Blogging about LOVE LETTERS at Nutley Little Theatre - Director's Chat
I had the pleasure of double casting and directing "Love Letters" at Nutley Little Theatre this season. I had a chat with cast of the 2nd and final weekend, Vicky Chalk and Paul Diverio, and want to share it with our BWW readers!
What is your earliest memory of seeing live theater?
Vicky: One of the first shows I remember seeing, ironically, was an NLT production, back when they used to mount shows in Nutley's schools. In 1965, they did "The Diary of Anne Frank," and I went because the lead was a student in my mom's English class in Nutley High. I was fascinated by her performance, and wondered if I'd ever have the nerve to get up on stage and be in a show like that.
Paul: Growing up we were always exposed to local community theater attending shows on a regular basis. My first "professional" theater experience was attending "Pippin" in 1972 starring Ben Vereen.
What inspired you to want to act?
Vicky: I really got interested in musical theater first. I always loved to sing, and was in the Nutley cast of "Up With People!" with a bunch of my friends, performing all over the tri-state area. When Nutley's Rec Department started producing musicals, we all jumped at the chance to get involved. Once I did a show or two of just singing and dancing, I got interested in auditioning for speaking parts. I was in "Antigone" when I was a Senior in NHS, and was in NLT's production of "The Impossible Years" in 1971. I did dance in a 2-piece bathing suit in a scene with some teens, but otherwise, it was the first non-musical show I did at NLT.
Paul: It is interesting how I got involved in acting because as a child I was a shy introvert. However, I have always enjoyed the art of acting and appreciated the performances of the actors. I still admire the talents actors share with the audience.
What is it like working on this play with your best friend?
Vicky: It is so much fun to do this show with Paul. I've directed him several times, and he was my Musical Director for "Forever Plaid." We have been in some silly scenes together for fundraisers, but never performed anything quite so serious. I think it helps that we've been friends for a couple of decades; it adds to the authenticity of portraying people who have known each other for a long time.
Paul: It has been a joy working opposite Vicky in this piece. I have known Vicky for over 20 years and have been directed by her in a couple of plays and worked with her as her musical director when she directed "Forever Plaid". It is always a pleasure and we end up having more laughs over just about everything.
Neither of you had been in a production of "Love Letters" or had read it before, so what inspired you to want to audition?
Vicky: It's a challenge to find plays for which I'm the right age, and I miss not acting as much as I used to. I loved it when I read it, and was encouraged to audition when I realized I wouldn't have to memorize all the lines, as that has always been difficult for me. I was also eager to work with Gina Sarno. I once directed her, so it was fun to reverse roles.
Paul: I had heard about this show over the years. It is an interesting way to deliver a story and the notes and directives from the author are quite specific. The true benefit to this show is not having to memorize!
Are there any similarities between you and the character you play?
Vicky: Melissa and I are alike in that we kind of let life happen, without having a grand scheme of how our lives should unravel. Like her, I'm more emotional than logical. I understand her desperation in needing Andy's attention.
Paul: There are some similarities between Andy and me. We both had rearing from good fathers who gave us solid direction without any wavering. Our fathers are admired by both of us. Both our lives are goal oriented where we set goals, go for them and achieve them. Being retired at this time of my life, I had achieved the goals I set for myself. I am also one who keeps in touch with those good people who have been a part of my past life. I am still in touch with some of my classmates from kindergarten, that was 59 years ago!
Are there any differences between you and the character you play?
Vicky: She's more reckless about her relationships. She also had the luxury of having as much money as she needed to travel the world, yet her wealth couldn't save her from succumbing to her dependencies. She knew having money wasn't the key to happiness. Who knows how different my life might have been if money were no object.
Paul: There are 2 major differences between Andy and me - I am not a politician at all and have never had an inkling to go into law as a profession.
Why should audiences come see this show?
Vicky: It's so beautifully written. There is so much going on in the sub-text, I think it's one of the most thought-provoking plays I've ever read. It's the kind of show you should see more than once, as there is always something new that catches your attention every time you hear it.
Paul: It is a touching show and a reflective piece. It is so interesting the way Gurney wrote this where you clearly understand and learn about these two characters through 50 years of letters.
"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" has one weekend left at Nutley Little Theatre located at 47 Erie Place Nutley NJ
Vicky Chalk and Paul Diverio will perform this 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: Vicky Chalk (left) and Paul Diverio (right)
Photo Credit: Gina Sarno