Silenced Voices Echo in JSC Drama | Theater | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Silenced Voices Echo in JSC Drama 

State of the Arts

Langston Hughes and Anne Frank never met. But Johnson State College professor F. Reed Brown is bringing the Harlem Renaissance poet and the teenaged wartime diarist together on stage - along with Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson and Helen Keller - in a new play called Voices. Brown has fashioned a script from the historical figures' own words. Another JSC prof, Diane Huling-Reed, has set several poems to original music, which a chorus of four singers will perform.

Brown has been incubating the project for almost two decades, but returned to it in earnest two years ago. What unifies these five figures? "The jumping-off point is that they were all writing in isolation," Brown says. "And that intrigued me." The Nazis drove Frank into hiding - literally, in a cramped Dutch attic. Keller's disability limited her interaction with other people. Both Hughes and Dickinson were unable to live openly as homosexuals. Thoreau deliberately chose to remove himself from society.

Yet, Brown found, all five shared a deep need to express themselves prolifically, in poems, letters and journals. "Our look into their souls is through what they wrote," he explains.

Organizing the material was a time-consuming process, involving "a lot of Post-It notes," he shares with a laugh. "I started to look for the big universal things on the human condition. They spoke to love, marriage, passion, death, family . . . It's been hard whittling it down."

On stage, the characters wear period costumes and wield the historically correct writing implements. (The Thoreau family owned a pencil factory, so Henry was a pencil man, for example.) They don't interact often with each other, but their words flow naturally together. "They all spoke to all of those big issues," Brown notes.

In the play's epilogue, Dickinson summarizes the mission of Voices. "The poet lights the lamp and then goes out himself. But the light goes on - and on." Brown believes the impact of Anne Frank's life demonstrates this most poignantly. "Here's this 14-year-old girl whose light was extinguished in a concentration camp, yet her light goes on and on," he marvels. "The universal themes that this girl wrote about: It's sort of mind-boggling."

Info:

Voices, by F. Reed Brown. Dibden Center for the Performing Arts, Johnson State College, Johnson. September 4, 7 p.m. $5; tickets available at the door.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Elisabeth Crean

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation