See some familiar faces on stage when the New Players Theatre Guild presents A. R. Gurney's play, "Love Letters," this weekend and next weekend at 15 Rollstone St., in Fitchburg.
Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale and Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella have been cast in the lead role of Andrew Makepeace in the two-person play "Love Letters."
DiNatale will portray Andrew on Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 30. Mazzarella will portray him Saturday, March 23, and Friday, March 29. All shows start at 7:30 p.m.
"In the show, they are reading the letters -- there is no real interaction," said Nancy King, member-at-large for NPTG. "There doesn't have to be a really developed set. I began to think, 'We need to have some people that would draw some audience,' and we thought, 'Why not the mayors?'"
DiNatale and Mazzarella are no strangers to theater. DiNatale is a past member of NPTG, and Mazzarella has done a few plays in the past.
"They're a great theater group and when they asked, how can you say no?" Mazzarella said. "People should come support the local arts."
"It's going to be fun," DiNatale said. "The arts and culture are alive and well in Northern Worcester County."
King and NPTG Treasurer Bill McGrath were thinking of a smaller show to do when McGrath suggested "Love Letters."
"It sounded interesting," King said. "These two people begin writing letters in grade school and then write throughout their lives into their 50s or so.
The lifelong relationship between Andrew and Melissa is detailed in the play through their notes to one another. The two characters are the only ones on stage, living in two separate places as they read their letters aloud.
Valerie Schillawaski of Shirley is playing the part of Melissa and has been in several NPTG productions in the past, along with doing costuming for past productions.
"Both Bill and I thought about her as the Melissa part immediately because she has such a large personality," King said.
Both characters come from privileged backgrounds but end up leading very different lives. Andrew goes to Yale and eventually ends up as a U.S. senator. Meanwhile, Melissa travels the world, doesn't have a relationship with her children and can't really find herself.
"They're two very different people, but they realize that they kind of need each other through the letters," she said.
The set for the play is minimal, with small items like a desk and chair. It is split into the two worlds of Andrew and Melissa, so the stage is set as if they're in separate rooms. As such, the characters aren't supposed to look or react to each other when the letters are read.
"One of the reasons we chose the play was that it didn't have to have a long rehearsal schedule, and then as we thought about the mayors, we thought, 'Maybe this is possible,'" King said. "Usually, a musical is an eight-week rehearsal schedule and five- or six-week rehearsal schedule for a dramatic play, but because they don't have to memorize anything, it doesn't require that long a rehearsal."
After coming off a large production for the musical "Meet Me In St. Louis," NPTG wanted to try a simpler production.
"We'd like people to come and support their mayor, or even just support the theater," King said.
Tickets are $20 and can be ordered online at nptg.org or by calling 978-345-6570.