Teale lecture performed as a play
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 23:10
The second Edwin Way Teale lecture of the year took place on Thursday, Oct. 3. Instead of the format typical of this lecture series – an hour-long slide lecture by a visiting scholar or researcher – Thursday’s talk was a one-man play called “This Verse Business.”
The play, written by A.M. Dolan, is a theatrical portrait of the American poet Robert Frost. It was entirely performed by Gordon Clapp, famous for his role as detective Greg Medavoy on the TV show “NYPD Blue.” In his portrayal of Frost, Clapp recited many of his famous and lesser-known poems as well as the poet’s views on science, religion and his relationship with the arts and humanities.
Sydney Plum, an adjunct professor in the English department, gave the welcome address and introduction to Dolan’s play. She extended special thanks to the theater department and explained that the play has already been very successful, “with more than 80 performances in five states so far.” Plum, who specializes in environmental literature and nonfiction nature writing, also explained why the play was an appropriate choice in the Teale series, which focuses on nature and the environment. Robert Frost’s poetry, she said, was instrumental in helping “us envision our relationship with the natural world … and frame questions that arise from humans’ estrangement from nature.”
A.M. Dolan drew his vision of Frost from lectures, interviews and letters, as well as the talks that the poet gave as he traveled the country for more than 50 years. When he recited poetry, Frost also shared his beliefs and displayed his wit and sense of humor by discussing science, politics and all manner of topics important to him. Dolan’s Frost made the audience laugh many times during the performance, but also had them sitting absolutely silent after a particularly powerful poem.
Clapp, as Frost, recited the famous “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” as well as the lesser-known poem “The Death of the Hired Man.” Beyond reciting poetry, he also shared stories from the poet’s personal life. In fact, the play was divided into two parts: one in which Frost was on stage talking to a large audience and a second in which he was in his private home, seemingly addressing a much smaller and more intimate group. During the second part, Frost mentions the deaths of his wife, son and daughter. He also explains parts of his writing process – like how he ever writes more than one poem a week, so that all his works are sufficiently different in style.
The next lecture in this series will take place on Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. It will be a return to the traditional lecture format, featuring Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. It is entitled “Towards Sustainable Food Systems: A Tale of Three Transitions.” All lectures in the Edwin Way Teale series are free and open to the public.