We all have something that was left unsaid.Maybe it was to someone who changed your life (for better or worse), someone who helped you change a tire, or someone spared that last dig you never deliver.
Wouldn’t it be great to say it on stage? Or hear someone else articulate your feelings?
CenterStage is taking that concept and turning it into a new theater production, The Letter I Never Sent, showing 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at The J. CenterStage accepted 18 of 36 submissions for the show, said Anne Ensign-Urteaga, the J Arts and Ideas operations and events director.
All the letters were good enough to read before an audience, according to Ensign-Urteaga and CenterStage Director Frank Goodloe III, except it would make the show entirely too long.
“Not that I would think that the letters would be written badly, but I was struck by how well they are written,” Goodloe said. “They really tell a story.”
In fact, the letters were so well-written that little editing was needed.
“You can really feel the person’s anger, bitterness or sadness through the letters, the way they are written,” Goodloe said. “I think the people that come to hear the letters will feel that as well. It’s like therapy. ‘I’m not the only one who’s been through this.’”
The authors will read their own letters on stage during the show, addressing subjects such as “Life Lessons,” “Hard Lessons,” “Self-Discovery” and “Stolen Years.”
The readings will be interspersed with songs by CenterStage singers.
The idea for the show came from CenterStage regular Tymika Prince. She had been working on some songs with her voice coach when it occurred to her that some of the tunes had powerful stories to tell. She suggested the idea of having people submit letters with CenterStage players singing songs around them.
The idea was tabled for a while; Prince even forgot about the whole thing until Ensign-Urteaga had a show fall through, so she brought the idea up with Prince again.
The producers were surprised that only women submitted letters, despite getting calls from several interested men. The letters also tackled a wide range of topics, addressing parents, grandparents, grandchildren, strangers and even a student who said a curse word in a class.
“I read them at home in my bed, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve gotta put these down for now,’” Goodloe said.
Ensign-Urteaga also took them home. She found herself crying as she read them.
“And I’m not a cryer!” she insisted. “I had to stop halfway through because I was emotionally spent. “She got up early the next day and continued reading. “I wanted to give them the attention they deserved. A lot of them were pretty heavy.”
One letter deals with abuse, Ensign-Urteaga said. “The author reached out to me and said that this letter is going to be really hard, and I told her it’s the most important letter in here, bringing awareness to this issue. She’s out of that situation now, but it’s still a very tough letter to get out.”
The authors aren’t going on stage cold.
“We’re trying to do things to ease our authors into it,” Ensign-Urteaga said. “We recognize that they probably aren’t public speakers. We’re doing coaching sessions over the next couple of weeks. With Frank’s performer expertise and my public speaking, we’re working with them on techniques that they need.”
The singers will go on stage and do a group number at the beginning and end of the show. During the program, they will each do a solo, for a total of six numbers. The singers are Prince, Andrew Newton, Alonzo Richmond and Katelyn Webb, who is new to CenterStage.
Goodloe, Ensign-Urteaga and Prince said they hope the show is successful enough to continue after this year. After all, there are many stories and letters left to tell.
Want to go?
Tickets for The Letter I Never Sent can be purchased online at jewishlouisville.org/letters or at The J front desk for $18 apiece. There is a free reception after the show where guests can meet the authors and performers. The bar will stay open and there will be cheese and crackers.