Arts and Entertainment

Caledon Town Hall Players present add-on show ‘Love Letters’

August 31, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The Caledon Town Hall Players will perform a drama with a very small cast of two early in September.

“Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney is coming to the Caledon-based theatre company on September 8, 9, 15 and 16. 

Stephanie Bailey, president and director of the play, took time to talk to the Citizen about this upcoming show, which is an add-on to their regular season.

Ms. Bailey said, “Typically, we do three shows a season, in November, February and May. But this year, we added a fourth show in September. It’s a different sort of show. We pick our three shows a year in advance. Our audiences prefer comedy, but it means our actors are in similar roles most of the time.”

In the drama, there are plenty of ways to communicate. At one time, pen pals were common, pen on paper, stamp on an envelope; sometimes, really close friendships grew; sometimes, even marriage or an affair. As it is with these two, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, who read the audience the stories of their own lives and the life of their friendship through 50 years of correspondence.

“You get to be yourself when it’s on paper,” was Ms. Bailey’s opinion. “They explore their relationship across different times in their lives, from childhood on. This is a very powerful play, the two of them go through a lot of emotions.”

Ah, yes and here is how this is being produced differently. CTHP never produces a play with just two characters because the mantra of the company is to “involve as many people as possible in all aspects of theatre.”

With this in mind, these two characters and their director include three people per play. Three groups of two characters and the director take turns to perform the play. The casting was arranged by lottery, actually picking names out of a hat: who would perform with whom and who would direct. Love Letters will be produced six times over two weekends. This way, nine people are involved in the acting, with the tech and creative crew seeing to the rest.

The experiment has brought new people who have never acted together before and the individual directors, each approaching the show differently.

“We thought audiences might like to see it [more than once],” Ms. Bailey commented. “So that they can see how the play is re-interpreted.”

CTHP landed on Love Letters for a number of reasons. The two-person cast doesn’t need to be memorized as the artistry is in the reading, easy when people are travelling during the summer, and this gave a chance to meet more actors, for there were no auditions.

She admitted, “There was a level of risk as to who would be in the show. People might work together but not knowing who you’re going to work with is a challenge.”

The idea for all this came very organically about how they can make this different when pushing outside the box was the goal.

“This is our chance to explore something new. We wanted to try and see how it goes,” she said.

Cast members have been rehearsing over the summer, each trio in its own way: regular scheduling, sporadically and online only. People could see three different shows.

Stephanie Bailey told us, “We’re hoping to do this again. A different style of show; use the September space and see how people respond to coming out again. This add-on is not in the full year subscription.” 

Here are the casts and their directors – names familiar and maybe not. Each “group” will perform Love Letters twice over the two weekends of production.

Group A: Richard Prazmowski as Andrew, Karla Stewart as Melissa.

Directed by Stephanie Bailey.

Group B: Gord Gardiner as Andrew, Rose Brown as Melissa.

Directed by Joe Rose.

Group C: Travis Jones as Andrew, Cathy Montgomery as Melissa.

Directed by Kim Blacklock.

Outside of the Town of Caledon support, CTHP decided not to seek sponsors for this production, considering businesses are still struggling after COVID-19 and hoping to produce this add-on September show every year. The theatre does have a donor patron program. Basically, gold/silver/bronze sponsorship and people can donate to the CTHP, which operates as a charity.

Membership fees are due every year, and the company is basically self-funded, noting happily they were able to remain viable through online options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost entirely funded through the $20 ticket sales speaks to the enthusiasm of their patrons and the quality of their performances.

Ms. Bailey has been with CTHP for about eight years. “There are members who have been with us for more than 30 years,” she informed us. “Our goal is to be very welcoming with as many people enjoying theatre as possible.”

This year is CTHP’s 65th anniversary. It is run entirely by volunteers with no paid employees and a “fantastic membership whose hearts are all on theatre’s survival. We try to get people as involved as they want to be; we adapt with life’s changes,” she told us.

There is a good mix of demographics, a couple of high school students who go through shows that involve high school casting. People working backstage want to get involved without acting and directing. Teens get their volunteer hours. 

Love Letters is something different, truly different from other shows. Two people and raw emotion by watching two people grow up. You put onto paper what you might not face to face. The actors convey time and age by changing how they speak and use their words slightly.

“We were careful to keep the casts apart to avoid influencing each other,” Ms. Bailey remarked. “We hope everyone will enjoy this unusual take on such a different play.”

Dates and times are Sept. 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8:15 p.m. and September 9 and 16 at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are available online:

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