‘Walt Whitman’ visits Midcoast

Jul 22, 2014
Stephen Collins portrays the “Leaves of Grass” poet in “An Evening with Walt Whitman.”

Camden — Actor Stephen Collins will present “An Evening with Walt Whitman” Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. at the downtown Camden Public Library as part of the library’s Maine and the Civil War series.

Since the late 1990s, Collins, who bears a strong resemblance to his subject, has offered a portrayal of the American poet that brings Whitman’s character and essence to life.

“An Evening With Walt Whitman” opens with the elderly Whitman on the evening of his 70th birthday; the audience is a visitor in his room as he prepares for his birthday celebration. Whitman begins to reminisce and to question his success as a man and a poet, remembering a mystical experience he had in his 37th year that inspired him to write poetry.

During the telling, Collins’ Whitman transforms into the young vibrant poet and we trace back along with him the experiences that led to the creation of “Leaves Of Grass.” The first part of the performance explores Whitman’s preoccupation with the self and his resolve to write with “free and brave thought,” celebrating his body and himself even as he shares his struggle with his sexuality.

In the second part of the performance, Whitman’s life is changed forever by the impact of the Civil War. It is here that he finds “the most important work of my life,” nursing the wounded soldiers in the hospitals. Through poetry and readings of actual letters, we experience Whitman’s movement from selfishness to selflessness; and his growth into a mature artist who is at peace about “himself, God, and death.”

“The actor disappeared, and we accepted that we were in the presence of Walt Whitman. There’s magic for you,” said Marsha Sloan, former program director, when Collins performed at the Camden library several years ago.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.