The Final Production of the 40th Summer Theatre Season at the Abbeville Opera House!
The Abbeville Opera House is falling head over heels in love with A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, the story of a 50-year correspondence between Melissa and her childhood-friend-turned-love-interest, Andrew. This production will be the final play of the 40th Summer Theatre Season in Abbeville and the last production staged by long time Opera House director Michael Genevie.
Genevie actually retired last year, but came out of retirement to helm his 40th Summer Season. Given Genevie’s track record at the state theatre of South Carolina, it Is not surprising that he has decided to do something a little different with this production.
Thanks to its simple staging, Gurney’s play, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has been performed in theater spaces all over the world, from the New York Public Library to Broadway to Carnegie Hall and back again. Genevie’s production will actually feature a different cast for each performance of the play.
“We are doing a limited run for this show,” says Genevie, and I wanted to involve some of the actors who have been instrumental in the development of the Opera House during my tenure. For that reason, I have invited couples that our audiences have come to know and love from past productions over the years.”
The show opens on Friday, August 9 at 8pm with two veteran Opera House actors starring as Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd. MaryAnne Campbell and Shelley Reid will be playing the roles for the opening night performance. Both are local veteran actors who have appeared on the Opera House stage many times.
The Saturday performances at 3pm and 8pm on August 10 will be played by Betsy and Kenny Sanders. Now living in the New York City area, Kenny and Betsy have made a real impact on the Opera House, both on stage and backstage. Both have appeared in many shows on the one hundred and eleven year old stage. Betsy has also served in the past as the Director of the Opera House Youth Theatre, and Kenny has designed and installed many technical improvements to the theatre over the years. They most recently appeared together in last summer’s production of Dearly Departed.
On the following Friday night, August 16 at 8 pm, Lisa McConnell and Brad Christie, two Opera House favorites, will take on the roles of Melissa and Andrew. Lisa and Brad have appeared together on stage many times, most recently as Mary Norton and William McGee in Seven Keys to Baldpate.
Closing the Love Letters run will be Vicki Huffman and Andy Omundson who have appeared in dozens of Opera House productions over the years. They will be performing on Saturday, August 17 at 3pm.
“All of these very talented actors go back many years and have contributed much to the success of our theatre. Some of them were in shows that I first directed on this stage in 1979, and all of them are remarkably talented individuals who are truly a joy to direct. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my retirement,” says Genevie. He recommends that “you put away your iPhone (at least for a minute!), forget about emailing and I guarantee you will find out how a touching romance through old-fashioned pen and paper can and will blossom on our stage in this beautifully written play.”
The play originally premiered at the New York Public Library, where Gurney was scheduled to give a speech. But instead, armed with his friend and collaborator, actress Holland Taylor and a stack of letters, Gurney and Taylor read Love Letters to the crowd. “We started at 4:00, and I put in an arbitrary intermission at 5:00, saying, ‘Well, I’m sure a lot of you have to go,’” Gurney recalled. “And nobody wanted to leave! So I figured we had something.”
After so many positive reviews, Gurney brought Love Letters to the Promenade Theatre in New York City— which already had a production of Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour playing. Word spread about the funny, haunting and emotional off-Broadway show and actors began contacting Gurney about being in the play. The production was so popular that it transferred to Broadway in 1989 with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst. After a popular run, Love Letters closed in 1990, but the love affair wasn’t over. Engagements mounted everywhere with stars like Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels, Chaleston Heston and Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones and, more recently, with Samantha Bee, Jeff Daniels, Jason Jones, Alec Baldwin, Laura Linney, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach, Angelica Huston, Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy and Martin Sheen – to name only a few.
Tickets for the Abbeville Opera House production can be purchased on line by visiting the web site at www.theabbevilleoperahouse.com or by calling the Box Office at (864) 366-2157. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and military with performances at 8pm Friday and Saturday August 9, 10 and 16 and Saturday matinees at 3pm on August 10 and 17.