Stage
  "Love Letters"

 

Fox Theater
929 West Sprague Avenue
Spokane, Washington 99201

 

 

Proceeds from the production benefit the Spokane Civic Theatre

 

 

 

"Love Letters"

September 21-23, 2001
December 28-29, 2001

 

 

 

 

Starring:

Patty Duke:          Melissa Gardner
John Grant-Phillips:          Andrew Makepeace Ladd III

 

Written by: A.R.Gurney
Directed by: Marilyn Langbehn

 

 

Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, both born to wealth and position, are childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards. Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters through the boarding school and college years—where Andy goes on to excel at Yale and law school, while Melissa flunks out of a series of “good schools.” While Andy is off at war, Melissa marries someone else, but her attachment to Andy remains strong and she continues to keep in touch as he marries, becomes a successful attorney, gets involved in politics and, eventually, is elected to the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, her marriage in tatters, Melissa dabbles in art and gigolos, drinks more that she should, and becomes estranged from her children. Eventually she and Andy do become involved in a brief affair, but it is really too late for both of them. However Andy’s last letter, written to her mother after Melissa’s untimely death, make it eloquently clear how much they really meant, and gave to, each other over the years—physically apart, perhaps, but spiritually as close as only true lovers can be.

 

*                    *                    *

 

 

 

 

 

The Spokesman Review
September 20, 2001
Jim Kershner

 

Civic Pride:
Oscar and Emmy winner Patty Duke jumps at the chance to star in Spokane Civic Theatre benefit performances of 'Love Letters'

 

     Patty Duke, Coeur d'Alene's own Oscar and Emmy winner, is no stranger to A.R. Gurney's two-person romantic comedy, "Love Letters."

     "I performed it years ago with my husband (Mike Pearce), who is not an actor, per se," she said.  "He is actually a firefighter, per se (laughter).  We did it as a fund-raiser for the Lake City Playhouse and it went very well except that I felt my husband was upstaging me.  So I told him I would never do it with him again (laughter)."

     But she had no hesitation at all in agreeing to appear in it with Jack Phillips, the executive director of the Spokane Civic Theatre.

     In fact, she said she felt "redeemed" by the offer.

     "You have to understand how this came about," she said.  "I was supposed to do 'Our Town' with the Civic Theatre (in the spring of 2000).  Then I got a terrific paying job, a TV movie, that I had to do.  But I thought Jack would never talk to me again.  He was very gracious when it happened, but I thought, 'Why should he talk to me again?'"

     So she was delighted when Phillips proposed the idea as a fund-raiser for his theater.  And besides, she said, the timing was perfect.

     "I needed to work for awhile," she said.

     Her last TV project was called "Love Lessons" (not to be confused with "Love Letters"), the drama she shot in June 2000 in lieu of "Our Town."  She likes having time off, but not that much time off.

     "I want to have three months off, maybe four, and then I want a job, and then I want another three months off," she said.

     Her last live appearance on stage was in 1999 in the Civic Theatre's "The Glass Menagerie," directed by Phillips.

     "I only do my stage work in Spokane!" she said.  "I tell you, I am so attached to 'The Glass Menagerie.'  I have such fantasies about where we could go and what we could do with it.  I think we took an approach that was very unusual for that play.  Who would expect to go to 'The Glass Menagerie' and laugh a lot?  My greatest fantasy of course would be to take it to Broadway."

     Her role in "Love Letters" will be considerably less demanding than the role of Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie."  The play is structured as a series of letters, written over a period of decades, by a man and a woman who were in love with each other from afar.  Each character sits at a table and reads their letters.  It requires no memorization.

     "According to the author, he doesn't even want a lot of rehearsal, if any," said Duke.  "We have chosen to read it through just once, just so we can say all the words in a row, and tonight (Monday) we'll do a tech rehearsal."

     This play comes at the end of what was intended to be a quiet summer for Duke and her family.  It didn't work out that way.

     "Instead, our daughter got married at our house here in Coeur d'Alene," said Duke.  "Charlene graduated from USC-Santa Cruz just three weeks before getting married.  She's a molecular-cellular biologist now working in a laboratory in Santa Cruz where they are desperately trying to cure Alzheimer's.  I said, 'Hurry up!'"

     Then most of August was devoted to the Kootenai County Fair, which is the favorite event of their son, Kevin, 12.

     "Ever since Kevin was 5, he fell in love with that fair," she said.  "We made it our business that every August would be dedicated to Kevin and the fair, and so far we've upheld our promise."

     She also started her own business this summer: Patty Duke Collectibles, a line of small teddy bears.  She started off by trying to learn how to make teddy bears herself, but she soon discovered that she was "better as the front man than the bear-maker."  The bears are sold over the Internet and at collectible bear shows.

     And she had one other adventure this summer.

     "We were invited to Michael Jackson's concert at Madison Square Garden!"  she said.  "I couldn't figure out why.  When the man called, I said, 'Seriously, this is my husband doing a joke, right?'  And he said, 'No, Michael specifically asked that we call you.'  I said, 'Michael doesn't even know me!'  And he said, 'Well he knows who you are, and he's read your books.'  So I said, 'All right, we'll come.'"

     So she went to New York City two weekends ago, and she had a great time.

     "I was like a 10-year-old," she said.  "I'd never been to any kind of rock concert and I was agog, rubbernecking, and looking at all of the celebrities."

     This was, of course, just a few days before New York was changed forever.  After the terrorist attacks, Duke said she and the Civic contemplated whether it would be best to cancel "Love Letters."

     But she said the tenor of the play, while it makes no comments about today's situation, is about the deepest kind of love, and that's a lesson that is always worth hearing.  And besides, why cancel?

     "Even one of the firefighters said, 'Hey, if you fall down, you dust yourself off and keep on going,'" she said.  "That's an actual fire rule.  And I don't know how else to do it, do you?"

     So the show will go on.  And it already shapes up as a fund-raising success for the Civic.

     "I was nervous when they said we were going to do it in such a big theater," said Duke.  "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be embarrassing in my hometown not to sell a lot of tickets?'"

     She need not have worried.  A third show has already been added on Sunday because of demand.

 

 

The Spokesman Review
September 20, 2001
Jim Kershner

 

'Love Letters' Draws Duke Fans Nationwide

     Patty Duke isn't merely a local draw.

     At least 11 members of a Duke fan club are flying in from across the country to attend all three performances of "Love Letters" at the Fox Theater this weekened.

     Why?

     "We're all coming just to see our favorite star," said Bill Jankowski, 21, a student at Widener University in Chester, Pa.  "We've been planning this for three months now."

     Fans will be flying in from Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, Fla., San Jose, Calif., Portland, Seattle, and New York.

     Jankowski is the president of the Official Patty Duke Webpage, Mailing List and Newsletter.  He organized the trip through the mailing list, which includes some 70 people.

     "With the exception of a few of us, none of us have met one another," said Jankowski.  "But some of us have become wonderful Internet friends over the years, all thanks to our love of Ms. Duke."

     This will be a rare chance to see her live on stage.  In addition, the group plans to rent a van and see various Duke-related sites, including locations for her TV show, "Amazing Grace" and her home in Coeur d'Alene.

     They hope to get a chance to get together with her--most have met her before on various movie locations--although Jankowski said nothing has been arranged.  The website and mailing list are done with permission of Duke and her husband.

     Jankowski said the recent terrorist attacks won't deter them from flying to Spokane.  In fact, he said it made the trip more important than ever to them.

     "We all really need this right now, especially after what happened last week," said Jankowski.

     He said he's been a Patty Duke fan ever since he was 10-years-old and saw her in her autobiographical TV movie, "Call Me Anna."

     "Something just clicked in my head after that," he said.  "She is definitely one of the sweetest people alive."