From page to stage: Centre professor’s poetry becomes dramatic production
February 16, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
a book of the same name by Professor of Classics Jane Wilson
Joyce, will run from February 23 to March 3 at The Rudyard
Kipling Theatre in Louisville.
“Beyond the Blue Mountains” retells a Boyle County family's
experiences on the Oregon Trail. Above, actors in the show
One Centre professor is seeing her writing transformed from the page to the stage. Looking for Lilith, a Louisville-based theatre company, will perform “Beyond the Blue Mountains,” a series of monologues based on a book of the same name by Jane Wilson Joyce, Charles J. Luellen Professor of Classics. The show will run from February 23 to March 3 at The Rudyard Kipling Theatre in Louisville.
Joyce’s book of poems, which retells a Boyle County family's experiences on the Oregon Trail, came about organically.
“The day after I put my dissertation into the mail, I was looking at books on my bookshelf in a vague sort of way and discovered I had bought several books about women making the overland journey,” Joyce says. “I had no memory — then or now — of buying the books, but there they were, and they were fascinating — photographs and diary excerpts. And that is where the book of poem-monologues ‘Beyond the Blue Mountains’ began its journey.”
In the early 1990s, a dramatic version of the poems was produced at Centre, with a set designed by Professor of Dramatic Arts Tony Haigh and directed by Kathi Ellis, now a member of the Looking for Lilith staff. Ellis made a bid to direct the production a second time.
“Looking for Lilith is dedicated to creating original work based on re-examining history through women's experiences. Typically in our season we do an original work, a scripted work and something ‘in between,’” Ellis says. “Knowing ‘Beyond the Blue Mountains,’ I pitched the idea of adapting the work for the stage as an ‘in-between’ vehicle for our women's history month production. I knew that the way we work with devising techniques would open up the poetry to some beautiful and powerful stage images. My colleagues agreed, and here we are!”
Ellis is excited about working with Joyce’s poems again.
“I worked with this text in the spring of 1994 at Centre, and have loved the poems since then, going back and reading them, and using them in my drama residencies,” says Ellis. “We're using the poems pretty much as they are — we didn't create a script per se — which has been a new way of working for us, but is very exciting.”
Joyce is looking forward to seeing her work produced in a new setting.
“I am interested to see how the play works with an audience away from Danville, with a women's group playing all the roles, and with Kathi having a second production of the play,” she says. “It’s a very great compliment that she would choose to do the play again.”
Copies of Joyce’s book “Beyond the Blue Mountain” will be available at the theatre box office. For more information about the performance, visit www.lookingforlilith.org. To read a review of the performance, click here.
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