Cherry Jones & Alvin Epstein to Lead Poets' Theatre's UNDER MILK WOOD Reading

The Poets' Theatre has announced that it is reorganizing and planning to present a full season of programming in 2014-2015. This historic Cambridge based organization will be led by Robert Scanlan, as President and Artistic Director, Benjamin Evett as the new Producing Artistic Director, and David Gullette as Literary Director. Scanlan, Evett, and Gullette have been charged by the Board of Directors to bring The Poets' Theatre back to prominence after more than a decade of inactivity. They will professionalize the company, create valuable partnerships with other organizations, and develop the resources to allow the theatre to present top quality productions in a regular and sustainable manner.

The team plans to inaugurate the new era with a staged reading of Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" - the work that had its first reading by the poet himself in 1953, an event that was instrumental in launching The Poets' Theatre sixty years ago. The reading at Sanders Theatre will feature Cherry Jones, Alvin Epstein, Benjamin Evett, Christopher Lydon, Karen MacDonald, and Thomas Derrah. It will follow this event with a series of live poetry evenings and at least two full productions: "The Mariner", a solo performance piece adapted from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", by Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett, starring Evett as the Mariner; and "Blue Front" by prize-winning local poet Martha Collins, a powerful poetic collage about her own father's witness of a lynching in Cairo, Illinois in 1909. "Blue Front" has been adapted for the stage by TPT Literary Director David Gullette.

The Poets' Theatre was founded in 1950 by such literary luminaries as Dylan Thomas, Mary Manning, Edward Gorey, and Thornton Wilder. Over the years, The Poets' Theatre has presented dramatic work by Samuel Beckett, William Alfred, Richard Wilbur, and others. Actors like Stockard Channing, Tommy Lee Jones, and Cherry Jones have appeared on stage for The Poets' Theatre. Nobel Laureates Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky, and Seamus Heaney are among the many internationally renowned poets who have read their work and that of others for the company.

Robert Scanlan, also a Professor of the Practice of Theatre at Harvard University, says, " We are responding to unceasing requests from poets and playwrights alike to re-open this working interface with an appreciative local audience. We are also planning links with the 92nd Street Y in New York City, who have a Poets' Theatre of their own with which I have long been associated as a director and presenter."

The Poets' Theatre is dedicated to the spoken word. It celebrates the power of distinctive language and poetry's unmatched ability to deliver a rich and meaningful cultural experience to its audience. The revived Poets' Theatre will present the theatrical work of contemporary poets as well as performances of classic texts and new translations of great plays from around the world. It is also planning a variety of events structured around the poetic voice, and its cultural ambitions and explorations.

"I believe that audiences have a thirst for rich language, imagery and ideas in the theatre." says Evett, "Especially in Boston. I would go further and say that poetic drama is the future of the theatre. Psychological realism has become the property of television, and it is theatre's unique ability to use symbol, image, metaphor and language to make unforgettable experiences in real time that will ensure its relevance."

Poetry events include an evening of International Poetry in Translation, and a Retrospective of African American Poetry in partnership with the Hutchins for African & African American Research at Harvard University, which is directed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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