WADENA — Wadena-Deer Creek High School will present its one-act play, “The Humorist of Forest Leaves,” based on the life of American poet Emily Dickinson, Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Wadena Memorial Auditorium.
According to one-act director Jay Patterson, the play focuses on Dickinson’s adult life as a poet during the 1850s-1860s. Dickinson died in 1886 with almost 1,800 poems to her credit. She is considered one of the most esteemed American poets of all time, said Patterson.
“Some of these poems fit into the flow of the play and are recited by students. She has many supporting characters who were very real in her life — her younger brother Austin and sister Lavinia; Benjamin Franklin Newton, an aspiring lawyer who had a romantic interest in Emily; and Samuel Bowles, an editor of the Springfield Republican newspaper. She had a lot of interests as relates to a romantic bent,” said Patterson, who also wrote the one-act play.
Dickinson ended up never marrying and became a recluse toward the end of her life.
“She seldom left her bedroom. She was mysterious,” Patterson explained. “Frazer Stearns was a student at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., who volunteered for the Civil War and was killed. That loss, among many others, put Emily in an emotional tailspin. I am not sure she was ever able to reconcile death to her existence.”
Patterson goes on to explain his one-act play is a series of incidental anecdotes of real-life moments for Emily.
“It is historical fiction and so some stretching of the actual is going on. The huge rumor that flew around the countryside was whether Emily ever really fell in love,” Patterson said, adding. “There is little question that she did just that on multiple occasions with a number of different suitors. So this play becomes a biographical sketch of the person, the renowned, the very well respected literate, Miss Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, one of the most esteemed American poets of all time.”
Twenty WDC students are involved in this production. A performance for the general public will be at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Wadena Memorial Auditorium. Admission is free. The public performance serves as a warm-up for Subsection competition on Jan. 26 at Wadena Memorial Auditorium. Seven schools total are competing to advance to the sectional contest in Park Rapids the following Saturday, Feb. 2.
Auditions were held for the one-act play in December, with practice held after school and evenings since the beginning of January. One-act plays are limited to 35 minutes.