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The Belle of Amherst

Creating a play about the life of a recluse is no doubt a difficult undertaking, but “The Belle of Amherst,” on stage now at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre, manages it beautifully. Using facts about the life of poet Emily Dickinson’s, along with her letters and poems, playwright William Luce created the one-woman show celebrating Dickinson’s life.

The two-act production is set in Emily’s bedroom and living room and the stage in richly decorated as a 19th century New England home. Luce seamlessly wove many of the author’s own words into a candid conversation with the audience. This format allows people to connect with the poet on a personal level, while at the same time having a chance to appreciate her lyrical prose. Her poems are sprinkled throughout the show. At times she reads them aloud, at others she is simple making observations of the world in the only way she knows how.

Carrie Schlatter plays the poet with a childlike wonder of the world. She brings and impish glee to the role, infusing the monologues with humor and playfulness. The tour-de-force performance includes a constant stream of chatter about issues both big and small and Schlatter never loses the flow for a moment. She gossips about her family and in the next breath she’s mourning the death of a child. She portrays both the frustration and joy that Dickinson’s simple life offered.

Dickinson wrote about nature, death, immortality and more while seldom leaving her childhood home. Although she knew only the world directly surrounded her, she saw clear truths in the simplest of human interactions. She embraced a quiet life and often used her poems to ask questions about death and religion while she coped with the loss of a loved one.

It’s a wonderful biographical play which anyone can enjoy, but it’s a special treat for literary buffs like me. It also ranks as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre and shouldn’t be missed.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show closes Sunday, Nov. 14. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The show continues until May 23. The Indianapolis Civic Theatre is located at 3200 Cold Spring Road on the Marian College campus.

Tickets: Ticket prices start at $25 and can be purchased by calling (317) 923-4597 or visiting For more information of to purchase tickets, visit their website.

Photo Courtesy of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre.