For theaters, libraries and schools,
appropriate for any season, recommended especially for
Women's History Month in March and National Poetry Month in April

The Belle of Amherst

By William Luce
Produced and Directed by David Houston

By special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.


The most celebrated of all one-woman plays, The Belle of Amherst brings to life America ’s
most celebrated poet — Emily Dickinson.  Julie Harris first played the role on Broadway, and now Melanie Lipton brings the quiet electricity 
of those scenes to life.  William Luce, author of the play, wrote, “It was my hope to depict the humanity and reasonableness of Emily Dickinson’s life.  I say reasonableness, because I believe that she consciously elected to be what she was—a voluntary exile from village provincialism, an original New England romantic, concisely witty, alone but not lonely, ‘with will to choose or to reject,’ she said, ‘and 
I choose.’”  The play is set in Massachusetts in 1883 when Emily has published only seven poems.  
The warm feeling of the play is that of an intensely personal visit to a great, slyly humorous lady.

Playing time is about 80 minutes, performed without intermission.

Melanie Lipton as Emily Dickinson

Melanie Lipton as Emily Dickinson in her study in Massachusetts.  Greeting the audience 
as a guest in her home, the great American poet – shy and reclusive, warm and surprisingly witty – reflects 
on her life and her work, her family and her loves, as she drifts in and out of the 
Dickinson poetry that will live forever.  


scroll down or jump with these links:

Contact, Information
Schedule of Performances
Biographies of Luce, Lipton and Houston 
Poems of Emily Dickinson
References and Comments

contact, information

David Houston
(516) 293-2638;
700 Fulton Street, M-1, Farmingdale, New York 11735

$385 package includes actor, royalty (Samuel French), director, props and small stage setting, 
and travel (Long Island and Queens; for fees for other locales, contact David Houston);
Facility is asked to supply
an acting space at least 8' x 12', simple
lighting, and amplification if space is


Sunday, March 16, 2014, 2:00 p.m., Port Washington Public Library
Friday, April 4, 2014, 6:30 p.m., Westhampton Free Library

Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 1:30 p.m., The Women's Club of Douglaston
Saturday, April 2, 2011, 7:00 p.m., Montauk Library
Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:00 p.m., Queens Library, Fresh Meadows 
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 1:30 p.m., Queens Library, Bay Terrace 
Saturday, June 27, 2009, 2:30 p.m., Queens Library, Douglaston
Saturday, March 29, 2008, 3:30 p.m., California University, Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday, March 25, 2007, 2:00 p.m., Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library
Sunday, April 29, 2007, 2:00 p.m.,John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor
Friday, October 26, 2007, 3:30 p.m., Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton
Saturday March 25, 2006, 2:00 p.m. Half Hollow Hills Community Library, Dix Hills
April 1, 2006, 3:00 p.m. Queens Central Public Library, Jamaica
Sunday April 2, 2006, 3:00 p.m. Newburgh Free Library, Newburgh NY
Sunday, April 9, 2006 3:00 p.m. Manhasset Public Library
Saturday, June 3
, 2006, 7:00 p.m. Westhampton Free Library, Westhampton Beach
Friday, June 16, 2006, 8:00 p.m. Port Washington Public Library
Sunday, July 9, 2006, 5:30 p.m. Dominican Sisters of Hope, Newburgh, NY
Sunday, May 1, 2005
2:00 p.m. Longwood Library, Middle Island
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 2:00 p.m. Oceanside Library
Sunday, April 25, 2004 2:00 p.m. Babylon Public Library
Saturday, May 15, 2004 7:00 p.m. John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 7:00 p.m. Middle Country Public Library, Selden
Saturday, July 26, 2003, 2:00 p.m. North Shore Public Library, Shoreham
Sunday, November 2, 2003, 2:00 p.m. Syosset Public Library
Friday, March 14, 2003, 10:00 a.m. Jericho Public Library
Friday, March 21, 2003, 12:15 p.m. Port Washington Public Library


  biographies (suggested program notes)

WILLIAM LUCE—Playwright , is an Oregon writer whose work for Broadway is legendary.  His hit Barrymore won Christopher Pulmmer the 1997 Best-Actor Tony Award for his portrayal of John Barrymore.  Other credits include Lillian, starring Zoe Caldwell as Lillian Hellman, and The Last Flapper with Piper Laurie as Zelda Fitzgerald.  But his first intercontinental triumph, The Belle of Amherst, continues to excite audiences and awards committees above the rest.  Belle first thrilled New York and London audiences in 1976 – the production starring Julie Harris and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly.  Harris won her fifth Tony in the role.  For the PBS filming of Belle, she won an Emmy nomination and two Christopher Awards.  A recording of the play received a Grammy Award.  Julie Harris also starred in Luce’s Bronte and his play about writer Isak Dinesen, Lucifer’s Child.  William Luce wrote the CBS Movies The Last Days of Patton, starring George C. Scott, and the book for the musical Sayonara, based on James Michener’s novel.

MELANIE LIPTON—Emily Dickinson, is equally at home in drama, com­edy and musicals. Her starring roles include both Johanna and Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Maggie in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Alexandra in The Little Foxes, Lilli in Kiss Me Kate, Tracy in High Society, Mary in Cyrano Dot Com (a world premiere), Maria in The Sound of Music, Jenny in Threepenny Opera, and Lois Lane in a rare revival of the musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman.  A “perpetual student” and educator with a background in music, voice, and theatre, Melanie spent two seasons as teacher and choreographer at Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Center.  Melanie also stars as Zelda Fitzgerald in Houston’s touring play Great Scott and Zelda, and portrays Adele in his Fred and Adele Astaire: The Last Dance.

DAVID HOUSTON—Director, is a published and produced writer (14 books, 3 screenplays, 7 stage plays), fiction and non-fiction.  His Joan Crawford biography Jazz Baby ( St. Martin 's Press), was optioned for movie production, as was his mystery novel Shadows on the Moon (Tower Books).  As an actor, he has appeared in leading roles in scores of plays and musicals, including Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Major Bouvier in Grey Gardens, Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Ben in Death of a Salesman, Herr Shultz in Cabaret and Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes.  In addition to directing his own touring plays—including Let’s Do It!, The Last Dance, The Dickens!, Great Scott and Zelda, and Mark Twain Telling Tales—he recently directed productions of The Odd Couple Female Version, Sylvia, and Social Security.


poems of emily dickinson

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us—don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!


My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.


The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;

A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.


Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.


references and comments

Leticia Tactuk, Customer Service Specialist, Queens Library at Bay Terrace: "The Belle of Amherst with Melanie Lipton was a beautiful presentation. The audience really enjoyed it. Comments were very positive. Just to mention a few: 'Lovely,' 'absolutely beautiful,' 'wonderful.'" Luise van Keuren, Associate Professor of English, California University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh: "The Belle of Amherst exceeded our expectations, high quality in every respect, and the company had the production protocol down pat. We only had to open the door! Our audience was literary and academic, so we savored this portrait of a poet we know well. The company was thoroughly prepared and organized, not to mention gracious. It's been a pleasure to work with all of you." Penelope Wright, Director of Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "I'm not sure I've ever been witness to a more moving performance by an actress than that of Melanie Lipton in The Belle of Amherst; she took a pitch-perfect script and gave it wings to soar to the heavens. For this, Ms. Lipton shares the credit with the director, David Houston, a true hero for Long Islanders in search of absolutelhy first-rate small-scale theatrical productions." Linda Reiss, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Newburgh, New York: "We were mesmerized by Melanie's performance.  There was an abundance of accolades from all." Kenneth P. Neilson, Director, All Seasons Art, in his review for The Culvert Chronicles: "This time I'll carry the memory of the superb performance by Melanie Lipton in the famous one-woman play by William Luce, The Belle of Amherst. This excellent new staging was produced and directed by David Houston; [it was] the Queens Central Library's way of beginning National Poetry Month." Esther Lee, Manager, Fine Arts and Recreation, Queens Borough Public Library: "Melanie Lipton's performance was 'just wonderful.'  The audience was very appreciative of her splendid portrayal of the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson." Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: “Melanie Lipton’s Belle was simply beautiful.  I laughed and I cried; I’ve never seen the play better performed – and that includes the original with Julie Harris! Our audience brought Melanie back for three curtain calls!” Jericho Library, Phyllis Cox: “Melanie Lipton was incredible as Emily Dickinson.  The production was superb.  The audience thanked me as they left.” Susan Lenaghan, Adult Program, Syosset Public Library, : “Melanie played an excellent Emily.  The audience enjoyed her performance immensely.  One audience member was moved to tears.” Nadine Connors, Cultural Program Specialist, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library: "This was a very hard piece to do, and Melanie did a very good job." Marcia Johnson, Program Director, North Shore Public Library: "Melanie Lipton does a splendid job of bringing Emily Dickinson to life.  The script deftly weaves monologue with Miss Dickinson’s poetry, and the actress’s skill made the distinctions clear." Debbie Starker, in Deb's Web Internet Newsletter: Melanie Lipton capably handles the expert acting and timing a part like this requires.  I'm told that there will be future bookings of this production and I suggest you see what a clever director, a gifted actress, a few perfect set pieces and props, and a good script can do to change a bare stage into an intimate portrait of one of our great literary icons. Patricia Brandt, Program Director, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor: "Excellent audience response.  [As they were leaving I heard] 'Wonderful,' 'Terrific show,' 'Great Show,' 'Very strong writing,'  I recommend the program." Michelle Young, Director of Adult Programming, Oceanside Public Library: “I was impressed by Melanie Lipton’s ability to keep the audience mesmerized.  It’s a beautiful play about a beautiful person.”