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February 6, 2014

Bringing Robert Frost back to life

Robert Frost’s poetry is dramatic.

Whether it’s a man deciding which road to take, or a couple arguing about whether to hire a man they’ve hired before, Frost’s poems usually contain a drama of some kind.

This makes the great New England poet the perfect subject for a one-man show by J.T. Turner of Ipswich.

Turner, who is founder and director of moonlight productions and artistic director of The Actors Company, has portrayed such literary figures as C.S. Lewis and William Shakespeare in previous solo shows.

“What I have basically done is taken most of the major poems of Robert Frost which critics and people seem to enjoy the most and used them to propel a story line,” Turner said.

Whether they feature one voice or several characters, Frost’s poems have a way of situating their speaker in a way that’s theatrical.

“Many pieces, especially his narrative pieces, start out in third person,” Turner said. “In the middle, there’s a transition, and an ‘I’ appears. That makes it, for an actor, tremendously appealing. Now you’re that character, in that spot.”

Turner’s script amplifies the situations in Frost’s poems by relating them to the poet’s life, which was often not only dramatic but tragic.

“He’s got all of this tragedy, and somehow he’s able to use it to fuel this amazing poetry,” Turner said.

Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874 and was 11 when his father died, at which point the family moved to Lawrence.

“He married his high school sweetheart, Elinor, then through his life has loss after loss,” Turner said.

Frost’s firstborn, Elliott, died at 4 of influenza, just before they moved to a farm in Derry, N.H. Another child, Elinor, died four days after birth, Turner said.

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