Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends

A.R. Gurney’s classic Love Letters plays for one weekend at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex beginning March 31st

By: Mar. 11, 2023

Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends

A.R. Gurney's classic Love Letters plays for one weekend at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex beginning March 31, 2023. Wendy-Marie Martin directs this two-hander with Courtney R. Hall and April Stewart. The multitasking April managed to find some time between her voiceover gig, raising her daughter and volunteering for NAMI to answer a few of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, April!

My pleasure. Thank you!

Love Letters is a reunion of sorts for you and Grey DeLisle? Have you been keeping in touch with each other since attending PCPA in the early 1990s?

Yes! It's actually a reunion for all of us. Grey, My co-star, Courtney R. Hall and our director, Wendy-Marie Martin. We were all at PCPA together and we never lost touch. Wendy-Marie lives in Roanoke now, but Grey, Courtney and I get together for dinner at least four times a year to catch up and the minute we sit down it's as if no time has passed at all.

Is Grey the catalyst for you taking on the role of Melissa Gardner?

Yes, she absolutely is. During dinner this past December, I mentioned that I wanted to get back on the stage as well as in front of the camera and to my surprise, Courtney said he had been thinking the same thing. Grey being Grey said, "You two just need to be seen! Find a theatre to rent and I'll produce Love Letters!" I'm not paraphrasing. It really was as simple as that. Without any hesitation Courtney and I both said, yes. We even got on our phones in between courses and ordered the scripts right then and there. The next day we called Wendy-Marie and asked her if she would direct the show. She said yes right away too.

I was amazed at how this all fell into place in the course of one dinner. It was one of those moments when all the stars were perfectly aligned. We left each other that night knowing something special was about to begin.

Had you seen productions of Love Letters before?

No, never. I knew very little about it. In fact, I said, 'Yes' to playing Melissa before I ever read the script. It was a complete leap of faith.

Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends If you were to submit Melissa on a dating site, what qualities of hers would you list?

I think I would say her free spirit, her creativity and her sense of humor. She's also stubborn and brutally honest. She loves hard and feels everything very deeply.

What character flaws would you definitely omit?

I wouldn't want to omit any of her character flaws. She may be too much for most people, but she needs someone strong enough to love all of her, so best to lay it all out on the table right from the start.

You started your acting career on stage before landing your over two-decades stint on South Park. What made you want to mount the theatrical boards again after all these years?

Live theatre, especially musical theatre, was always my first love. That never went away. But when I had my daughter, my focus shifted. I wanted to be home every night to read her bedtime stories and tuck her in. That's one of the reasons I'm so grateful for my voiceover career. It allowed me to continue to act and do what I love while still being a stay-at-home mom. Now that my daughter is almost 15, she is becoming more independent, and she looks at me sideways if I still try to read to her or tuck her in at night, so I found myself with a little more time on my hands and I started to think about getting back on the stage. When this opportunity came up, it just felt right. I've always been one to pay attention to signs and this sign was neon and glowing and I could have sworn I heard Elvis singing "It's Now or Never" somewhere in the distance. It couldn't be ignored so I followed, and here we are.

When did you realize that you had a talent for different voices?

I remember riding in the car with my dad when I was about 7 or 8 and I started imitating Lenny Bruce's "Thank You Masked Man" routine. Of course, at 8 I didn't sound like Lenny Bruce but I was able to capture the cadence and details and dialects and timing. My dad looked at me in shock at first but then burst out laughing. He was a tough customer so when I was able to make him genuinely laugh, I realized I was onto something.

Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends It seems like a lot of actors and comedians started out desperately trying to make their parents laugh, right? Freud would have had a field day with us!

Did you study linguistics or foreign languages or...?

At PCPA we studied voice and dialects and singing. Dialects always came fairly easy to me. We learned how to use our voices correctly without destroying them when we had to project or scream, which comes in very handy now with video games. But in all honesty, being a singer and having a musical ear helped me the most when I became a voiceover actor. When you have an ear for tone and cadence it helps to find the musicality in your character's voice.

Do you have a secret sauce for developing a voice for specific characters?

I never start with the voice first. I pay attention to character design drawings and the creator's description and vision. I try to embody the character's physical features as best I can so that those traits can affect my voice. If I approach the character as an actor first, without looking for cheap gimmicks the voice comes organically.

What voice are you going to use for Melissa?

I'll give her mine and she can do with it as she pleases.

I have always been in awe at the timeliness of some of the South Park episodes. A news event will happen on a Monday and the episode on Wednesday spoofs it. What episode had the shortest time between your recording and its airing?

The 2016 presidential election is the first show that comes to mind. It was Tuesday night; the episode was to air on Wednesday and it was just assumed that Hillary would win so we didn't really have a version of the script that we would use if she lost. Everything stopped in the studio for an hour or two while we all watched the TV in disbelief and waited for the final results. Once it was announced that Hillary lost, it was well after midnight. It was a scramble but it all came together in time.

Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends That was a crazy night.

Does your daughter have a favorite voice of yours?

I finally started letting my daughter watch South Park this past year. It's pretty awesome watching together and seeing her reaction to the show. "How have you not been cancelled!!?!?"

Her favorite character right now is Shelly. She loves how she reacts to her parents when they are being idiots. Hmmmmm...

How many action figures do you have of your characters?

I only have Wendy. Really, that's all I need.

What's in the near future for April Stewart?

I'll always keep my feet firmly planted in voiceover, but I'm ready to step out from behind the microphone, get back in front of the camera again, and do more stage projects including getting back to my musical theatre roots.

Courtney and I have joked about starting our own theatre company or acting troupe after Love Letters. But truth be told, it's becoming less of a joke and more of a real possibility. More to come on that later.

I am also going to start using my voice to support The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Our production of Love Letters has just announced our official partnership with the Greater LA County (GLAC) affiliate of NAMI and we will be donating the net proceeds from our production of Love Letters to NAMI/GLAC to support their efforts in promoting wellness, recovery, equality, and dignity for individuals and families affected by mental illness and the community at large. This organization is very near and dear to my heart and I'm looking forward to continuing my relationship with NAMI in any way they need me after Love Letters is over.

But most importantly, I'll be raising my daughter and still attempting to read her a bedtime story and tuck her in at night now and then.

Thank you again, April! I look forward to hearing your Love Letters.

Thank you! I look forward to sharing them.

For tickets to the live performances of Love Letters March 31st through April 2nd; click on the button below: