Performed by John Basinger
"The first performance of
it's kind in modern times."
-Bethe Dufresne, THE DAY
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The Paradise Lost Performance Project
John Basinger started committing all twelve books of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" to memory in 1993. Since then, he has performed them at a variety of venues across the country, including; Poetry Alive in Asheville, North Carolina, 1997 National Slam Poetry Festival, The Connecticut Storytelling Festival, Bluffton University, Wesleyan University, Yale University, Three Rivers Community College, Trinity College (Hartford CT), Connecticut College, Southern Connecticut State University, Central Connecticut State University, South Congregational Church, Middletown CT, Middlesex Community College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Avol's Bookstore in Madison WI, Edgartown (MA) Public Library, the University of Redlands, Regensburg University (Germany), Warren Wilson College, and Manhattanville College. He has also appeared at the Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., New London (CT) High School, Glastonbury (CT) High School, East Catholic High School (CT),The Buttonwood Tree (Middletown CT) and numerous living rooms, churches and theaters.
In 2001 Mr. Basinger presented a 3-day one-man dramatization of all twelve books at Three Rivers Community College's Basinger Auditorium. This performance is the subject of the newly released DVD.
About John Basinger
National Theater of the Deaf. John was a member of the arts week faculty at the Omega Institute for 11 years. He appeared in Paramount Pictures' Children of a Lesser God, at
the Long Wharf Theater, Hartford Stage Company, the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha's Vineyard and the Manhattan Theater Club. John was a Mellon Fellow in Theater at Yale University and is the author numerous plays including the outdoor drama "Benedict Arnold: A Brave Revenge," which had its inaugural production in Washington Park in Groton, Connecticut, in 2003. John is a nationally recognized storyteller, an enthusiastic supporter of the Slam Poetry movement, and an arts activist in Middletown, CT.
Professor Emeritus of Theater and Sign Language at Three Rivers Community College, John Basinger's credits include a long-time involvement with Theater and Storytelling. With the National Theatre of the Deaf, John performed as actor and musician in many of the company's national and international tours, as well as on Broadway. He is presently a member of the board of the
"John Basinger's impressive stage performance shows us the landscape of heaven and hell. Playing all the characters from intriguing demons to ecstatic angels, John startles us into remembering why this is the creation story of Western Culture."
Bob Falls, Director, Poetry Live
"John Basinger's dramatic recitation of Paradise Lost drives home the majesty and power of the work, while highlighting the dramatic origins of the epic. The tonal range of Milton's verse achieves its fullest amplitude through John Basinger."
Professor Albert C. Labriola, Editor,
Milton Studies, and Secretary of the Milton Society of America
"Milton's words are like candy."
Karla Miranda, sophomore, Wesleyan University
I was teaching A.P. English for the first time, and I made a commitment to myself to include Paradise Lost. As I started preparing for the unit, though, I realized I must have been out of my mind. After all, I love Milton, and even I find the poem absolutely impenetrable at times. How could I get my 18-year-olds to appreciate it?
One of my colleagues told me about this speaker he once heard in college-- a man named John Basinger who had memorized all twelve books of Paradise Lost. Always on the look out for ways to make the texts we read in class come alive for the students, I contacted this man; to my delight, he responded that very day.
When Mr. Basinger came into my class a month later, I have to admit to a moment of doubt: how would my students respond to someone reciting poetry at them for an hour? You see, that's what I mistakenly thought he was going to do-- recite excerpts from Book II. I didn't realize he was going to perform the poem-- with voices and gestures and inflections. He captivated us and educated us at the same time, and in the end, Mr. Basinger did more than just perform the poem for us; he absolutely transformed the poem. He breathed life into the epic, made it a vital work of dramatic art. And he gave us all-- myself included-- a deeper appreciation for Milton's universe. (Incidentally, I had the poem out in front of me; he did not miss a single word.)
Without a doubt, having John Basinger come into my class was not only the highlight of my Paradise Lost unit, but it just may have been the highlight of my school year. I don't know how a Connecticut teacher could read Milton without tapping into this incredible local resource. As long as he's willing, I'd like to have him come into my class every single year.
Mark Dursin, English teacher, Glastonbury High School,
"The Milton tutorial is really exciting... I keep thinking of that incredible man you brought in for the Paradise Lost reading... what was his name again? It inspired the hell out of me, and it's continually doing so... so thanks again for lighting that fire!"
Prof. Dr. Rainer Emig, Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik,
"A stunning and humbling feat of memory and devotion. Our students were inspired and amazed."
Michael Posnick, Director, Department of Dance and Theater,
Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York
"John Basinger makes Milton's epic come alive in a way that brings out its inherent drama to the full. He makes it appear immediate and contemporary without ever reducing the complexity of the great master's thoughts and style. My students were spellbound."
"Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us and reminding us just how great performance art is! You bring the work to life, and your passion and involvement in it come through in a lively performance. Thanks again so much for enriching those of us who were able to attend".
Assistant Professor of English and Communications
Three Rivers Community College
Your performance of books I and II was a real tour de force. I was particularly struck by Book II. Your dramatization of the Great Consult (or faculty meeting from and indeed in hell) was particularly good; also your chilling rendition of Death's speeches. How in the world do you manage to get such volume while still whispering? I found the hairs on my head rising with the last lines of Book II. Contrary to the famous put-down by Samuel Johnson, I could have wished it longer.
As a contrast, I heard a bit of the reading of the entire poem by members of the English faculty at Cambridge. Very donnish--it reminded me much more of T.S. Eliot reading "The Waste Land" than Milton, especially as you brought the text to life. -- Richard Vann
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