Although A.R. Gurney had a very successful career as a playwright, he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to write a novel and began the story of a friendship using letters as a vehicle to learn two people’s hopes and dreams as well as their successes and failures. Fifty years of letters between Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III became “Love Letters” and was submitted to The New Yorker magazine as a short story.
Gurney received a rejection notice. The New Yorker said it didn’t publish plays.
That rejection spurred Gurney into modifying his original story into a two character script that became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
“Love Letters” has become a highly successful play produced around the world from Los Angeles to Dublin to Moscow. First produced in 1988, the show has had hundreds of productions. Some of the productions are noteworthy including a 1995 production for the sequestered jurors of the O.J. Simpson trial. The show was given in the courtroom at the request of Judge Ito. In 2007, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones gave a benefit performance for Taylor’s AIDS Foundation, raising $1 million in a single performance.
“Love Letters” is now coming to the Cutting Edge Theater for one weekend only, March 19 and 20, starring two veteran actors, Suzanne Stymiest and Ronald Brister. While the two friends have worked together on many productions, this will be the first time they have been on stage together.
Brister is excited to finally get to share the stage with a lady who directed him in Quills and Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike, and co—directed many other shows that he participated in, most recently last December’s Southern Fried Funeral. “Suzanne is not only a gifted director but a supremely gifted actress! Love Letters is a wonderful two person play that seems simple in it’s premise but ultimately is a touching and moving play about an enduring love and friendship that last for over 50 years.”
Brister has also been seen at Cutting Edge Theater in The Little Mermaid as Ursula, Mamma Mia , Nine to Five, Die Mommie Die, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Ronald has been doing theater now for over 40 years, having trained in NYC and Miami, and in the observance of life and human behavior. He says “It’s in my blood.”
Stymiest also has a long history in the theater from middle school through adulthood, “It’s been my passion for over 50 years.” Stymiest is the recipient of several local acting awards including both the Upper Cut Award and Broadway World Regional award for her performance as M’Lynn in “Steel Magnolias,” and a Ginny Award as Best Actress for playing Ethel in “On Golden Pond.” Past performances include “Sylvia” also by A.R. Gurney, “Bogue Chitta Flatts”, “Misery,” and “Regrets Only.”
Stymiest has been directing at Cutting Edge Theater. “I am proudest of Brian Fontenot giving me the opportunity to co-direct ‘The Color Purple’ with him. It was a life changing experience.”
Tickets for “Love Letters” are available at cuttingedgetheater.com or by calling 985-649-3727. The theater is located at 767 Robert Boulevard, Slidell.