Over the past six years, Nashville's Street Theatre Company (1933 Elm Hill Pike) has garnered a much-deserved reputation for featuring stellar performances, and quite often in a non-traditional way. As what can only be described as an early Valentine, on Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2, Street Theatre continues to offer Nashville theatre goers not one, but two unique theatrical experiences as they present two separate one-night-only performances of A. R. Gurney's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, 'Love Letters' featuring a different cast each night.
Up first on Friday at 8 p.m. are Music City's very own grand dame of the theatre, Layne Sasser, who'll perform the two-person monologue show alongside the equally talented and beloved Ken Jackson. Then, on Saturday, also at 8 p.m., Street Theatre goes a bit outside the box by featuring two of Nashville's hottest rising stars, Ruby Amanfu and Francis Rodino, both perhaps known more for their musical genius than their acting, for a completely different take on 'Love Letters'.
As Street Theatre Company and their two diverse casts prepared for this weekend's very limited engagements, which will also serve as a mini-fundraiser for the theatre company, I had an opportunity to speak with Street Theatre's Artistic Director, Cathy Street, as well as the two female leads.
When asked how the idea of two separate one-nigh-only performances came about, Street simply shared, "We thought it would be a neat way to see different takes on the same show, and at the same time, bring in different audiences each night."
On whether casting the two very different casts was intentional, Street revealed, "Sort of a happy accident, I guess. I love the idea of Ken and Layne doing the show as they are so revered in the theatre community-it was a perfect fit for them." Of Saturday's cast, Street went on to say, "We were also looking to showcase some of Nashville's musical talent, and having known Ruby for some time, we asked if she might be interested in jumping in. She has done some theatre in the past and was excited to use her acting chops again."
For those not familiar with 'Love Letters', it made it's debut nearly a quarter century ago and features only two actors, typically seen sitting at writing desks. Their two person narrative, as they compose letters to each other over a fifty year period, unravels the plot of the show.
Street addressed the show's appeal, in spite of--or perhaps because of--the dying art of handwritten communication by saying, "I think everyone can relate to the story. It is not a traditional 'love story' by any means. There is also something so intimate and simple about it--it is just really sweet and moving. I think it is particularly interesting in this day and age since we DON'T write letters anymore. We don't have anything enduring to last--email is just deleted. So in that way, I also think it makes us maybe think twice about the art of letter writing and if it is not such a good thing that we have lost that heritage."
Layne Sasser mirrored Street's sentiment by adding, "I was so thrilled to be asked by Cathy to take this role. I saw the show years ago, and it touched me deeply. I was raised to write letters to my grandparents and thank-you notes for every gift received. My adult children still do the same. These Love Letters feel so real to me in terms of both content and emotion. I sincerely hope the audience can embrace their journeys."
As for her involvement in Saturday night's performance, Ruby Amanfu agreed with Street and Sasser by explaining, "Love Letters is not your typical love story which is what attracted me to it. I don't do typical, ha! I doubt I'd be believable in a role with limited conflict where the 'stuff of love' is concerned. This is an unexpectedly telling play about what love looks like when it's not as simple as the greeting cards make it out to be."
In honor of their participation in Saturday's presentation of 'Love Letters', Amanfu and her co-star, have written a new song. "'In My Head' written by Francis Rodino and myself was inspired by our involvement in this play. Simply by the fact that this piece brought two musicians together in a collaborative way through acting and it was inevitable that music would come out of it. It is a summation of the character's simple truth."
To promote this weekend's Street Theatre fundraising dual one-night-only events, Amanfu and Rodino recently appeared on Nashville's own 'More at Midday'. To see Amanfu and Rodino chatting about the show and performing the song, CLICK HERE.
When asked if Saturday night's show might include a performance of 'In My Head', Amanfu teased, "We shall see."
A select few tickets remain for both Friday and Saturday night's fundraising performances. Tickets are $30. Street Theatre Company offers a BYOB policy to their 21+up patrons. To purchase tickets or for more information on 'Love Letters' or any of Street Theatre Company's upcoming season, CLICK HERE.
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