Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

May 17, 2013

One-woman show helps gardens

TRAVERSE CITY — Emily Dickinson, one of America’s earliest poets, died in 1886.

She comes to life this weekend in the acclaimed one-woman play, “Belle of Amherst,” performed by professional actress Sinda Nichols.

Performances are scheduled today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse Studio Theatre. That’s located at the Depot at 620 Railroad Place, near the corner of East Eighth and Woodmere Ave.

Proceeds from the three public performances will benefit Grow the Gardens, a Traverse Area District Library project to develop landscaping and gardens near the main (Woodmere) branch front entrance.

“Belle of Amherst” opened in 1976 on Broadway with actress Julie Harris, who won a Tony Award for Best Actress the following year. It was written by William Luce, who wove Dickinson’s poetry and writings into a two-act play. It covers 40-year span of the poet’s life, from 1845 when she was 15 to her death at 55 in 1886.

Nichols, who grew up in Michigan and now lives in Florida, has performed the play more than 30 times over the last three years since founding Black Cake Productions as a vehicle to support organizations that promote literacy and local libraries. Her goal was also to honor Emily Dickinson’s “extraordinary gift” to the world of literature and poetry.

TADL received a $5,000 planning grant from the Friendly Garden Club of Traverse City for project designed by award-winning local landscape architect Dean Conners.

The benefit is a collaboration between the Friendly Garden Club of Traverse City , TADL and the Old Town Playhouse, which is donating the theater space and all proceeds to the project. Costs are still being calculated, but the garden effort is estimated at $20,000 to $25,000.

“The goal is for the front entrance garden to be a natural extension of the already beautiful and flourishing Children’s Garden that so many members of the community enjoy on a regular basis,” said TADL director Metta T. Lansdale Jr.

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