June 10, 2023
4:00 PM EST

Cost: Free

Event Description:

You are invited to a special event! Come see a staged reading of AMERICAN POET: WHITMAN’S WARNINGS, a bold new play revealing Walt Whitman’s creative genius amidst national crises.

Register to attend staged reading at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1KWDcs68iOqsOv21e5heGaEKXkB4SkmhKADsSx-Uq92M/edit

Producer Jared Hershkowitz will present a staged reading of the new play AMERICAN POET: Whitman’s Warnings in Huntington on June 10, 2023. Directed by Academy Award winner Milton Justice, the script by Sarah Vander Schaaff follows provocative poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and his drive to create his legendary collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, during a dangerous time for American unity and politically driven censorship. The staged reading will be held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site, where Walt was born in 1819. Situated amidst the nature that influenced Whitman’s sensibilities, the tented outdoor stage offers a rich historic context to the dynamic professional presentation of the play. Broadway veteran Erik Lochtefeld (King Kong, Misery, Metamorphosis) will play Walt Whitman with additional professional actors to be announced.

Now recognized as a significant voice in American poetry, Whitman was a literary outsider, challenging the conventional style and inhibitions of his era.  Much of his work reflects his interrogation of American democracy as it was tested, particularly surrounding the Civil War. Personally, he faced financial failure, mockery, censorship and heartache. “Whitman did not come easily to his truths,” director Milton Justice said. “He fought hard for his understanding. This play leads us through his journey, rather than just showing us the result of it.”

Producer Jared Hershkowitz said the play strikes a deep chord with the issues of today. “Whitman’s writing was marked by his admiration for the American experiment in democracy, which he believed was under threat from the divisions that were tearing the country apart.” While these challenges are not new, “Watching a play can be a transformative experience, allowing us to see the world through the eyes of others and gain a deeper understanding of our shared humanity,” Hershkowitz said.

Producer Michael Prywes said, “It’s easy to forget just how iconoclastic, prophetic, and brave Whitman was, especially during the most violently divisive time in American history.” “I think we give audiences a new way to confront Whitman’s ambition,” Vander Schaaff said. “The man behind the poetry, the journalist, the son, the friend who made hot toddies or comforted wounded soldiers—we bring him to life as he grapples with the tensions between idealism and reality and his hopes for us—the future.”

The June 10th, 2023 reading has been funded in part through a grant from LitNYS, (Literary New York State) Advancement Regrant.  The Birthplace historic site is operated by the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.