Last weekend I went to a reading series called Letters Aloud - "Private Letters read in Public". This was probably the first (and possibly the last) time I've ever gone to a Valentine's Day event - ON Valentine's Day even! - but I saw the listing a few days prior and was interested in how the group would translate correspondence to the stage. I also wanted to check out the venue, which is relatively new.
The format is very straightforward: the host and two local actors shared the stage with a musician, and took turns reading from actual letters centered on a theme. Most of the letters were written by people who went on to be celebrities and were found through online research. There were minimal visuals provided as background, so the focus was really on the writing.
The actors were excellent - there were two men and a woman reading, but I appreciated that they did not restrict which letters were read by whom to shared gender - and the overall arc of the show was thoughtful and well constructed. Highlights included a surprisingly mature response to a high school breakup by the man who would become Slash (Guns n' Roses), a written pass from Marlon Brando left for a server, and a letter from Elton John in his 60s to his younger self. I was also happy to hear a letter than I had just perused from the Between Us collection of lesbian correspondence by Kay Turner, which I'd re-read a few days prior to this event. But the most memorable letter was the one that opened the show - a hand-written version of the grade school rite of passage "Do You Like Me? Check Yes or No" note. The response had been a qualified no - but the child managed to hang on to the note through the following years and in the end the two not only liked each other but got married. More stories like this one (which did not involve anyone famous), peppered with celebrity surprises would have given the evening more impact.
Nevertheless, it's an interesting concept, and the host told a great story about having been inspired by the series to write and mail a letter to his wife of many years - only to see it idle in the mailbox for five days because his wife doesn't check the mail very often! It would be great to think that even a handful of the audience members went home inspired to give old school correspondence a try.