Letters Aloud explores famous & infamous

Hear letters by famous people, read aloud in Helena, Whitefish and Bozeman

On Stage
Letters Aloud: Founder Paul Stetler
Letters Aloud founder Paul Stetler: “The show takes these people who we put on pedestals and makes them human beings.”Photo © Letters Aloud

Seattle-based Letters Aloud has created an innovative show that brings to life personal letters of the famous and infamous, complete with live music and photos, for a joyful and often hilarious look at the very human condition of celebrity and the lessons it teaches.

Andy Warhol’s quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” could not be more true of fame’s fleeting nature in this celebrity-saturated culture. However, fame can teach individuals about themselves, hard work, enjoyment, pride, and their impact on the world and others.

From humble beginnings to adoring fans to looking back on achievements, “Fame (they’re not going to live forever!)” explores the humanity of fame through letters to and from luminaries like Emily Dickinson, David Bowie, Tom Hanks, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Amelia Earhart, and Andy Warhol himself.

Get a new perspective on fame from the famous in this popular show, which includes live musical accompaniment and a lively slideshow (visuals only, no audio), 2-3 readers and a host.

Letters Aloud was founded in 2013 by Paul Morgan Stetler as a way to connect a live audience to historical figures through their personal correspondence. A longtime literature buff with a degree in English literature, as well as a veteran of Seattle’s theater scene, Stetler decided to combine his two passions by bringing the letters of some of his cultural heroes alive on stage.

“I’m a big fan of telling stories live on stage,” says Stetler. “I don’t know anyone with an interest in history or pop culture or even reality TV, to a degree, who wouldn’t enjoy this. It’s literate, it’s very intimate – you shouldn’t be reading these letters; they’re not meant for you, so that makes it very fun.”

Stetler is joined on stage by fellow readers Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako and Basil Harris, as well as musician Jamie Maschler.

Letters Aloud: Rebecca Olsen, Fame
Letters Aloud’s Rebecca Olsen shares a letter from Marilyn Monroe in Fame.Photo © Letters Aloud

A dynamic slide show and musical accompaniment highlights each letter, some of which are at the beginning of people’s careers as they are becoming famous or suffering rejection, while others are from people at the height of their careers or looking back on their lives.

“I have a letter from David Bowie responding to his first ever American fan letter, and how excited he was to have a fan in America,” says Stetler. “There’s also a letter from Alec Guinness talking about how much he’s hating being in Star Wars because he doesn’t understand it. The show takes these people who we put on pedestals and makes them human beings.”

Letters Aloud brings together letters from every era, curated to explore a central theme (other offerings include “Love Me or Leave Me,” “Dear Dad” and “From the Front”).

“Sounds academic, but the way we do it, it’s addictive,” says Stetler. Or as one fan said, “It’s like literary crack.”

Letters Aloud: Montana Tour

Helena: 7:30 p.m. Feb 7 at the Myrna Loy Center; 406-443-0287 or themyrnaloy.com

Whitefish: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at the O’Shaughnessy Center; 406-862-5371 or www.whitefishtheatreco.org

Bozeman: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Ellen Theatre; 406-585-5885 or www.theellentheatre.com