Blogging about LOVE LETTERS at Nutley Little Theatre - Director's Chat
I have the pleasure of double casting and directing "Love Letters" at Nutley Little Theatre this season. I had a chat with cast of the first weekend, Sharon Podsada and Patrick Little, and want to share it with our BWW readers!
What is your earliest memory of seeing live theater?
Sharon: I can remember school shows and dance recitals going back to when I was about 5, but my first memory of professional theater, and the one I credit with igniting my love for theater, is from a trip I took with my Girl Scout troop. I was about 9 or 10 and we went to Lincoln Center to see a revival of "Annie Get Your Gun"... with Ethel Merman reprising her Annie Oakley role. Yes, yes...she was a bit old for the part but HOLY COW...Ethel Merman! My theater "addiction" had a very auspicious start for sure.
Patrick: I attended a Catholic grammar school in Nutley. The parish hired a professional director every spring to do a musical starring the parishioners. These were the first couple of shows I ever saw.
What inspired you to want to act?
Sharon: I've been performing in one form or another since the age of 4. Back then it was dancing. Not that I had a choice, my aunt owned the dancing school I attended! But because of that I've always felt at home on a stage. The acting part came later, when I was in Junior High and incredibly shy. I quickly discovered that when I performed in a school play I didn't have to worry about what to say to people or how to approach them - they approached me. So theater was my way of "coming out of my shell" as they say.
What is it like working on this play with your significant other?
Patrick: When I was 19 years old, I auditioned for "The Boyfriend" that the was being produced by Nutley's Parks and Recreation Department. The reason was simple: That's where the girls were.
Sharon: I've done a one-act with Patrick, and a few other small things and I think we have a really nice chemistry on stage. Plus, I have a great admiration for Patrick's talent and dedication to whatever role he's creating. Love Letters is a chance to work that chemistry in a full-length piece, and I'm just loving the discussions about character and motivation that we're able to have together.
Both of you have already been in a production of "Love Letters" before, so what inspired you to want to perform this play again?Sharon: Love Letters is one of my favorite plays. Gurney's writing is so sharp and concise, yet still full of layers. There's just so much there for an actor to work with, every time I read through the piece I find something new. I originally performed Love Letters over 20 years ago, and it's been fascinating for me to see how differently I approach the role of Melissa with so much more life experience behind me. It's truly an Actors play.
Patrick: I just love the play. If I could get 3 people to sit in a room long enough, I would read "Love Letters," for them. I "feel" Andy more and more, and I love the opportunity to feel his feelings and express them so personally.Are there any similarities between you and the character you play?Sharon: Other than the fact that we're both artists (I'm a Graphic Designer), I think we're completely different creatures. Which make playing Melissa such a challenging treat for me.Patrick: Andy and I are both men. Andy and I are both lawyers. We are also reserved in our lifestyles. That's it.Are there any differences between you and the character you play? Sharon: I like to think I'm far more stable than Melissa. She, unlike me, had a very sad and lonely childhood which colored her life and choices in ways that are very foreign to me personally.Patrick: Andy is far more intelligent, accomplished, and ambitious that I ever was.
Why should audiences come see this show?
Patrick: I love doing this show with Sharon first and foremost because she is so damned talented and dedicated. We have worked together a couple of times before though not to this degree, and I think we just "click" on stage. Our timing is in sync, and we have a similar feel for whatever material we are doing. It's great. Also, the show is so emotional and intense at times that I think, and hope that some of that comes across in "Love Letters" even though we never look at each other. I suppose that is for the audience to decide. When we do the reading, I feel like we are doing it together in a way that probably would not be the same if Melissa were a stranger to me.
Sharon: Love Letters is one of those plays that just sucks the audience in and doesn't let them go, and this is just through two actors reading letters. Gurney uses this device to make these two people so human and accessible. You feel their humor, their highs and lows, and their triumphs and tragedies in a way that I don't think would read as intensely if this were a staged piece with movement and scene and costume changes. It's a wonderful and very unique theater experience.
Patrick: Audiences should come to appreciate how wonderfully crafted the piece is. You would think it would be boring - 2 people reading letters - but it's so emotionally . . . wrought (?) And there are enough things that are only hinted at, that might make someone carry it with them afterward and think about and analyze, and feel the tragedy of them both.
More thoughts :
Sharon: I think the laser-focus on the characters and lives of Melissa and Andy is the thing that makes this play so riveting.
Patrick: Reading the letters seems to be more effective than a more traditional staged production: I think this conclusion is born out in the film version of "Love Letters." It just doesn't have the same impact. Seems kind of flat in comparison.
Maybe because in the play the audience is forced to focus on the words, and the emotions that drive them, because that's all that Gurney gives them. Once again, I think NLT's small house is perfect for the piece. It's almost like the audience is in the very bedroom/office/dormitory/den/sanitarium, where Andy and Melissa sit down to write and can feel the rawness (is that a word?) and immediacy of their emotions.
I love channeling Andy's emotions but I also love feeling Melissa's emotions next to me although I never look at her, and I can't wait to feel the emotions of the audience - and I know we both will.
"Love Letters" by A.R. Gurney follows two best friends, Melissa and Andy, as they read the notes, letters, and cards that they've written to each other for over 50 years about their dreams and disappointments.
"Love Letters" runs for two weekends; December 13-21st at Nutley Little Theatre located at 47 Erie Place Nutley NJ.
Sharon Podsada and Patrick Little will perform the 1st weekend: December 13th and 14th at 8:00 PM & December 15th at 2:00 PM.
Vicky Chalk and Paul Diverio will perform the 2nd/final weekend: December 20th at 8:00 PM & December 21st at 2:00 PM & 8:00 PM.
Production Crew includes Gina Sarno, Director, Nick Pascarella, Assistant Director and Molly Sailer, Sound/Light Board Operator.
Tickets are on sale now at: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4286589
For more information, please visit NutleyLittleTheatre.com or follow them on Facebook: @NutleyLittleTheatre and Instagram: @NutleyLittleTheatreNJ
Pictured above: Patrick Little (left) and Sharon Podsada (right)
Photo Credit: Gina Sarno