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Joely Richardson to play poet Emily Dickinson

MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press

Publication: The Day

Published July 16. 2014 4:00AM
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File
Joely Richardson will star in a one-woman off-Broadway show about poet Emily Dickinson.

Joely Richardson is coming back to a New York stage in something she never thought she'd do - a one-woman show.

The English actress known for the TV shows "The Tudors" and "Nip/Tuck" will play poet Emily Dickinson in William Luce's play "The Belle of Amherst."

"Never say never," Richardson said. "I always swore to myself that I would never do a one-woman show. I thought, 'That's for crazy people.' And then I read it."

The play, directed by Steve Cosson, will begin performances Oct. 7 at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre, with an opening night set for Oct. 19. Tickets are now on sale.

In "The Belle of Amherst," Dickinson acts as the narrator of her life story, welcoming audiences to her home in Amherst, Mass., in the 1880s and looking back on her life. Dickinson's most famous poems include "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" and "Hope Is the Thing With Feathers."

Julie Harris played the role on Broadway and won the 1977 Tony Award for best actress.

Richardson was filming "Papa" in Cuba - she plays Ernest Hemingway's fourth wife, Mary, in the film - when she read the script early one morning and immediately emailed her agent to sign up.

"It was instant. I just completely responded to the material," she said. "It's full of humor and it was this off-mix of the sacred and profane that I just thought was brilliant."

Richardson has appeared in films such as "101 Dalmatians," "Event Horizon," "The Patriot" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." She started out on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Old Vic, then moved into films.

Richardson is part of an illustrious family of actors that includes grandparents Michael Redgrave, parents Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, uncle and aunt Corin and Lynn Redgrave, and older sister Natasha Richardson, who died after a skiing accident in 2009.

Joely Richardson was last onstage in New York in "Ivanov" for the Classic Stage Company opposite Ethan Hawke in 2012 and MCC Theater's "Side Effects" in 2012, where she earned a Drama Desk Award nomination.

She is already started work on learning more about Dickinson, even visiting her home.

"Because it all takes place in her house, I really wanted a sense of that world," Richardson said. "I really wanted to firmly place it."

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