FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Marilyn Monroe liked the champagne: “It arrived, I drank it, and I was gayer,” she wrote to the German consulate general.
Clyde Barrow had a soft spot for fast cars: “I have drove (sic) Fords exclusively when I could get away with one,” he scribbled to Henry Ford.
And Alec Guinness wasn’t too sure about his role in a little movie called “Star Wars”: “Can’t say I’m enjoying the film - new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day … Harrison Ford - ever heard of him?” he lamented to a friend.
Those are actual snippets of fame by the famous, and in some cases the infamous, as brought to life in “Letter’s Aloud Presents ‘Fame! (They’re Not Going to Live Forever)’,” a cultural journey on the ups and downs of celebrity and our obsession with it. The conceptualization, co-produced by the Fairbanks Concert Association and Theatre UAF, opens Sunday for one performance at the Lee H. Salisbury Theatre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, followed by a Monday performance in Delta Junction and a Tuesday performance in Healy. “Fame” is but one part of the “Letters Aloud” series in which real letters by real people are brought to life on stage by actors telling the tales of the writers.
“I’m a fan of live stories being told on a stage, and there are more and more letters made available to the public thanks to the Internet,” said Paul Morgan Stetler, the founder, producer and curator of the “Letters Aloud” series. “It’s culture and a history lesson.”
Stetler, who also is former co-artistic director of Seattle’s New Century Theatre Company, has always been fascinated with human correspondence. His “Letters Aloud” project started by crafting a theatrical journey around handwritten letters. Past anthologies have included “Love Me or Leave Me,” centered around love letters; “Dear Dad,” letters to and from famous dads; and “From the Front,” letters to and from military servicemen. Most of those anthologies were performed near corresponding holidays - Valentines Day, Fathers Day, Veterans Day - so when Stetler had a chance to perform a show not centered around a holiday, he dove into examining the aspects of fame. Now, “Fame (They’re Not Going to Live Forever),” is getting its Warholian 15 minutes.
“Once I locked down this theme, the idea of what fame is, the good and bad and what it’s like, then I went and decided what letters, and then came up with the dramatic arc,” Stetler said. “We wanted to go through the start of their careers, getting rejected, getting their fame. Then you get to the point where people are at the height of their careers, and we end the show with people looking back on their careers. It’s a sense of a journey the audience is going on. It takes these people who we put on pedestals and makes them human beings.”
Stetler equates “Fame” to theater’s version of reality TV: viewers at home peeking into the lives of the Kardashians or Chrisleys or Duggars, fulfilling a humanly scopophiliac need.
“In our reality TV culture, we’re immersed in voyeuristic pursuits, and this is a higher version of that,” Stetler said. “It’s a literary reality that wasn’t meant for us. It helps us look at ourselves in a way.”
While the “Letters Aloud” project centers around the concept of celebrity, the project itself has led to a look at letters from Alaskans, albeit many not quite as famous as Marilyn Monroe or Clyde Barrow or Alec Guinness. To foster interest in “Fame,” Anne Biberman, executive director of the Fairbanks Concert Association, created a letter-writing project for Alaskans to tell their stories. Those letters will be on display throughout Fairbanks venues with readings slated for later this year.
“You get this intimate look into someone’s real life, whether it’s someone local or someone famous, and it’s all applicable to yourself,” she said. “It’s so appealing, and so much fun.”
If You Go:
What: “Letter’s Aloud Presents ‘Fame! (They’re Not Going to Live Forever)’”
When and where:
- 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, Lee H. Salisbury Theatre in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Fine Arts Complex
- 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, Delta Community Center in Delta Junction
- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, Tri-Valley School in Healy
Tickets: Available online at www.fairbanksconcert.org, by calling 490-2858 and at Grassroots Guitar, 1019 College Road
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com
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