Ellen Doré Watson, Director, The Poetry Center at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
"Farrell's delivery of Four Quartets is as natural, deep, and illuminating as Kenneth Branagh doing Shakespeare. His presentation here was utterly magical. It's really extraordinary how, instead of parading the poem, Farrell inhabits it from the inside out, creating a rich, subtle, meditative experience, in which Eliot's words hover & resonate, provoke & delight."
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
"An evening of poetry is the performer's ultimate challenge. An evening of T. S. Eliot's poetry is the ultimate challenge's ultimate challenge. John Farrell not only meets the challenges, he opens the text to the hearers' minds in ways beyond the ability of the solitary reader. He does not act. He does not impersonate. He presents the words seriously, intelligently, and respectfully. He gives the words space to work."
Gabrielle McIntire, Professor of English, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
"I write with very high praise for John Farrell's brilliant, sensitive, and evocative recitation of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which he performed to a full house at Queen's University in March of this year. The event was, quite simply, the highlight of the term for me and for my undergraduate and graduate students."
Seth Warner, Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
Mary Dowd, Curator of Poetry, Merrill Memorial Library, Yarmouth, Maine
"I was stunned: the poem I heard recited was not the one I thought I knew. John's performance was a milestone experience, surpassing what I expected, or could even imagine. He was the bridge to Eliot's infinitely rich world, in a performance that didn't seem like a performance at all: John disappeared and the poem flowed through him, so clear, so beautiful, and so affecting."
Norman Frisch, Film and Performance Specialist, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California
"It's difficult to imagine that anyone could walk away unmoved or unchanged by this performance. We come to understand that we're watching someone who's been on an amazing journey through the landscape of Eliot's text and then returned to invite us to venture forth with him. That's an unbelievably generous gesture—a rare one—and I think the audience understands this and responds accordingly."
Annie Finch, Poet and Former Director of Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing
Valerie Lester, Author of "Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World"
High-Resolution Photo Gallery
Four Quartets is as simple technically as the poems are complex poetically. The performance tours with one performer and has been presented in venues ranging from private homes to the 1,400-seat Hutchins Concert Hall. All that is required is a bare stage with reasonable sight lines.
Performance spaces of a certain size will require professional sound reinforcement, to be supplied by the presenter.
Lighting need only provide general illumination; the line in the poem which reads, "So, while the light fades on a winter's afternoon in a secluded chapel…" may provide inspiration.
A recitation of the poem runs one hour and twenty minutes without intermission. Words Move|Music Moves is a two-hour program plus an intermission.
A native of Boston who grew up in Massachusetts, Holland, and France, John Farrell's artistic explorations are rooted in his love of poetry and sculpture. As an undergraduate at Yale he pursued studies in fields as diverse as African history, Vedanta Mysticism, the anthropology of law, and Sioux religion. He quit law school in the middle of a Civil Procedure exam and co-founded Figures of Speech Theatre a month later with dancer/designer Carol Llewellyn. They have created 20 original works of theater and toured the world for over 30 years. Known for groundbreaking work juxtaposing puppets, actors, and other stage media, Figures of Speech also pursues an interest in the performance of literary text: Farrell tours a solo recitation from memory of T. S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece, Four Quartets. Most recently, he conceived, designed and directed a theatrical setting of David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning composition, the little match girl passion. Farrell has been an artist-in-residence at numerous colleges and arts centers and has studied with the Japanese master puppet builder Toru Saito. In 1999 he was one of five American artists awarded a Creative Artists' Program Fellowship from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, allowing him to spend 6 months in Japan studying Japanese theater and gardens. That opportunity led to his founding of hanamichi design, where he creates gardens in the Japanese spirit for clients in New England. The Maine Arts Commission awarded him an Individual Artist Fellowship in 2002 and he is the 2004 recipient of the New England Theater Conference's award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theater. Farrell lives with his wife, costume designer Carol (Llewellyn) Farrell, in the perpetually 250-year-old farmhouse in Maine where they raised two daughters.