Whatever you think you know about Emily Dickinson will either be confirmed or completely recalculated after seeing the Court Theatre production of The Belle of Amherst, playing now through December 3. Playwright William Luce captures Dickinson’s mood and thought processes, nearly one hundred years after her death, with his purposefully meandering 1976 script. Rather than follow a linear timeline, the story takes the audience on a series of adventures—or, sometimes, misadventures—from different points in Dickinson’s life. Over the course of a day, while Dickinson bakes her favorite black cake, she recollects memory after memory, each lending itself to the next. Kate Fry, who plays Emily Dickinson, brilliantly gives the poet life, pulling in the audience immediately with a subtle peek through the fourth wall. She acknowledges we are in fact present, giving an informal invitation of sorts into her home. Once inside, we become readers of her poetry by sharing in her day-to-day intricate family dynamics, the gossip of neighbors, the pain of unrequited love, her work’s rejection by an esteemed critic, and even a few favorite baking recipes. Sometimes we are given the information by ordinary dialogue, but often the stories are woven together from the words from Dickinson’s actual poems.
South Side Weekly Stage & Screen Editor Nicole Bond recently had a chat with children’s author Senyah Haynes. Haynes is the Founder and Executive Director of Diasporal Discoveries, a nonprofit that connects youth to the history and culture of the African diaspora. In this conversation, what started out as two old friends catching up over coffee turned into a discussion about the role and responsibility of literature to its youngest audience.
Unapologetically for everything in print
Everything about the day was expertly choreographed. Dozens of large yellow school buses maneuvered their way through morning rush hour to the Private Bank Theater. Once there, Chicago Public School security staff clad in official blue jackets along with parents and teachers wearing identifiable orange vests assembled hundreds of high school students to their seats. Excitement buzzed in the air. The chatter and energy were palpable. Weeks of work and dedication culminated here at Chicago’s final Hamilton Education Program of the 2016–2017 school year.
Inauguration Day mixed the city’s emotions into a veritable soup of angst. Protesters dissenting the new president gathered at Daley Plaza and near Trump Tower before migrating to briefly shut down parts of Lake Shore Drive. But at an effervescent brown-owned café in Pilsen, performance artist Ricardo Gamboa’s live news show, F*ck Trump the Hoodoisie is Here, gave a standing-room-only crowd the opportunity to protest status quo politics in the nation as well as in the city.
Nicole Bond, a writer and performance poet, was interviewed by Chloe Hadavas for a story on food access in South Shore. The article explored the food desert that remains in South Shore after plans for a Mariano’s in the ill-fated Lakeside development were scrapped. She later joined Hadavas on WBEZ’s The Barber Shop Show to discuss the article, but came away from the interview with reservations. Bond, who has since joined the Weekly as Stage & Screen Editor, expands on those reservations, and the continued fight for food access in South Shore, in this editorial.
Sunlight shines through the window on her plastic Aldi bag
My neighborhood used to be 70’s top 40 with a splash of jazz. The streets once buzzed with haunting bohemian melodies. The spirit of progress was its heartbeat. A mix of races, backgrounds, and incomes comprised the lyrics. The college town energy made you feel anything; everything was possible walking along the hubbub of 53rd Street. Bestselling hardcover books stood proudly on tables, upright, spines unbroken at Kroch’s and Brentano’s.