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Norwich-based actor Gordon Clapp on playing poet Robert Frost

Actor and Norwich resident Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost in Robert Frost: This Verse Business.
Alex Woodward
Alex Woodward
Actor Gordon Clapp, of Norwich, as poet Robert Frost in Robert Frost: This Verse Business.

Actor Gordon Clapp has won awards for his time on Broadway, and an Emmy for his acting work on NYPD Blue. These days, the Norwich-based actor is playing the poet Robert Frost in a one-man show called Robert Frost: This Verse Business, a Middlebury Acting Company production. The show runs this Friday through Sunday at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. Clapp will also be performing the show at the Mountain Top Music Center in his hometown of Conway, N.H., Sept. 16-17.

Clapp spoke with Vermont Edition host Mikaela Lefrak about his love for Frost's words, the poet's life and what it's like to portray him to a room full of Frost fans. Here is an excerpt of their conversation, which has been edited for clarity.

ML: The play is a biographical monologue, with poetry and Frost’s thoughts on everything from politics to religion. Tell us about it.

GC: After college, when I was knocking about as an unemployed actor, I read the Frost biographies. And I'd always been obsessed with his poetry. And I decided I'm going to bring this guy to the stage. But it took me another 30 years to get around to it. … I stumbled across a script by Andy Dolan. He had cobbled together a beautiful script from hundreds of hours of audio tape of Frost … from the last 25 years of his life. That's the basis for the piece. … And we've managed to get a little bit of biographical material in. His life was full of tragedy. He outlived four of his six children. He lost his wife way earlier than he had expected to.

ML: He lectured at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English before he died in 1963. And you're about to perform this play in Middlebury. How does that feel? Does it feel different than the other times you've performed it?

GC: Well, it's taken too damn long. I think it's a really important voice in this century.

ML: You said that you have loved Frost's poetry since you were in college. What do you love about it?

GC: I've loved it since I was in high school. I grew up in New Hampshire, in the White Mountains, not far from Franconia, where he had a home for a while in the 1910s. It’s fertile ground on which most of his poetry hangs, and his characters that he met ... he brought these characters in the volume called North of Boston. So his voice and his portrayals of these characters appealed greatly to me when I was growing up. I went away to boarding school in Connecticut when I was 17. And I like to say I brought Frost with me, and he brought me home. It was a way of keeping in touch with where I grew up.

ML: Robert Frost is one of the most famous poets from the United States. He has many, many fans, just like yourself. What is it like to interact with people who love Frost and his work?

GC: That's been one of the most gratifying aspects of this whole endeavor — meeting his former students, his neighbors, you know, somebody who drove him to a lecture somewhere back in the '50s. And the [Dartmouth] Class of '62, I did a performance for them. They were his last class at Dartmouth. I call these people “Frostaceans,” like crustaceans. Because, you know, they're a little crusty by this time. I met a man who was 102, who had studied with Frost at Amherst in 1929.

Broadcast at noon Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Tedra worked on Vermont Edition as a producer and editor from 2022 to 2024.