2012/13 season > Dear Elizabeth
Sarah Ruhl and Les Waters, acclaimed collaborators who created Eurydice, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) and Three Sisters, return to Berkeley Rep with another tale of love and longing. Dear Elizabeth follows the beautiful and bittersweet friendship between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Across oceans and continents, across three decades, these esteemed poets found a true marriage of minds in their eloquent correspondence. Dubbed the Dickinson and Whitman of the 20th century, they traded hundreds of vibrant, witty and passionate letters that now spring to life on stage. This West Coast premiere paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary—and quite ordinary—lives, told anew by two of the finest artists of our time.
Please note: Dear Elizabeth includes a haze effect. If you have questions about the show’s content, please contact the box office.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters team up again. Discover more about their latest production.
“Ruhl, perhaps the hottest female playwright in the country, and [director Les] Waters have proved themselves to be a crack team with luminous stagings from Eurydice to the Pulitzer-nominated The Vibrator Play. Now they work their poetic alchemy on the lives of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, two 20th century poets who memorialized their marriage of true minds in hundreds of unforgettable letters.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
“Fascinating…wise and wistful…a wonderful evocation of friendship…Dear Elizabeth, the play by Sarah Ruhl adapted from the letters of Bishop and Lowell, and directed by Les Waters, dispels any doubt that poets in their prose can make for compelling, moving and satisfying drama.”—New Haven Review
“A play about the correspondence between two acclaimed poets—who never had a romantic or sexual relationship—might sound like a very dry night at the theater. But in the hands of the brilliant playwright Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters, Dear Elizabeth proves to be a moving, funny and highly theatrical experience.”—Connecticut Post
“These star-crossed lovers found the muse in each other…Bishop and Lowell passed almost immediately from awkward introduction to rapturous intimacy. Though they were delighted by that most valuable specie of literary life, gossip, it was soon apparent what necessary company these brittle, gifted intelligences were.”—New York Times
“Brilliant…She has given us a play that is exquisite poetry in itself. It’s amazingly sad yet funny, intense yet whimsical, deep yet obvious, revealing yet obscure—all at the same time.”—Broadway World
“Superb…Ruhl delicately explores, through nothing more than the letters and her own theatrical imagination, the solitude of the artist, the exactitude of the writer’s craft, the balance between confession and privacy and, in the end, why poetry matters. Ruhl and Waters…find just the right tone, words and stage metaphors to enliven the intimate world of poets, their process and their poems into a shared theatrical experience…Ruhl’s playfulness and dramatic gestures speak volumes.”—Variety
“Mesmerizes in every way…Playgoers need only learn that playwright Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters have collaborated once again on a new work to know that all is right with their world…The result is yet another articulate, imaginative and moving theatrical experience.”—New Haven Register
“Ruhl’s playwriting is inspired…In Les Waters, who directed her exciting Eurydice a few seasons back, she has found an expert collaborator.”—The New Yorker
PRINT: Interview with Sarah Ruhl
In this Boston Globe interview, the award-winning playwright talks about the inspiration for this new play (along with fevers, first drafts, buddy movies, motherhood and Twilight).
PRINT: Dear Elizabeth
A sample of Robert Lowell’s letters to Elizabeth Bishop in the New Yorker.
PRINT: Words in Air
A New York Times book review of the collected letters between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.
AUDIO: In the Waiting Room
Hear Elizabeth Bishop recite her poem.
The development of this production has been supported in part by The Mosse Artistic Development Fund.