Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One-woman staging of The Belle of Amherst showcases talents of renowned poet, up-and-coming actress

Gwenndolyn Aume brings the life and times of Emily Dickinson to life in The Belle of Amherst.

Two women of incomparable ability will be showcased when the Ohio University-Chillicothe theater program presents The Belle of Amherst at 8 p.m. on May 9 and May 10 in the Bennett Hall auditorium.

The Tony Award-winning play chronicles the life of noted American poet Emily Dickinson, an Amherst, Mass., native, who lived a reclusive life and whose writing prowess was not discovered and fully appreciated until after her death in 1886.

The performance will feature a one-person show by Gwenndolyn Aume, a 17-year-old star whose theatrical talents are evident early in her promising career. Aume, a senior at Logan Elm High School, is a Post-Secondary Option Program student on the Chillicothe Campus. Next fall, she plans to attend New York University and major in drama.

“This play will showcase an exceptional student-actress, theater program and piece of dramatic literature,” OU-C theater director Ken Breidenbaugh said. “Gwen, who is mature beyond her years, is exceptional in this role. She is focused, dedicated and respects the process. She has a passion, not just for this play, but for the wonderful thing we call theater.”

Tickets are available at the OU-C Box Office on the evenings of performances. Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens and free for OU-C students. Group rates of $8 per ticket are also available.

Aume is taking this role seriously in portraying an accurate depiction of the noted writer while dealing with a range of emotions.

“When Ken first told me I would be playing Emily Dickinson in a one-person show, it was absolutely wonderful, exciting and scary,” she said. “This can be overwhelming at times. I need to take on the role of an actual person, and I feel an obligation to be true to a real living, breathing person. This is a whole different experience than the usual playing of a character in a play.”

“There is a lot to process about the show and the life of Emily Dickinson. It is something that not a lot of actors get to do or want to do. It can be intimidating at times,” Aume said.

Aume has been doing her homework in preparation for the role.

“Sue Colley, the dramaturge, put together binders full of material about Emily Dickinson, her writing and the time period in which she lived. I have been reading it all,” she said. “In fact, as soon as I found I had this role, I bought a book of Emily Dickinson poetry. I have been reading it and studying the writing, as well as how it related to her time. Historically speaking, I want to be true to the character.”

According to Breidenbaugh, the young actress has a built-in advantage for this play.

“Gwenndolyn bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Emily Dickinson,” he said.

With no other actors on stage, Aume will be in the unusual role of flying solo. At times, during the play, she will converse directly with the audience.

The play is set in Dickinson’s hometown of Amherst, and the action flows between an upstairs bedroom and downstairs parlor. It was written by William Luce, the playwright of Barrymore, which was recently presented at OU-C.

“This play succeeds in taking us inside of the life, mind, artistry and frustrations of Emily Dickinson,” Breidenbaugh said.

Aume previously was on stage in the OU-C production of Sylvia and has performed with the Round Town Players in her hometown of Circleville as well as in Logan Elm High School productions. After a bit part at the age of 10, she had her first real role at age 12 in a local play, Dorothy and Alice, about the Wizard of Oz and Alice of Wonderland characters.

The Bob Cat Dinner Theater will be held at 6 p.m. on May 9. Cost is $21, which includes dinner and the play. The Erie Canal period in Ross County will be a table topic discussion, and Alan Gough will discuss his favorite works of art. Proceeds will benefit the Alan Gough Scholarship endowment fund. The OU-C Giving Circle and Ohio University Alumni Association are sponsoring the event. For reservations, call 774-7732.

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