SINDA NICHOLS: Have Suitcase Will Travel


My lifelong passion for theater probably began in postwar Germany, as seen through the eyes of a child in a foreign land, struggling with an unfamiliar language. My father, who was in the military, had been posted to Wurtzberg, Germany, and had gone on ahead. My mother and I crossed the Atlantic alone on a converted military ship, in a dark and cramped room far below deck. Many times before, I had faced new homes… new friends… new states… but never this: a new country? It was a frightening experience for which I was ill-prepared.

Then a wise and caring teacher took me under her wing. Together, Frau Merz and I explored the streets. New experiences had new words; she shared them and I learned. In the Court of the Residenz Platz, a grand palace severely damaged in the war, there was a seasonal market with fragile glass ornaments on display at Christmas. The air was crisp and charged with the expectation of snow. I was wrapped in a coat and boots… and sweaters and a scarf. Surely, the reality of me was somewhere beneath all this!

Suddenly I heard a sharp cry. Pulling mightily at Frau Merz’s outstretched hand, I searched for the inspiration of the sounds of delight, wanting desperately to share the joy. It was a Punch and Judy show! Puppets transported me from a confusing world to a context that needed no words for an explanation. I saw, I heard, I was enraptured by the antics.

Of course, later, I grew to love words as well, but I never lost my childlike awe for the theater. Perhaps that’s what drew me eventually to Emily Dickinson — her genuine passion for the particular, the dramatic moment, the telling word or phrase. She had a child’s honesty and lack of pretension (“I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you—Nobody—Too?”) that I greatly admired. When I first read The Belle of Amherst, I knew I had to direct it but knew, too, that it needed the right actress, whom I eventually found in Sinda Nichols. I hope her singular performance brings you all the joy and rapture of my Punch and Judy show, so many miles and years ago.

“You will be seduced, captivated and blown away by this uplifting performance. One word – GO!”