can walk the grounds and gardens free of charge for a beautiful view of the Hudson River. Look for West Point on the other side of the river. By the way, if you decide to go to Boscobel for the Shakespeare Festival , concerts or Christmas festivities and performances, you can do a round-trip cab special from the Cold Spring station to Boscobel.

Let’s get back in the car, head north on Rte. 9D and turn left going west onto Rte. 301 right into Cold Spring. Just follow the road, now called Main Street. If you turn right at the French restaurant (Bright blue with red trim) at         Street, you can ride along the Hudson where you’ll see loads of hikers roadside and emerging from the trails. This is a good vantage point to get your bearings. Head back to town, make a right back on Main St., left at Lunn Terrace, left at Market St. where you will see Our Lady Chapel on the right. This is across from the train station. You can park your car there and walk up the path for another view of the river. The tiny chapel has historical significance and is a venue for concerts, some of them free of charge.

Head back north on Market St. which leads to the lower level of the town. You can park your car on the street, and later walk up the stairs through the train underpass to get back to Main St. and the shops and restaurants or just go back to Main St., park, then walk down the stairs to get to this part of the town which should not be missed. The lower part of Main St. has a beautiful gazebo, great views of the Hudson, bed and breakfasts, condos, small hotels, restaurants and Moo Moo Creamery across from the train tracks for delicious ice cream. You can also take a ferry ride to Bannerman Island which very well may be haunted by the tribes of Native Americans that inhabited this region.

Get back upstairs to upper Main St. where you can visit shops and restaurants.

You’ll find antique stores, my favorite being Fountain Square Antiques. This store is small and dust-free with things you may actually want to buy. I bought a prototype miniature Singer sewing machine here a few years ago as a gift for my daughter. It came with a paper of authenticity and she was thrilled. Some of the other antique places carry what looks like garage sale leftovers, dust and all. You might find something worthwhile here, but you’ll have to search.

Make sure to visit Cold Spring Apothecary for natural skin, hair and home products. I love their bug spray which is made from witch hazel, glycerin, organic apple cider vinegar and essential oils like lavender. It smells good and kept the mosquitoes off me when I was in the rainforest in Peru. It works.

The Country Touch carries great wooden clever signs that make great gifts. This store has a saying for everything.

There are so many little shops, it’s hard to remember them all. Go in and browse. Many of them carry things you won’t find elsewhere.

Let’s take a look at some restaurants. There are so many for every taste and budget. I like Hudson Hil’s Cafe ( not a typo) for their fish tacos. They’re only opened for breakfast and lunch so go before 3:00pm. Le Bouchon (painted bright blue with red trim) has very good continental and french food. Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill has very good reviews for its Italian food. I haven’t eaten there yet, but that’s my next visit.

It’s fun to ride the trolley through the town, then on to Boscobel and/or Garrison train station. Check the trolley schedule since it only runs in the daytime and it doesn’t run through winter months.

Want to veg out without elaborate plans? Don’t want to deal with hours and hours of traffic? Tired of commercial towns that pretend to be historical?  Easy. Relaxing. This is the place for you.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

Take a look at the town’s website for more information. Click on the box “Tour Main Street”  on the upper left. You’ll see the facades of the buildings. http://coldspringliving.com

To stroll through the streets of Cold Spring, watch this video. http://youtu.be/INignE90tlU

BITE FIRST! –Ask Questions Later

BITE FIRST! –Ask Questions Later.

I like this advice. It resonates with me. I needed a boost right now. It may become my new writing mantra. Just jump in and worry about the details later. Got it!

From Williamsburg to The High Line

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

 

I’ve decided to do some reviews of places of interest in and around New York City in my blogs. Our beautiful Fall weather propels me to enjoy the great outdoors. Unlike the winter when I hide at home as much as possible, or the summer when I’m content to stay  outside in the shade or inside with the air conditioner and a cool drink, Fall in New York City  makes me want to go, go, go!

Today’s focus is on the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn which is a hop, skip and a jump on the L train to the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan and the popular High Line. Let’s not forget the ferry to Manhattan. It makes a great day trip combination.

Let’s start in Williamsburg.

Grab brunch or lunch at Radegast Hall & Biergarten on N. 3rd St. where you can get beer, cocktails, a great giant soft pretzel appetizer and grilled sausages. You can enjoy other dishes from the menu such as ricotta lemon pancakes or quiche which are both delicious as well a non-brunch items that are also reasonably priced.

Take a walk next door to Mast Brothers artisanal chocolate factory store also on N. 3rd St. I purchased a five bar gift pack with chocolate flavors such as Belize, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea and Brooklyn Blend. The aroma of chocolate is overpowering and to die for. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, go in and inhale. Your nose will thank you.

Next door to the chocolate shop, Egg is a notable small, crowded, trendy place for breakfast with lines out the door and a waiting list. I never went in, but people wait in line so it must be good, but in my mind an egg is an egg is an egg. I prefer the beer garden, but that’s me.

Walk over to Bedford Avenue  (the main street filled with restaurants and shops). On the corner of Bedford & N.4th you’ll find the Bedford Cheese Shop. True, it doesn’t smell as good as Mast Brothers, but the cheese is high quality and delicious. Your palate will thank you.

On the same side of the street is Whisk, a kitchen gadget shop. I purchased a white ceramic egg tray there which makes the inside of my refrigerator look pretty – not to mention that it’s serviceable and practical.

On the opposite side of Bedford Avenue you will find Norbu , which sounds like a sushi restaurant but is a jewelry store that carries pricey but unique costume and delicate jewelry. Definitely worth a look.

Heading to N. 7th St., you’ll find the Bedford Avenue stop on  the L train . With generations of New York City grime, you can step back in history and walk into the station even if you’re not taking the train.

Before we head over to Manhattan, let’s talk about two hotels in the neighborhood.

The Wythe Hotel on N. 11th St. & Wythe Avenue is a trendy hotel with a rooftop terrace bar and the restaurant. Directly across the street on Wythe is the Brooklyn Bowl with a crowded bar scene, black leather couches, a stage for performers and happening vibe. Around the corner on N. 11th is the famous Brooklyn Brewery which gives tours and its beer garden is open on weekends.

Another trendy hotel located at N. 12th St. overlooking McCarren Park, is the King & Grove Williamsburg which offers a small bar, pastries in the lobby and an outdoor saltwater pool.

Let’s walk back on crowded Bedford Ave. dodging strollers, families with young children and the many tourists who flock to this unique neighborhood. Take the L train to the last stop – Eighth Ave. at 14 Street (Chelsea) then walk west towards 10th Ave. and the river.

Chelsea is a trendy area in Manhattan. When you go there, you’ll understand why. Not only is it charming, but this area has great restaurants and bars, Chelsea Market and the High Line.

The High Line is a 1.45 mile long park converted from the no longer used section of the New York Central Railroad. Located about 3o feet above street level, running from 12th St. to 34 St. between 10th & 12th Avenues, this paved walkway takes about 3 hours round trip. The high winds whip around so hang on to your hats. You must take stairs to get there but elevators are also available at 14 St., 23 St., 29 St., and 34 St.  Stairway entrances are also scattered along the park. There’s a small play area for young children midway. Buildings are close with a number of old and new constructions literally adjacent to the High Line. The great thing about walking on this extremely crowded path is that bicycles, skates and skateboards are not allowed. Hooray! None of those Brooklyn Bridge rage-filled bicyclists.

There’s also ferry service from New Jersey and a helipad at 30th Street.

Of course, there are numerous restaurants and stores along the way once you exit the High Line. My favorite is the Standard Hotel on Washington St. near 14th St. Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous hotel, but it boasts an outdoor Biergarten, an outdoor restaurant, indoor restaurants and lounges. Sophisticated. Chic. Think Miami.

You can head back to the L train now, unless you started in Manhattan and worked backwards. Let me know how you enjoyed your day. I’d love to hear from you.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

 

Watch this video to take a walk through Williamsburg.                                        http://youtu.be/WWavEb3z1Ak

Watch this video to walk on the High Line .                                                                       

Visiting Brooklyn Heights

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

I’ve decided to do some reviews of places of interest in and around New York City in my next few blogs. Our beautiful Fall weather propels me to enjoy the great outdoors. Unlike the summer when I’m content to stay  outside in the shade or inside with the air conditioner and a cool drink, Fall in New York City  makes me want to go, go, go.

I’m going to start this adventure with my visit to the very trendy Brooklyn Heights. Traffic and traffic circles combined with droves of people greet visitors as they exit from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway looking for street parking and parking lots. Better to take the subway. If you do take your car, get away from that crazy area to the quieter Henry St. neighborhood where you can park your car on the street in front of beautiful Brooklyn brownstones which give this area much of its flair.

We parked off Henry St. and walked towards the restaurants. There are so many from which to choose. After an earlier online search, we headed to Noodle Pudding, an Italian restaurant that does not take credit cards and had a 40 minute wait.

Way too hungry and impatient for that scene, we walked a few restaurants away to Henry’s End. We lucked out and happen to walk in when someone else was leaving. Wow! We loved it. The restaurant is known for its game: duckling, antelope, boar, rabbit, venison, etc. There’s also a special Game Week (no, not football) when these and other dishes are available. I ordered the duckling, brussel sprouts and a delicious red wine from Ohio. Yes, Ohio. Who knew?

After dinner, we headed back to the crazy Old Fulton St. area.

We walked over to the East River Ferry at Old Fulton & Furman. You can take the ferry across the East River to the Wall St. Pier 11 area or you can travel upriver to south and north Williamsburg, Long Island City and Greenpoint  in Queens and on to 34 St. in Manhattan.

After investigating the ferry and the beautiful River Cafe ( which is where I’d like to eat on my next trip), we headed back to crazyland on Old Fulton St. passing the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldi’s (known for their pizza). Of course,        both had  l-o-n-g  lines and I was happy we’d already eaten.

From there, we headed towards the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, not easy to find  where Prospect St. crosses Washington St. around Cadman Plaza East amidst traffic, construction, broken sidewalks, detours, circles, exits, people, people and more people. I’m a native New Yorker and it made me cringe.

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and designed by German civil engineer John Augustus Roebling. The walkway leading to Centre St. in Manhattan across from City Hall Park is 1.3 miles. The wooden walkway still has remnants of the old- fashioned gas lamps used to light the way. Better keep left when walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The right side is for bicyclists who are aggressive and nasty if you get in their way. Hang on to your kids because I’ve come to the conclusion that bicyclists are filled with inner rage.

All of this for a beautiful view of Manhattan at night? Is it worth it? Yes!

Going home was an adventure. We never found the entrance to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway East after driving in circles for 40 minutes. I know it’s there somewhere in plain sight. We wound up just taking the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, then the FDR Drive north to the Midtown Tunnel. Talk about going in circles. Don’t take this route unless you’re desperate.

Oh, I almost forgot. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes.

© 2014 All  rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

Please watch this video for a view from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Next week’s blog: From Williamsburg to The Highline 

 

The Science ProjectThe Ocean's Way

 

 

 

 

This has been a milestone week for me!

 

 

I’ve finally published two of my books as ebooks available on Amazon & Smashwords. It’s been an arduous journey. I suppose it can only get easier from this point forward. I had so much to learn, but I did it!

Many thanks to my cover designer, Judy Bullard at customebookcovers@cox.net and my ebook conversion formatter, Marti Dobkins  at iformat4u.com. They showed great patience and professionalism as they worked with me to get the desired results.

Smashwords retailers include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Stanza, Aldiko.  If the books are not immediately available for all Smashwords retailers, please check back. Remember, these books can also be read on a computer.

Click title to purchase “The Ocean’s Way” Kindle Version                                               Click title to purchase “The Science Project” – Kindle Version

Click title to purchase “The Ocean’s Way” – Smashwords Version                   Click title to purchase “The Science Project” – Smashwords Version 

These books are suggested for middle school readers. For summaries and excerpts, you can visit my website/ blog at http://ElaineDonadioWrites.wordpress.com.

Please post your reviews on Amazon and Smashwords as well as social media.         Hopefully, you’ll love both books!

I hope to have the third book in this group ready for publication in December 2014.    “Who Do Voodoo?” is a mystery set in New Orleans.

I’ll let you know when my other books become available.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

 

Link

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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