Two stalwarts of Roaring Fork Valley theater and poetry are bringing Walt Whitman to life in a new play.
“Multitudes,” written by Valerie Haugen Nuzzo and Kim Nuzzo, will take the stage at Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale on Wednesday night. The Aspen Poets’ Society hosted a staged reading of it in March.
The hourlong drama, with Kim Nuzzo as Whitman, recounts Whitman’s life — his time as a journalist, his struggles with his sexuality, his transformative time as a nurse during the Civil War and the composition of the timeless poems in “Leaves of Grass.” The book, which began as 12 poems published after his father’s death in 1855 and grew to 400 by the end of Whitman’s life in 1892, is a sprawling work of genius that gave us “Song of Myself” and “Song of the Open Road,” “I Sing the Body Electric” and “I Hear America Singing,” “O Captain! My Captain!” and defined the American spirit.
In their play, the Nuzzos sought to solve — or at least explore — the mystery of how Whitman became Whitman.
“He was this journalist who was living this undistinguished life, then all of a sudden in 1855, boom! ‘Song of Myself’ happened,” Kim said in March. “Something happened, and nobody really knows what it was, that made him Walt Whitman.”
The deeply researched play makes dramatic use of Whitman’s poetry, along with his diaries — the Nuzzos wanted his voice to drive “Multitudes.”
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“We let him tell his own story,” Valerie said.
The project traces its roots to several years ago, when Valerie found a Civil War diary written by an ancestor five generations back. It came to her in a box of her mother’s belongings, following her death. The diary’s…
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