On Jan. 12-14 and 16-21, North Carolina Theatre will ring in the New Year, in grand style, with a megawatt production of Buffalo, NY-born playwright A.R. Gurney’s two-character 1988 New York Public Library, 1989 Off-Broadway, and 1989 Broadway play, Love Letters, starring 71-year-old Broadway and Off-Broadway, television, and motion-picture actress Sandy Duncan and 70-year-old Enfield, NC-born and University of North Carolina School of the Arts-educated North Carolina theater legend Ira David Wood III, who is founder and artistic and executive director of Raleigh, NC’s Theatre in the Park. Terrell, TX-born New York director Guy Stroman will stage this evocative and moving epistolary drama in the 600-seat A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.
“I first knew about Love Letters when it was first produced,” says NCT guest director Guy Stroman, “and I have seen several productions over the years, with a variety of actors, and I have always loved this piece. I am very excited for the chance to direct it for the first time at the North Carolina Theatre.”
He adds, “Love Letters is ‘reader’s theatre’ in its best form. A.R. Gurney, the playwright, who sadly passed away [in 2017], captured perfectly two people, from an East Coast, upper-crust society, who found comfort, confidence, solace, challenge and, ultimately, love through letters they constantly wrote to one another over 50 years.”
“In so many of his plays,” Stroman says, “Gurney found the universal human experience, with all the foibles, striving, humor, conflict, loss, and love, in the specific lives of established, privileged characters. In Love Letters, he distilled a lifetime of two individuals into a funny, moving, and heartbreaking evening with two great actors, reading their letters sent to each other over the decades.
“I specifically wanted to direct this [play] here for a couple of reasons,” says Stroman. “First, I loved being here last year at this time, directing Always… Patsy Cline. North Carolina Theatre is an amazing organization, with a great history, and great producer and staff, talented designers, and skilled technicians, and wonderful, supportive audiences! Secondly, I get to work with the incredible Ira David Wood III, for the first time, and to work once again with my dear friend, the incomparable Sandy Duncan, whom I have known and worked with my entire career. Who wouldn’t want to work and be in the same room with those two!”
Stroman adds, “Sandy and David play Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, two people whose proper and privileged parents force them to start writing to each other in elementary school. They both — as their lives progress — develop and change, [and] continue to write to each other. We see them read the letters they wrote to each other, from when they first learn to write, through their entire adolescence, their college years, and their adulthood, through years of separation, times of re-connecting, marriages, children, divorces, loss, and forgiveness. These two people take all of us on the journey that is simply life, as we hear them come to life in their letters.”
In addition to North Carolina Theatre guest director Guy Stroman, the show’s creative team for Love Letters includes NCT producer Carolee Baxter; NCT artistic director Casey Hushion; NCT technical director Bill Yates, Jr.; lighting designer Christina L. Munich; costumer/wardrobe supervisor Denise Schumaker; properties manager Aline Johnson; sound designer Eric Alexander Collins; and stage manager William Alan Coats.
Stroman says, “Love Letters is a unique, funny, poignant, and heartwarming play; and with Sandy Duncan and Ira David Wood III in these roles, audiences are sure to be engaged, transported, and delighted by spending an evening with these two wonderful characters!”
He adds, “The experience of Love Letters is one of watching two great actors, which I have in Sandy and David, reveal these characters and their lives together and apart, and to take us on that all too human journey. I want the audience to feel that they have found a box of letters, intimate and relatable, and the Fletcher Opera Theater provides … a perfect setting to see this two people recount their lives together and apart.”
“Love Letters unfolds on a simple set, says Guy Stroman. “The actors sit at two writing tables, with a portfolio of a lifetime of correspondence in front of them, and that is all we need for this journey.”
He adds, “The lighting focuses solely on the two actors, as it draws us into their world and their most intimate and honest thoughts to each other.”
Stroman says, “The passage of time and place are heard and imagined in their words to each other, rather than with costume changes, or set changes and lighting effects. Their words, and the emotion and humor and relationship with each other that those words create, do all of that for the audience.”
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 10th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/love-letters/Event?oid=8648150.
North Carolina Theatre presents LOVE LETTERS, starring Sandy Duncan and Ira David Wood III, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 and 14, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16-19, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21 in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $29.22-$90.22, except $29 college-student tickets.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/803995.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; email@example.com; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.
SHOW: https://nctheatre.com/shows/love-letters, https://www.facebook.com/events/168296343714186/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/love-letters-8219.
2017-18 SEASON: https://nctheatre.com/show-season/201718-season.
NCT NEWS RELEASE: https://nctheatre.com/blog/show-spotlight-love-letters.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13th, performance.
Love Letters (1988 New York Public Library, 1989 Off-Broadway, and 1989 Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=996 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.argurney.com/small_casts.html#loveletters (official web page), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/1202 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/love-letters-5590 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Letters_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
A.R. Gurney (Buffalo, NY-born playwright, 1930-2017): http://www.argurney.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/627 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ar-gurney-84220 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0348672/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._R._Gurney (Wikipedia).
Guy Stroman (Terrell, TX-born New York director): http://guystroman.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/11060 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/guy-stroman-92974 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0834890/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/guy.stroman (Facebook page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)