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The public rarely gets the chance to hear Bill Murray reciting lines like "When thou must home to shades of underground," or Christopher Reeve reading from the works of Emerson and Keats.
To find them doing it on the same stage, with a Harvard professor sitting quietly by in an upholstered leather armchair, is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
But such was the scene at Sanders Theater last night, as more than 1000 people gathered to hear Murray. Reeve, and other well-known performers read In the Company of Poets, a new poetry anthology by Lowell Professor of the Humanities William Alfred.
The evening, planned in recognition of Alfred, celebrated the completion of the first full season of the newly revived Poets' Theatre. The original Poets' Theatre, founded in 1950, organized readings and performances of many famous poets and dramatists, including John Ashbery, Samuel Beckett, Frank O'Hara and Dylan Thomas.
Alfred wrote several plays produced by the original Theatre, among them Hogan's Goat, which later ran on Broadway starring Faye Dunaway in her first major role.
"All the actors have come here as a tribute to him...for the wonderful work that he's done," said Orla M. Kennedy, a spokesperson for the Poets' Theatre.
For his anthology, Alfred selected poems on a variety of themes, including love, death and spiritual life. The selections were drawn from poets from Milton's time to the present.
The anthology ended with a collection of modern poetry from such writers as John Berryman and Robert Lowell, as well as a poem by Frank O'Hara, whose work was first performed by the original Poets' Theatre in the 1950s.
In addition to Reeve and Murray, actress Stockard Channing, writer Brian Doyle Murray, actress Kathryn Walker and and actress Frances West read from the anthology.
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