Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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    Emily Dickinson is coming to Ojai!

     Emily Dickinson, America’s greatest female poet, lived in the 19th century yet seems surprisingly contemporary and relevant to our current times the more we learn about her unique life and examine her astonishing poetry.  Whether you are an artist, a lover of language, a frustrated soul who feels you have not been heard, someone who has experienced unrequited love, an environmentalist who worships nature or a rebel who refuses to accept established norms – Emily Dickinson will speak to you.

    The community of Ojai is in for a treat this month with two events celebrating the intriguing life and brilliant work of Dickinson.  The Ojai Film Festival is sponsoring a screening of the documentary “My Letter to the World” – narrated by Cynthia Nixon.  This film is a visually gorgeous exploration of Dickinson’s life and work and will be shown as a free event at the Ojai Library on December 15.  

    Then the Ojai Art Center is presenting the classic one-woman 1976 play “The Belle of Amherst”, written by William Luce. This production will be a fund raiserfor the Art Center and will run two weekends:  December 21 – 23 and December 28 – 30 at the Ojai Art Center Theatre.  First brought to Broadway by Tony-winner Julie Harris, “The Belle of Amherst” stars Ojai resident Anna Kotula in a stunning performance and is directed by Ojai’s own Steve Grumette.  While sitting in on a rehearsal, this writer was delighted to discover that Kotula and Grumette – along with stage manager Bianca Rice – prove to be the perfect combo to tackle this complex subject matter in a nuanced and highly entertaining way.

    While describing her journey preparing for this challenging role, Kotula reminisces, “I was swept back to childhood memories of my grandfather reading poetry to me and encouraging me to commit my favorite ones to memory.  Among those were some Emily Dickinson gems that were branded in my heart since then.”  She goes on to praise Grumette for “his special ability to guide me in bringing out the many subtle intentions embedded in the text.”

    In these current troubled times, is there any better way to spend the holiday season than enjoying an evening or two of life-affirming poetry and learning more about the unusual life of this amazing artist?  Dickinson loved her small town of Amherst, and she adored all aspects of nature – flowers, trees, animals, and insects.  Can’t help thinking that she would have felt right at home – here in Ojai. 

    The documentary film, “My Letter to the World”, will be shown as a free event at the Ojai Library on December 15 at 7 PM.  The play “The Belle of Amherst” will run at the Ojai Art Center Theatre December 21 – 23 and December 28 – 30.  Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 PM and Sunday matinees are at 2:00 PM.

    “The Belle of Amherst” tickets are $20 GA, $18 Seniors, $10 those under 25 and may be purchased online at

    “My Letter to the World”
    December 15 at 7 PM.
    Ojai Library
    111 E Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023
    “The Belle of Amherst”

    December 21 – 23 and December 28 – 30.
    Ojai Art Center Theatre
    113 S. Montgomery St, Ojai, CA 93023

    About the Ojai Art Center Theater…

    The Ojai Art Center is the longest continuously-operating multi-disciplinary center serving the arts in the State of California. Opened in 1939, the Center has eight branches for the various art disciplines. Most active is the Theater Branch, which presents a variety of dramatic productions, ranging from comedy to drama and musicals, annually. The branch has its own directors and monthly meetings to address all theater-related issues. The Artistic Director annually screens proposals for future productions and presents a tentative schedule for approval to the Center’s Board of Directors.

    Ojai Art Center is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit.The Ojai Art Center Theater is located inside the Art Center at:
    113 South Montgomery Steet
    Ojai, California 93023


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