March 8-21, 2002
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At the Virginia Festival of the Book
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Rita Dove
Rita Dove

At the Virginia Festival of the Book

Dove’s play to be performed in part as staged reading

Staff Report

Poet Rita Dove brings her play, “The Darker Face of the Earth,” to Charlottesville for the first time in this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book. A staged reading of part of the play, directed by Terésa Dowell-Vest, will take place March 23, from 4-5:30 p.m., at the Live Arts Theater, with Dove joining the cast. A discussion period will follow.

The Darker Face of the Earth“The book festival is a great venue for this, especially considering that the play, before it was ever produced or I even hoped for a stage production, came out as a book,” said Dove, Commonwealth Professor of Poetry at U.Va. The play first was published by Story Line Press, with the 2000 third edition including an interview and study guides for teachers. “The Darker Face of the Earth” premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July 1996, and has been produced at other places, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, as well as several university theaters. A re-casting of Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex,” Dove’s play is set in antebellum South Carolina and tells the story of love and revenge in the shadow of slavery. Amalia, a plantation owner’s daughter who becomes the mistress of the place, is determined to “break” the newly purchased Augustus, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. The brutal system of slavery traps them both as they play out their fateful relationship against the backdrop of a slave rebellion.

“I’m a huge fan of [Dove’s] work and talked to her about the possibility of doing this,” Dowell-Vest said. “To my delight, she agreed, and I appreciate the opportunity to work on this.”

Terésa Dowell-Vest
Terésa Dowell-Vest

“A full staging in Charlottesville wouldn’t be easy,” Dove said, “since the play has a fairly large cast with more than a dozen black actors, and there is probably no theater in town that would have all the resources required. A staged reading will have to do for now.”

Rita Dove served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995. Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, she has published more than seven books of poetry, a novel, a collection of short stories and translated several volumes of poetry. Dove also sings opera and has written lyrics for musical compositions. She lives in Charlottesville with her husband, author Fred Viebahn, and their daughter Aviva.

Dowell-Vest is program director of the statewide African-American Heritage program, based at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Management from the California State University at Long Beach, and is a playwright, director and actor, with credits in Los Angeles, New York and Charlottesville. Her play, “Vinegar Hill,” about what used to be a thriving African-American neighborhood, was produced at Live Arts Theater in 2000.

On flowers and fish

The University Press of Virginia is co-sponsoring two events for the Virginia Festival of the Book, featuring authors it has published.

The program, “A Cutting Edge Book for Gardeners,” a slide show and panel discussion exploring cut-flower gardening, will be held on March 21 at noon in Piedmont Virginia Community College’s V. Earl Dickinson Theater and will feature Suzanne McIntire, author of An American Cutting Garden: A Primer for Growing Cut Flowers Where Summers Are Hot and Winters Are Cold. Carol Church, Garden Center Manager of the downtown Charlottesville Southern States store, and other members of the Piedmont Master Gardeners will participate.

Catch the program, “Fishing the New River Valley,” with outdoor guide M. W. Smith, author of Fishing the New River Valley: An Angler’s Guide, March 20 at 7 p.m. at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Barracks Road Shopping Center.





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