So who was Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) really? She was the “Nobody” from Amherst, MA, the alleged half-cracked daughter of town father Edward Dickinson, who wrote nearly 1800 poems (7 published in her lifetime, but none by her initiative) and the continuing inspiration for poets, composers, writers, readers all over the world. Next to Rumi and Shakespeare, she may not only be the “Queen of Cavalry,” but assuredly the unequivocal Queen of the Pantheon.
For lovers of Shakespeare and those new to or fearful of the bard, Tina Packer’s “Women of Will, The Complete Journey,” aka “WOW,” playing in Parts I-V on five evenings and matinees through July 10 at Shakespeare & Co’s Bernstein theater, is more than a wow—it is a tour de force for acting, conception, and for what theater was for the Elizabethans and what it can be now, but often is self-consciously not. These performances hold to the Elizabethan venue with imagination leading the way. The five parts illustrate a different theme, repeating in a sense the five-act dramatic structure of Shakespeare’s plays.
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town lives and breathes and gently enlarges how we see ourselves way beyond the confines of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire or small town America — thanks to the current production at the Williamstown Theater Festival directed by Nicholas Martin. Martin has staged it exactly as it was written and first produced in 1938 at the McCarter Theater in Princeton and a month later on Broadway. The text is verbatim and the notes for no scenery — only wooden straight-backed chairs (quite an enormous number here hang off the backdrop), two round wooden tables and no props — are followed to a T.
Perhaps it is the relative ease, beauty, and quiet of the Berkshires—just the right remedy away from noisy New York and Boston…even Salem and Concord—that inspires writers. But certainly beginning in the 19th century through today Berkshire writers have had a consuming fascination with the mystery of place and how natural beauty and a closely hewn society are able to create the illusion of good in the presence of brooding evil. Elizabeth Brundage’s psychological thriller, Someone Else’s Daughter, is no different.