The Belle
of Amherst

Purchase tickets

April is National Poetry Month, and the Sierra Madre Playhouse invites you to join us for these special events held in celebration of "The Belle of Amherst" starring Ferrell Marshall as the great American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) and which runs March 18-April 23.
Learn More
 

The Belle of Amherst March 18 - April 23

The Belle of Amherst of the title is Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), a pioneering female American poet, who remains influential to this day. Although only ten of her poems were published during her lifetime, some 1,800 were published after her death,not including two new collections published since 2013 consisting of poems collected from scraps, chocolate wrappers and envelopes. Her concerns regarding her compositions extended beyond themes and the choice of words to the way the word visually appeared on the page.

 

"I dwell in Possibility"

Textbox Section

A Note From the Director:

I had the joy of watching the incomparable Julie Harris perform her extraordinary one woman show based on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson years ago when I was in college in Minneapolis. She captivated that stage and filled it with Emily’s world and her beautiful words. I was transported back to that time of grace, that quiet solitude, that peace, surrounded by all of Nature. Her performance stayed with me all of these years and remains one of the theatrical highlights I have been blessed to witness.

The art of creation is a non-stoppable force, much like Emily’s spirit. It has no rules, no boundaries, no timeline. It lives and thrives despite our joys and our setbacks. Often growing even more from our setbacks.

Author William Luce states, “The Belle of Amherst is a love affair with language, a celebration of all that is beautiful and poignant in life.” Emily’s was a world of words. Arranging them just so to create fleeting images that combine to enter into our soul and transform our lives. Reminding us to take the moment to look, feel and connect. A time of introspection into our own lives and our relationship to the world around us.

When my dear longtime friend, colleague and wonderful actress, Ferrell Marshall, approached me last year to join her on her journey toward The Belle of Amherst, I was thrilled to say yes. To collaborate and discover the piece again with a fellow artist brings the exploration of self and relationship back to experience Emily’s world all over again in a wonderful new light! To discover the simple yet beautiful depth of these poetical words and images has been a delight! As well as the chance to take my own journey of self-discovery through working on this beautiful play.

To quote from Luce’s author’s notes: “The essential Emily of my play is secretly saying to the audience, ‘Pardon my insanity, Pardon my jubilation to Nature, my terror of midnight, my childlike wonder at love, my white renunciation. Nothing more do I ask than to share with you the ecstasy and sacrament of my life.’”

So, welcome to Emily’s house, 1886! Sit back and take in her words and images. Let the words wash over you and resonate in your own lives. You may discover corners that have long been asleep or memories, glimpses of your past that come to light and reignite your heart and soul.

Welcome to Amherst! And thank you for stopping by…..
Todd Nielsen

 
 
 

Producer's Note:

I was gifted with a speech impediment. As a young girl, I was teased relentlessly because of my mush mouth. However, I was also blessed with two years of speech therapy and would be given assignments to memorize and recite poems. It was there that I was introduced to Emily Dickinson. I felt such a kindred connection with Emily. Like me, she was a girl who loved nature and her dog. Her words painted beautiful pictures which awakened in me a passion to create. The allure of her story made her poems all the more exciting to learn. I remember my teacher asking me, “What is your possibility?” "Acting!” came my quick response. This surprised her for I was ridiculously shy and would burst into tears if too much attention was directed my way. But, the seeds were firmly planted.

I was 16 when I first saw The Belle of Amherst by William Luce and I told my mother that one day I would play my favorite poet. I’ve had it to hope for and now the day has come. My company, Honey B Productions, is named after my mother. Her first name was, indeed, Honey, a good Southern name; and the B is for Blanton, her middle name. She was always known as Honey B, and like Emily, she broke all the rules and was as unique and wonderful.

Co-producing with SMP has been kismet, as they too are fans of this great American poet. Together, we are thrilled to be bringing her to life.

 

The Belle of Amherst AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I first became acquainted with Emily Dickinson’s poetry when I was a boy in sophomore English. Years later, a friend gave me a gift of Emily’s collected letters. When I read those letters, I saw more clearly into the heart of the shy woman whose poems I had loved and admired for so long.

When I undertook the writing of The Belle of Amherst, it was my hope to depict the humanity and reasonableness of Emily Dickinson’s life. I say reasonableness because I believe that she consciously elected to be what she was – a voluntary exile from village provincialism, an original New England romantic, concisely witty, heterodox in faith, alone but not lonely, “with Will to choose, or to reject.”

I consider the one-person play to be uniquely suited to the telling of Emily’s story. She was reclusive, an individualist of the highest order. To interpolate other actors and actresses seemed unnecessary to me. I decided the inner drama of the poet’s consciousness in an intimate, one-to-one relationship.

The Belle of Amherst is a love affair with language, a celebration of all that is beautiful and poignant in life. As it turns out, shy Miss Emily was writing for theatre as surely as she breathed. In her every evocative phrase there is theatrical texture. On stage, the strange ways of Emily Dickinson become dramatic qualities in an arena large enough to give them the look of “divinest Sense.” Thus, the theater seems a thoroughly appropriate setting for Emily’s life and art, enabling actress and audience to “climb the Bars of Ecstasy” together.

-William Luce

 
 

"I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Textbox Section





"If I can stop one heart from breaking I shall not live in vain"

Textbox Section
 

Ferrell Marshall as Emily Dickinson (AEA/SAG-AFTRA) Co-Producer, Honey B Productions

Ferrell recently won the 2016 Stage Raw Award for Featured Actress for her performance in the L.A, premiere of Enron, for which she also received a Scenie Award. She received a Scenie Award and a Broadway World nomination for a Leading Actress performance in a 2012 production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The following year, she received Broadway World nomination for her performance in the L.A. premiere of The End Of It. She has been performing on Los Angeles stages for over three decades. (#ILove99) Ferrell is also a voice-over artist, has appeared in several independent films, and is a painter. An online gallery of her nature-themed paintings can be found at ferrellmarshall.com, This production of The Belle of Amherst marks the fruition of her decades-long ambition to play this role. Her production company, Honey B Productions, is named after her mother, Honey Blanton “Honey B” Scholz, a true original and like Emily, loved breaking the rules.

Ferrell is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Joe Blasco School of Makeup. She sits on the Board of Directors of L.A. Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing volunteers throughout greater Los Angeles.

This production is dedicated to the memory of her husband, George Edward Adeeb. “Sweetheart! We’re doing Belle! Loving you. Missing you.”

More about Ferrell and Honey B at www.ferrellmarshall.com

 

"Find ecstasy in life. The mere sense of living is joy enough."

Textbox Section





"Hope is the things with feathers
That perches in the soul "

Textbox Section
 

TODD NIELSEN (Director):

As a seasoned Director of over 100 productions, Todd is excited to be working with longtime friend, Ferrell Marshall on this beautiful gem of a piece and honored to be presenting it at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.


Todd has received a number of awards recognizing his work both as director and actor over the years as well as numerous nominations and “critic’s picks" from Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Backstage, Dramalogue, LA Weekly, LA Stage Scene, Broadway World and LA Stage Alliance. His productions of both On the Twentieth Century and City of Angels won the LA Ovation award for Best Musical (Intimate Theatre). LA Stage Scene honored him as one of the Best Directors of the 2012-2013 season. He had the pleasure and exciting challenge of acting as Resident Director for one of the National Tours of Disney’s The Lion King. Recent productions include Bye, Bye, Birdie, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure both for Glendale Centre Theatre, White Christmas for San Diego Musical Theatre, Mr Scrooge  for Nine O’Clock Players and Closer Than Ever  for International City Theatre.


As a performer, Todd spent two seasons in St George, Utah at Tuacahn Performing Arts Center in The Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, Joseph…Dreamcoat, Beauty and the Beast, When You Wish and Sister Act. He also appeared in 42nd Street for San Diego Musical Theatre. Other theatres Todd has directed for include The Colony Theatre, Chapman University, AMDA, Cabrillo Music Theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, Musical Theatre West, Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Croswell Opera House, Musical Theatre Guild, West Coast Ensemble, The Welk Resort Theatre and 42nd Street Moon Theatre and Palos Verdes Performing Arts Center where he will be directing their upcoming production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man.

 

Production Team:

Vicki Conrad
(Rep Costume Designer):

received the 2015 Ovation Award for Best Costume Design for The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Actors Co-op). Recent credits: Next to Normal, Our Town, The Imaginary Invalid, Asterion, Summer and Smoke, 110 In the Shade (Ovation Award – Best Production of a Musical), The Learned Ladies (LA Weekly Award Best Costume Design, Ovation Nomination) and Big River (Ovation nomination.) At SMP: Einstein is a Dummy and Deathtrap. Look for her designs in Season 15’s Project Runway commercial! Thanks to the SMP and BLH team. www.vickiconraddesign.com

Orlando de la Paz
(Rep Scenic Painter):

this is Orlando's tenth production at SMP: Bee-luther-hatchee, The Glass Menagerie, A Christmas Memory, Always...Patsy Cline, The Odd Couple, A Little House Christmas (both times), A Walk in the Woods, and the Einstein/Putting it Together rep. Other credits include many shows at: A Noise Within, The Colony, Antaeus, La Mirada Theater, Boston Court, The Los Angeles Theater, The Falcon Theater, and ICT in Long Beach. Education: Otis College of Art and Design, Don Bosco College Seminary, Don Bosco Technical Institute.

Krys Fehervari
(TBoA Wig and Make-up Designer):

is celebrating her silver anniversary designing for the theatre! After graduating from UC Irvine with a theatre arts degree, she went on to receive both cosmetology and esthetician licenses. Krys’ passion and creativity have won her rave reviews and numerous awards in the theatrical, print, film, and television communities. She has styled for Disneyland, the L.A. Opera, and many different theatre companies. Her work has been seen on PBS, the Hallmark channel, National Geographic Wild channel, PBS- Japan, and billboards across California. She has also been recognized by many film festivals, DramaLogue, the Ovation awards and the salon industry for her outstanding execution and design. Krys is proud to once again be working with SMP.

Lauri Fitzsimmons
(TBoA Properties Designer):

is delighted to join Honey B Productions and SMP for The Belle of Amherst. Previous credits include Lead Scenic Artist for Sacred Fools Theatre Company’s Astro Boy and The God of Comics. She has also served as Costume Designer for West Coast Ensemble Theatre, Costume Mistress for Debbie Allen’s Alex in Wonderland and various productions for Media City Dance

Rebecca Hairston
(Rep Lighting Designer):

is excited to be working with Christian Lebano again on A Wrinkle in Time and with Todd Nielsen for the first time on The Belle of Amherst. She is delighted to be working with such a collaborative and imaginative team. Some of her favorite experiences are working with Martha Graham Dance Company, Isabella Rossellini on "Green Porno Live On Stage", J.J. Hairston, Hezekiah Walker, Kirk Franklin, touring the country with Marc Bamuthi Joseph on his shows "The Break/s: A Mix-Tape for Stage" and "red, black and Green: a blues".

Matthew G. Hill
(Rep Set & Projection Designer):

is an award-winning, multi-media, multi-disciplinary storyteller. From stage to screen to the printed page, Matt believes in the power of stories and hopes to use them to inspire. Matt has served as an artist-in-residence at the National Theatre of Croatia, the Getty Villa, and the Annenberg Beach House. He is currently the associate artistic director of the Rogue Artists Ensemble and teaches design at the University of La Verne. Matt has won an LA Weekly Award for video design, both the Chronos Prize and Kairos Prize for screenwriting, and three CSPA Gold Circle Awards. He has designed more than a dozen Telly Award-winning campaigns. He has been nominated for a National Youth Arts Award, a Jerry Herman Award, a LA Drama Critic’s Award, and more. Most recently, Matt won the 2016 Ovation Award for video design for his work on Man Covets Bird at 24th Street Theatre.

Carla Linton
(TBoA Assistant Lighting Designer):

Broadway and Regional assistant work includes Ragtime at the Kennedy Center DC, The Joffrey Ballet’s Cinderella LA, Oleana NYC, Some Americans Abroad NYC, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum MA. Design credits include Cabaret and Smokey Joes Café with Westchester Theater Co, Briar Rose with Everyday Inferno NYC, resident Lighting Designer for Invertigo Dance LA, Event Design and Production for Event Lights, Production Glue and Frost Productions NYC, Missy Fine Inc. LA, and management for Carnival Cruise Line Pride MD. Carla Linton holds a MFA with concentration in Theatrical Design from California Institute of the Arts and a Bachelors Degree of Liberal Arts and Sciences from SUNY New Paltz NY.

Alex Mackyol
(TBoA Sound Designer):

is a sound designer and engineer in Los Angeles, and has designed numerous productions around the country. Some of Alex’s most notable designs were for the World premiere of the critically acclaimed new play, The Dodgers, and the World Premieres of We Are the Tigers: A New Musical, Heartbreak Hotel, & Reunion, The Musical. Alex has also been the resident designer at Glendale Centre Theatre for the last 3 years, and is currently touring with Seibo, LLC, as their lead audio designer and engineer. Alex is also a seasoned veteran on the stage, having toured with Jesus Christ Superstar, performing as Annas alongside Ted Neeley, who reprised his role as Jesus of Nazareth. www.alexmackyol.com — www.thisishomethemusical.com

Todd McCraw
(Rep Technical Director):

moved here recently from NYC where he spent 28 years working in all aspects of theater tech, in every theater in NYC. He is head rigger for Fly-By-Night Dance Theater. He rigs for many other silk acts & trapeze acts & other theatrical productions. Todd spent four years in Big Apple Circus, assisting world-famous horse trainer & performer Katja Schumann. Other horse work: riding horses onstage at Lincoln Center for La Boheme, Aida & Manon Lescaut. Todd brings to LA his production company Sounds Like Art Inc. SLA supports live music, festivals, & corporate events. Regular clients: World Music Institute, Irish Arts Center, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, & Korean Arts. These are Todd’s third and fourth productions at SMP having worked on Menagerie and Bee-luther-hatchee.

Lillian Minnich*
(TBoA Stage Manager):

is the daughter of a military family and has lived in many parts of the country, and the world. She attended college in Texas, before moving to Los Angeles, then New York, then back to LA. During her ten years in New York, she Stage Managed over twenty Off-Off-Broadway shows. Favorites include West End Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing, three different productions of A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hecuba at 45 Bleeker Theatre (starring Kristin Linklater) and Levy Lee Simon’s Award-winning The Bow-Wow Club at the Workshop Theatre.

Diane Siegel
(Lobby & Special Events Curator):

When you grow up in a small town, you never take for granted the power of story to take you places. She hopes today’s children continue to fly to other planets, other worlds through books. And maybe if they are lucky they will come to the Sierra Madre Playhouse and see those worlds come alive with magical stage craft and acting. She loves poetry and her favorite poets are William Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke, and Emily Dickinson. This is her 14th lobby exhibit for the Playhouse: Battledrum, 6 Rms Riv Vu, A Walk in the Woods, The Odd Couple, Einstein/Putting it Together, Always…Patsy Cline, A Christmas Memory, Deathtrap, Charlotte’s Web, The Glass Menagerie, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, A Little House Christmas, and Bee-luther-hatchee. This is the fourth Theater for Young Audiences play at SMP for which Diane has created the pre-shows and educational outreach.

"Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me"

Textbox Section