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Wendell actor to portray William Cullen Bryant in Cummington play

  • Wendell resident Court Dorsey, dressed as William Cullen Bryant in preparation for the upcoming play “A Fiery and Still Voice: William Cullen Bryant at Home.” Contributed photo/Wendy Woodson

  • Wendell resident Court Dorsey as William Cullen Bryant Contributed photo

  • The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, 207 Bryant Road in Cummington. Contributed photo



Staff Writer
Friday, September 14, 2018

Wendell actor Court Dorsey’s beard and hair aren’t quite as white as that of 19th-century poet, journalist and editor William Cullen Bryant, the legendary native son of Cummington.

But Dorsey, who is portraying Bryant in “A Fiery and Still Voice: William Cullen Bryant at Home” on Saturday and again Oct. 13 and 27 at the Bryant homestead, shares some of the same ideals as the Cummington native who attended Williams College, became editor of the New York Evening Post and as an abolitionist, was an early admirer of Abraham Lincoln, whom he helped become president.

Bryant was the first poet whose work — the poem “Thanatopsis” — Dorsey memorized as a 17-year-old high school student, about the same age the poet was when he wrote his first draft of his philosophical exploration of death.

“It really spoke to me,” said Dorsey, who pointed out that the early Transcendentalist poet presaged the Earth-centered spirituality and environmental movement, extolling the beauty, enjoyment and enlightenment that could come from an appreciation of nature.

Bryant, Dorsey said, “was referred to as the voice of liberalism of his time,” and his poems, speeches and other writings are incorporated into the dramatization.

The 45-minute play, presented by Enchanted Circle Theater, is directed by Priscilla Kane Hellweg, who wrote it with Steve Angel and Rachel Kuhn. Reservations are required for the 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. performances.

In it, Dorsey and Melissa Redwin, portraying a trustees docent, take the audience from the porch through the living room, dining room, study and fields of the property — built by Bryant’s grandfather in 1783 and where Bryant lived from 1865 until his death in 1878.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to look deeply into the life of someone that you admired from childhood and to be able to embody that person who in many ways is like me in terms of his outlook, but in other ways is quite different,” said Dorsey, who added that one of the joys for people attending is to visit Bryant’s home and the old-growth forest, trails and gardens. “It really is a profound experience.”

The Bryant Homestead will also host its first annual Harvest Festival Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The festival, organized by The Trustees of Reservations, will include homesteading presentations such as historic cheesemaking, a draft horse demonstration, 19th-century food preservation, at-home cider making, beekeeping and fiber spinning. House and barn tours will be offered throughout the day as well as tractor rides, 19th-century parlor games, children’s crafts and 19th-century cooking demonstrations.

For more information and reservations to “A Fiery and Still Voice: William Cullen Bryant at Home,” visit bit.ly/2N92L3p.

Senior reporter Richie Davis has worked at the Greenfield Recorder for more than 35 years. He can be reached at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.