(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- One of the classics of contemporary American Theater gets its Jersey City debut when Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) presents Love Letters by A.R. Gurney at the black box theater in Merseles Studios, May 24-26. A poignant tale of a romantic connection that lasts a lifetime, Love Letters tells the story of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards and continues throughout their entire lives spanning college, wartime, adulthood careers, marriages and other milestones.
Love Letters covers several decades and has been praised by critics for its distinctive storytelling device – the dialogue consists solely of the actual letters written by the two star-crossed lovers – and its emotional focus on how the love between Andy and Melissa evolves over time. Love Letters, a finalist for the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, has been performed by some of the most well-known actors in theater and film: Mia Farrow, Tom Hanks, Carol Burnett, Martin Sheen, Lynn Redgrave, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Houston’ Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones.
“Theatre is about exploration, and love is one of the most universal explorations of all,” said Olga Levina, Artistic Director, JCTC. “Love Letters invites the audience on a journey of a relationship that is not just romantic, but a life-long friendship. JCTC is proud to present this unique production of Love Letters, a beloved and moving classic of modern theatre.”
The JCTC presentation of Love Letters is directed by Jason Beckman and stars Claudia Godi and Richard Fiske. The trio first encountered Gurney’s play at Carnegie Hall Studios – Studio 809 as students of Robert X. Modica, the famed New York acting teacher. They recently performed two staged readings as a lead up to the full-production at Merseles Studios, which is not only the Jersey City debut of the play, but the first New York area production of Love Letters in nearly a decade. Love Letters is produced by Freedom Productions, a multimedia production company founded by Franco Zerlenga.
The production’s minimalist stage design enhances the intimacy of the story, invoking a pre-digital era of personal communication. “Love Letters is about how two friends grow closer together as they grow up, which is a universal story and why this play has been performed all over the world,” said Beckman. “Writing letters may be a thing of the past, but the tactile sense of closeness that comes with writing and reading letters is something we miss in today’s world of social media. It’s interesting to see how the closeness shared by two people reaches beyond technology.”
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One of the innovations of the Jersey City debut of Love Letters is the intentional artistic choice of casting of an Italian in the role of Melissa. “I love how this play in a very simple way, takes you through the journey of the complexity of human beings, relationships, love,” said Godi. “This play always reminds me of the importance of being able to take risks for love. My challenge in this play as an actress is to give an 'Italian Version" of Melissa and at the same time transmit the universal message of the play and reach the audience's hearts.”
Performances are May 24-26, doors: 7:30pm / show: 8:00pm. Jersey City Theater Center
Merseles Studios is located at 339 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey. Tickets: $20 ($15/ Student and Senior Discount – must show valid ID) To purchase tickets visit: www.JCTCenter.org
Cast & Creative
Claudia Godi – an Italian Actress living in NYC, she recently played the role of Genevieve Laporte in staged reading of The Loves of Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art. She also played the role of Julia in The Business of Love a bilingual play she co-wrote with Scott Decker. She has performed as Angela in Prey and in Felony Friday at the NY Fringe Festival. Godi has performed in several JCTC productions, most notably in Trojan Woman last fall. In Italy, Godi has performed in regional theater and comedy improvisation.
Richard Fiske – An award winning actor who studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and Robert X. Modica at Carnegie Hall, Fiske hs been featured in the Off-Broadway premieres of North of Providence, Floor Above the Roof, and Murder in the First. Fiske’s film credits include: the award winning film Ink & Steel, Mac, Shrinks, Bill’s Seat, Criminal Intent and numerous independent productions TV Credits: Criminal Intent and the soap opera, Loving.
Jason Beckmann – an actor, playwright and director, graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in Acting, which included and a semester at the Moscow Art Theater in Russia. Recently he performed in Framework at the Aery 20/20 festival in and also became a company member of the Off-Broadway theater company: Scandinavian American Theater Company where he was assistant director the Off-Broadway show, The Baroness. His play, Always Never There, received a stage reading at The Players Club and be performed by Miranda Theater Company in an Off-Off Broadway debut in Fall 2019. Beckmann recently received an Artist’s Residency at the Dragon’s Egg as director of The Seagull. For more info visit his website: jasontbeckmann.com.
Franco Zerlenga (Producer) – founder of 9 Freedoms Production, a multi-cultural production company whose mission is to “support every form of art to open the society and it's nine freedoms in the 21st century.” Zerlenga learned directing in theater from Herbert Berghof and the founder of HB Studio and has directed many European and American plays, including The Shewing-up Blanco Posnet and The Dark Lady of the Sonnets by George Bernard Shaw. Love Letters is Zerlenga’s return to theater: “I consider A.R. Gurney one of the great American playwrights. Love Letters expresses the first freedom: to be free to love the one whom we freely choose to.”
Freedoms Productions LLC – is a multimedia production company whose work includes comics, movies, plays, books and other art forms. After producing successful readings of Love Letters in Manhattan, the company will now stage a full production at Merseles Studios, presented by JCTC.
Funding for Love Letters was made possible by generous support from the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development, Thomas A. DeGise, Hudson County Executive and the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Love Letters was also made possible through the generosity of Ben LoPiccolo Development Group, JCTC’s Board of Directors, private donors and local Jersey City businesses.
Jersey City Theater Center, Inc. (JCTC) presents programming at Merseles Studios and White Eagle Hall. JCTC is a nonprofit, 501c3 arts organization committed to inspiring conversations about the important topics of our times through innovative and progressive performing and visual arts that celebrates diversity, bringing communities closer together and enhancing the quality of life.
Photo caption: (from left)—Love Letters stars Claudia Godi, Richard Fiske