Love Letters Interview

Los Angeles theatre interview
Los Angeles theatre interview

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre interview with April Stewart, starring alongside Courtney R. Hall in Love Letters, the classic romance written by A.R. Gurney, directed by Wendy-Marie Martin and produced by Grey Delisle. 

Love Letters is playing at Theatre 68 Arts Complex in the NoHo Arts District for this coming weekend only! We are so excited to have this team of actors in NoHo. April Stewart, who plays Melissa, is a huge star of voice over work. If you are a fan of Comedy Central you will have heard her voice in your favorite shows, Southpark, Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, Winx Club, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and loads more! She is also a theatre actor. Prelude to a Kiss, Hay Fever, Crimes of the Heart are just a few plays she has performed in.  Her co-star Courtney R. Hall is also a busy theatre actor. The Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), Dandelion Wine, Fiddler on the Roof, Fifth of July, are just a few of his credits. Called an “exquisite jewel of a play” by Time magazine, Love Letters was was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for heaven’s sake! Not too shabby!  The two characters sit inches apart, reading love notes and correspondence between them sent throughout their lifetime. Through marriages, war, estrangements, break ups, failures and successes, they keep in touch, and stay in love…so romantic and heartbreaking. 

When:

Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2, 2023 – ONE WEEKEND ONLY!

Where:

Theatre 68 Arts Complex – The Emerson

5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601

Tickets:

https://www.onstage411.com/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=6310

We wanted to find out more about why they chose this play and what it means to them to perform it. So we asked!

Hi Melissa!! Welcome to NoHo!! What drew you to this play and why now?

In Love Letters, A. R. Gurney crafted a beautifully written play that provides a truly unique theatrical experience. It also perfectly suits the goals that led this team to mount a play at this time, because it’s a show that can be mounted very quickly and simply yet provides a rich opportunity to encounter two characters who can really “come alive” on stage. The joy of that acting endeavor was at the heart of co-stars April & Courtney’s aim in finding a project to do together, and it remains the beating heart of our production of Love Letters.

How did the team come together?

Executive Producer (and genuine voice over acting legend!) Grey DeLisle and stars April Stewart (of Comedy Central’s South Park) and Courtney R. Hall had all trained together at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts (PCPA Theatrefest) in the early 1990s and have shared over thirty years of friendship. All three live in Los Angeles and frequently will get together over a meal to catch up. This past December, over just such a meal, April & Courtney were both expressing a desire to get back up on stage again, and Grey had the genius thought of producing Love Letters with April and Court in it. Director Wendy-Marie Martin is another friend of over thirty years from the same class at PCPA (and in fact, Wendy-Marie & Courtney even went to high school together). She’s also a brilliant director and playwright in her own right, and a very logical choice for a director—except that she chairs a theatre department at Hollins University in Virginia. But the first call the team made the day after the decisive dinner was to Wendy-Marie, and while we thought it was probably only going to be wishful thinking to ask her, she actually readily & enthusiastically agreed to direct the play. Rehearsals were online until this week of actually mounting the production, and Wendy-Marie has graciously made time to come out to LA for a week as the show goes through tech and enters performances. Wendy-Marie also brought some wonderful guest artists into the mix, including brilliant Brazilian Costume & Makeup Desinger Suellen da Costa Coelho (who has also made the trek to LA and provided invaluable production design expertise, lots of elbow grease, and just an infectious energy of joy) and our topnotch Social Media Coordinator Mattie Tindall (who also happens to be a senior Theatre major and Communications major at Hollins).

Los Angeles theatre interview

Why choose to put the play on in NoHo?

Honestly, we initially considered venues all over the Greater LA area—of which there are, of course, many wonderful options. But North Hollywood really does offer something special in its Arts District, which serves as a great hub of culture and offers a conveniently central location in the L.A./Burbank/San Fernando Valley. We love the surrounding bistros and boulevards that invite foot traffic into a theatre and enable an active engagement of the community in the arts. And the Theatre 68 Arts Complex on Lankershim in NoHo where we’re performing the show is a perfect size and space for our production. We’ve also found the staff and other artists working there wonderful to partner with, and we have special gratitude to Managing Director Amber Bruegel and her team for all of their terrific support. And we have to add that the NoHo Arts District also provides a stellar community for communicating, sharing information and opportunities, and facilitating a very exciting exchange among artists, performers, patrons, business owners, and the community at large. That level of connection and community involvement really drew us to North Hollywood, too, and we’ve found it to be a wonderful place to be!

What does live theatre contribute to our lives?

The contribution live theatre makes to our lives is so profound, it’s hard to succinctly state all of the values engaged and enriched by the performing arts. But we think that a special focus we’d like to mention about live theatre in this current moment is that, when the whole world has been undergoing such a traumatic series of isolating, polarizing, and even sadly devastating crises, live theatre can provide a powerful place to come together to experience both the joys and sorrows of life in the context of creativity, communication, catharsis, and the unifying power of art. We hope that with our production of Love Letters we’re making at least some small contribution to that grand goal. That’s also why we’ve chosen to partner with the Greater LA chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI is a non-profit organization that promotes wellness, recovery, equality, and dignity for individuals and families affected by mental illness and the community at large. We are proud to donate net proceeds from this production of Love Letters to NAMI GLAC to support these worthy efforts.

How does acting and creating contribute to yours?

The centrality of acting and creating to our collective senses of personhood and purpose is really also at the center of our motivation to do this production. Both Courtney & April recognized that, while each is engaged in acting and communicating professions on a daily basis, there was something very special for the two of them about performing live together on stage, something they hadn’t done together in decades, despite their long-lasting friendship. The call of sharing in that experience together again, along with doing so in a creative partnership also with Executive Producer Grey DeLisle and Director Wendy-Marie Martin, provided a profoundly exciting, energizing experience for all of them. Each of the key performers and creators in this production have their own unique take, also, on how pursuing the arts enriches their lives:

COURTNEY: For me, the chief goal of acting is connection with other people through the extraordinary channels of story and character. I deeply value getting to play all kinds of parts because I deeply value getting to know all kinds of people—not only the characters that I get to play, but the people that I get to share those characters with, both fellow artists and audience members. Acting also affords me a unique opportunity to learn more about myself. It teaches me how I can improve who I am as I interact with the world, and hopefully a little about how I can improve the world through who I am, the characters I play, and the stories we tell.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to perform or produce a play?

We don’t know if we can reference Nike without paying a licensing fee, but it really does seem that the athletic wear company’s famous slogan says it all: JUST DO IT! This whole team has realized at least two things in the process of bringing Love Letters to the stage in North Hollywood: First, no matter how simple a production might seem, it’s always far more work to do it well that one might think at first. Secondly, no matter how much work it is to produce a play well, it is always so very WORTH IT. We are grateful for this opportunity to share our work, and we’ve decided we’re going to produce more stage work together. Our advice to those who want to produce and perform is: don’t wait for the invitation or opportunity to come from others—just get out there and do it! And if you’d like to do that work with us, we’d love to hear more from you!

Thank you, Melissa and Courtney!  I can’t wait to see this play!! What an absolute treat to have Love Letters in NoHo at our wonderful Theatre 68 for one precious weekend! Don’t dawdle…get your tickets now!!

https://www.onstage411.com/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=6310