Friday, June 14, 2024

Exchanging Love Letters onstage and off

Forget the chocolates and flowers, Staircase Theatre wants to entice you with something a little different this Valentine’s Day, a production of AR Gurney’s Love Letters.

[pullquote]“Some say it must be challenging for us both being actors, but I can’t imagine being with a partner that didn’t want to put on show and work together” – Vancouver actor Kaitlin Williams who stars with her actor husband Mack Gordon in the upcoming Staircase Theatre production of Love Letters[/pullquote]Usually seen as a vehicle for Hollywood types as it requires a minimum of preparation and does not require lines to be memorized, the Vancouver production extends that idea by having the onstage couple played by four real-life couples during its limited run leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Love Letters tells the story of Melissa and Andy through notes, cards and letters that they exchanged between themselves for fifty years, illustrating the life that has passed between them in their separated lives. Using a simple table and a couple of chairs, the production holds true to the playwright’s vision that the play be “read aloud by an actor and actress of roughly the same age, sitting side by side at a table.”

Along with three other real-life Vancouver theatre couples – Meghan Gardiner & Todd Thomson,  Michael Fera & Tanja Dixon-Warren, and Karin Konoval & Tom McBeath – are Mack Gordon & Kaitlin Williams, who themselves still write each other notes after seven years together, three as a married couple.

“I’ve always told Mack that he doesn’t have to buy me gifts because the greatest gift he can give to me is to write something for me,” says Wiliams. “He begrudgingly writes me birthday cards, but he is such a great writer.”

“I’m not big on birthday cards,” laughs Gordon. “In real life we don’t have to write anymore, with so much of what we say now done electronically.”

“It really is a lost art, but it is so important,” interjects Williams, who was drawn to the project in part because of its use of written letters to illustrate the history and lives of the play’s two characters.

As for their own history together, Williams and Gordon first met while at the University of Victoria at an audition call for a play that Gordon had written and was directing.

Real-life theatre couple Kaitlin Williams & Mack Gordon
Real-life theatre couple Kaitlin Williams & Mack Gordon

“I cast Kaitlin in it and the rest, as they say, is history,” says Gordon.

For Williams it was the top three things that she looks for in any person – smarts, kindness and a sense of humour – that first attracted her to Mack, but it was their shared passion for theatre that sealed the deal.

“Some say it must be challenging for us both being actors, but I can’t imagine being with a partner that didn’t want to put on show and work together,” says Williams.  “And besides, he’s cute.”

For Williams it was Gordon’s classic beauty that he says first caught his eye, but he admits that as he got to know her he appreciated that she was a little aloof and even a bit mysterious.

“After I spent some time with her I also found out how funny, smart and discerning she was,” says Gordon.  “We could hold long intelligent conversations together and I love that.”

“We also like to have fun,” Williams interjects again.

Having worked on a number of theatre projects together in the past, both agree that it was an interesting idea to be part of a show that a different couple would be performing each night. “It’s always a plus when you also don’t have to memorize lines,” laughs Gordon.

Kidding aside, Gordon says that even with its simple concept, Love Letters is a play that is designed to engage.

“The heart of any play that keeps the audience involved is the relationship between the characters,” he says. “The story is really interesting and never gets stagnant, as it follows these two characters from friends to lovers through their entire lives. It spans a good fifty years and stays interesting and fresh as the audience keeps up with where the characters are at any given time.”

“It heightens the importance of the script,” says Williams.  “We’ve done a number of readings like this before, standing on a stage with a music stand in front of us, and they never get boring. If you are a lover of good storytelling, you’ll love this show.”

Love Letters plays The Shop (125 E 2nd Ave, Vancouver) Feb 11-14. Visit for tickets and information.

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