Unlaunch’d Voices, an Evening With Walt Whitman
by Michael Z. Keamy
Since the late 1990's, Stephen's performances have captured the attention of the press. It is not just the stunning resemblance to Walt Whitman himself, which many of the reviews notice, but the portrayal of the character and the essence that he brings within arm's reach to the audience that makes the poet come to life. It is not surprising that in some reviews, the writer switches Collins' name and Whitman's interchangeably. A true compliment to a performance well appreciated.
Unlaunch’d Voices, an Evening With Walt Whitman opens with the elderly Whitman on the evening of his seventieth birthday. The audience is a visitor in his room as he prepares for his birthday celebration. Whitman begins to reminisce and to question his success as a man and a poet. He tells us his work has proved to be "less than a failure...." He remembers a mystical experience he had in his thirty-seventh year that inspired him to write poetry.
During the telling, Whitman transforms into his young vibrant self and we begin to trace back along with him the experiences that led to the creation of Leaves Of Grass, his lifetime work. The first part of the performance explores Whitman's preoccupation with the self and his resolve to write with "free and brave thought..." We revel with him as he celebrates his body and himself and are confidants as he shares his struggle with his sexual self.
In the second part of the performance, Whitman's life is changed forever by the occurrence of the Civil War. It is here that he finds "... the most important work of my life..." nursing the wounded soldiers in the hospitals. Through poetry and readings of actual letters, we experience Whitman's movement from selfishness and selflessness and his growth into a mature artist who is at peace about "himself, God and death."
Pat Elliot - Chair, Department of English and Writing, Regis College
Mr. Collins has presented his work at high schools, colleges, universities, libraries, historical societies, retirement communities, and other organizations and is available for your organization. For rates and more information, please call (978) 853-0710 or email .