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POAC presents private letters, read in public

| January 17, 2024 1:00 AM

Sometimes being famous is all about hard work and sometimes it’s an accident.

Find out more about celebrities you’ve admired from afar Thursday, Jan. 18, when the Pend Oreille Arts Council presents “Letters Aloud: The Road to Fame” at the Panida Theater.

With the power to evoke both laughter and deep emotion, professional actors share intimate letters written by famous individuals like Bruce Springsteen, Oprah Winfrey, Andy Warhol, Steven King, Elvis Presley, Emily Dickinson, Bruce Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Hanks, and more. Whether you’re a lover of literature, a history enthusiast, or someone who simply appreciates the art of storytelling, get ready to be moved, inspired and thoroughly entertained in this epistolary celebration of the human spirit.     

“This is one of the best shows I’ve seen on stage ever! And, as soon as POAC saw it showcased at Arts Northwest last year, we knew we wanted to bring it to our audiences here in Sandpoint,” Tone Stolz, POAC executive director, said. “You’ll be laughing so hard one minute, then touched by emotion the next. These talented performers give us the gift of seeing people we admire in a new, and very personal, light. Don’t miss this show!” 

"Letters Aloud: The Road to Fame" features real letters, by real people, read by professional actors. With live musical accompaniment and a dynamic slideshow, the evening is guaranteed to inspire! As one fan said, “It’s a modern day ‘Prairie Home Companion,’ but with letters.” 

Letters Aloud is a performing arts company that brings to life thought-provoking, and often humorous stories hidden within private letters of the past. Since 2014, the company has traveled the country sharing intimate letters written by individuals who have left their mark on history. These letters serve as a testament to humanity’s extraordinary ability to unearth hope, purpose and happiness amidst life’s challenges.

Paul Morgan Stetler is the creator and curator of Letters Aloud and the co-founder and artistic director of Seattle’s multi-award winning New Century Theater Company. A well-known Seattle actor, Paul has appeared on numerous stages over the past 20 years. 

“There’s a great quote from the book 'Letters of the Century' that says: ‘Letters are what history sounds like when it is still part of everyday life,’" Stetler said in describing the passion he has for this work. "They’re like emotional time capsules that reveal the pulse of different eras. And when we read them in front of an audience, a unique connection between the past and the present is created that brings a much needed humanity TO history. (Plus let’s be honest, it’s voyeuristic as heck!)” 

This particular show explores the theme of “fame” in four parts by reading letters from famous people in all stages of their careers … from their humble beginnings to their struggles to the heights of their careers to their waning years.

Part 1, “The Struggle,” features letters from Samuel Barber, Madison Keys, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Andy Warhol, Bruce Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Pirosh, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, Vincent Van Gogh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maxwell Perkins, and H.L. Mencken.

Part 2, “Hitting it Big,” features letters from Jane Austen, David Bowie, Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, Monty Python, Alec Guiness, Amelia Earhardt, Jackie Robinson, Doc Ellis, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marilyn Monrose, and Yogi Berra.

Part 3, “Stardom,” featuring letters from Gene Wilder, Clyde Barrow, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Elvis Presley, Jacqueline Susan, and Any Warhol.

Part 4, “Giving Back,” features letters from Mr. Rogers, Charles Bukowski, Oprah Winfrey, Nick Cave, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Hanks, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 

Fulfilling POAC’s educational mission, the performers will visit local high schools in the Lake Pend Oreille School District this week for performances and writing workshops with students.

Tickets to "Letters Aloud" are $35 for adult tickets and $10 for youth tickets. They are available online at artinsandpoint.org or by phone at 208-263-6139. Doors will open at the Panida Theater at 6:30 p.m. to give attendees a chance to enjoy beverages and concessions, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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