Butler professor assists with local civic theater

When she’s not teaching at Butler, English Department Chair Hilene Flanzbaum takes a step outside the Butler bubble and serves as a consultant to the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre.

“A former student wrote to me and asked if I remembered her,” Flanzbaum said. “She said she was now the executive director of the Civic Theatre and that they were doing this production [of The Belle of Amherst] and asked if I could come and help [with it].”

According to the Civic Theatre’s Web site, the author of the play, William Luce, uses the poems, letters and personal accounts of Emily Dickinson to write a one-woman play that is, “an inspiring, poignant and truthful biography of one of America’s greatest literary women.”

Flanzbaum is an expert on Dickinson’s literature.

“I am sharing what I know about her life, which is a lot,” Flanzbaum said. “Her life was very complicated. There have been lots of writings on what her deal was.

“She was a recluse. She very rarely came out of her house, and for the last 10 years of her life, not at all.

“There has been a lot of speculation about what her deal was, but people really do not know. They are just guessing.”

Flanzbaum said Luce’s play is creating another theory about Dickinson’s life.

“I talked with the director about what I think about Dickinson’s life or what she was like and then I talked about some readings of the poems,” Flanzbaum said. “Sometimes her poems can be very difficult and very cryptic.

“The director was a really smart guy, so we had a lot of conversations about what the poems mean, how to portray her and how to read certain lines.”

With the opening night (Nov. 4) approaching quickly, Flanzbaum reflected on how this opportunity with the Civic Theatre has revitalized her appreciation for Dickinson.

“I have taught courses on Emily Dickinson,” Flanzbaum said. “This opportunity reminded me how much I love her and how much I really want to teach on her again.”

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