Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre is pleased to announce a one-night-only presentation of A.R. Gurney’s romantic comedy LOVE LETTERS, starring award-winning actress Mimi Kennedy and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Music Director Emeritus Bob Bernhardt. A full evening of sweets, live music, and unforgettable theatre, this fundraising event is set for Saturday, February 10, with a reception and live music at 7 p.m. and the curtain rising on the play at 8 p.m.
Our production of LOVE LETTERS, a funny and emotional portrait about the powerful connection of love, will feature the talents of guest artists Kennedy, a film, TV and stage actress currently featured on the hit CBS comedy MOM, and Bernhardt, the CSO music director and conductor for 19 seasons who is beloved by Chattanooga audiences for his unique blend of dedication, commitment to excellence, and sense of humor.
The evening will open with a reception featuring the tasty fare of Chattanooga Snack Attack’s Molly Follett, a specialty cocktail by Easy Bistro’s Nathan Rocha, and music by jazzy songstress Robin Grant. After the performance of LOVE LETTERS, VIP guests will be invited to an after-party and meet-and-greet with Kennedy and Bernhardt.
LOVE LETTERS, a two-person comedy by A.R. Gurney, a prolific American playwright who passed away last summer, has been staged around the world with pairings of some of the greatest talents in theatre and the entertainment industry. The play is comprised of letters exchanged over a lifetime between two people, with the actors reading the letters aloud.
The story is of two friends, rebellious Melissa Gardner and straight-arrow Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, who have exchanged notes, cards, and letters with each other for over 50 years. From second grade, through summer vacations, to college, and well into adulthood, they have spent a lifetime discussing their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, and victories and defeats. But long after the letters are done, the real question remains: have they made the right choices or is the love of their life only a letter away?
What is created is an evocative, touching, frequently funny but always telling pair of character studies in which what is implied is as revealing and meaningful as what is actually written down.
Bryan and Mindy Kelly are chairing the event, with proceeds supporting the 94-year-old theatre’s mission of enriching the cultural, intellectual, and emotional development of people of all ages by providing high-quality theatrical experiences and creating opportunities to engage in them.
Individual tickets are $50. Special VIP tickets for $75 will grant patrons access to an after-party after the production at which they will meet Kennedy and Bernhardt and enjoy champagne and a signature dessert.
For tickets, call the box office at 423.267.8534 or visit TheatreCentre.com.
MIMI KENNEDY is a sought after American actress working in film, television and theatre. She has the ability to take characters from the pages of a script and bring them to life with ease and believability. Kennedy’s film work is as diverse as the actress herself, from her portrayal of the Assistant Secretary of State in Armando Iannucci’s IN THE LOOP to a woman suffering with cancer in Steven Soderbergh’s ERIN BROCKOVICH or as Helen in Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Kennedy’s range is vast.
Kennedy’s television career encompasses both drama and comedy, with starring and recurring roles in multiple series. In 2013, her portrayal of the recurring character of Marjorie on the award-winning CBS comedy MOM garnered her the nomination for best guest performer in a comedy series at the 4th annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards. In 2014, Kennedy was named a series regular.
Also notable is her co-starring role as Abby on the hit television series DHARMA & GREG from 1997 to 2002. Other television roles included a guest starring role on HBO’s VEEP starring opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus and ABC’s MISTRESSES.
Kennedy’s acting career began on the stage; her most notable theater credits include acting opposite Sid Caesar as well as her portrayal of Jan in both the original Broadway and National Touring productions of GREASE. Kennedy’s career also extends behind the camera. Her experience includes the role of story editor for KNOTS LANDING during its ninth season and in 2013 as the Executive Producer of the documentary, My Country Is the World & the World Is My Stage.
In addition to Kennedy’s acting career she is also a published author, and playwright. In 1996 her memoir, “Taken to the Stage: The Education of an Actress,” received critical praise for her candid and humorous writing style. Kennedy’s one woman play, “Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage”, simultaneously tells the stories of the 19th century suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage and Kennedy’s personal accounts of her life as a woman coming to age in the baby boomer generation. The one woman show explores the parallels between the lives of the two women and their commitment to political activism and social change.
Kennedy is a versatile creative; she is an actress, author, playwright and political activist. This wealth of personal character is a well of knowledge that allows Mimi Kennedy the ability to perform any role with understanding and depth.
Kennedy’s brothers, Dan and Jim, and sister Susan are residents of Chattanooga.
BOB BERNHARDT, Music Director Emeritus and Principal Pops Conductor, formerly served as Music Director and Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera for 19 seasons. He was the second Music Director in the combined company’s history, and is its first with the title Emeritus. Along with the extraordinary rejuvenation of our city, Bernhardt likewise led the CSO into its most exciting, hopeful and inviting period with his unique blend of dedication, commitment to excellence, and sense of humor. A lover of all genres of music, he is equally at home in symphonic, operatic, pops and educational performances.
Concurrently, Bob is in his 21st year as Principal Pops Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra, in his 36th consecutive season with the company, and is in his 3rd season as Principal Pops Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan. He is also an Artist-in-Residence at Lee University and conductor of the Lee Symphony.
Bernhardt recently made his conducting debuts with the Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Dallas Symphony, Houston Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Santa Barbara Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic, all of which resulted in return engagements. This season marks the 25th anniversary of his debut with the Boston Pops (where he made his debut in 1992 at John Williams’ invitation), and is returning to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for the 12th consecutive year as conductor of their Symphony Under the Sky Festival and as a guest on several of their subscription series.
This season he will appear as a guest conductor with the orchestras in Detroit, Florida (Tampa), Columbus, New Jersey, Portland (ME), and Louisiana.
Formerly, he was the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic (1995-98), Artistic Director of the Sewanee Music Festival in 1999, Music Director and Conductor of the Tucson (AZ) Symphony Orchestra (1987-95), Principal Guest Conductor of Kentucky Opera (1991-96), Artistic Director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta (1993-97) and Music Director of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra (1985-1987).
He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1978, and has recorded for Vanguard, First Edition, Carlton Classics and RPO record labels. A lover of opera, he has conducted staged productions of Don Giovanni, La Traviata, Rigoletto, La Bohème, Il Trovatore, The Flying Dutchman, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Carmen, Tosca, The Barber of Seville, Susannah, Don Pasquale, Lucia di Lammermoor, Die Fledermaus, Madama Butterfly, Cavalleria Rusticana, Faust, Fidelio, Turandot, Pagliacci, Cosi Fan Tutte, Hansel and Gretel, Elixir of Love, Albert Herring, The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Orfeo ed Euridice, numerous Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and the musical My Fair Lady. In addition to his work with the CSO, he has conducted the Opera Companies of Nashville and Birmingham. He has also conducted the Louisville Ballet, the North Carolina Ballet, the Jacksonville Ballet and the Lonestar Ballet.
Born in Rochester, NY, Robert Bernhardt holds a Master’s Degree with Honors from the University of Southern California School of Music where he studied with Daniel Lewis. He was a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Union (NY) College, where he was an Academic All-American Baseball Player, and captain of the school’s soccer team. His children, Alex and Charlotte, live in Seattle. He and his wife, Nora, live on Signal Mountain.
The Theatre Centre has appointed five new members to our board of directors, each of whom brings valuable personal and professional skills to our organization’s governing board.
Newly elected to the board are Charita Allen, John Foy, Amanda Jelks, Melissa Loyd, and Steve Ray.
Charita is Deputy Administrator for Economic Development with the City of Chattanooga. She has more than 15 years of experience assisting expanding and relocating businesses with access to economic development programs and professional services. With a background in non-profits, Charita also has significant experience in program development, grant writing and major gift solicitations.
John is chairman, CEO and owner of Noon LLC and chairman of Noon Management LLC, an investment company headquartered in Chattanooga. John previously held executive roles with CBL & Associates Properties, including Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer. Upon his retirement in 2012, he formed a group of companies specializing in various industries including wealth management, capital investing, real estate development and health care.
Amanda is an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker and an attorney. She is also an advisory board member of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a member of the City of Chattanooga’s Health, Education and Housing Facilities Board, and a founding board member of the Southeast Tennessee Law Association for Women Momentum Network.
Melissa is a former elementary school teacher who is a dedicated volunteer in the community. She is active with the parent organizations at Big Ridge Elementary School and Center for Creative Arts. She also serves on the board of directors of Emily’s Power for a Cure, a local foundation that empowers families and funds research to fight childhood cancer.
Steve is the chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He has worked professionally as a designer and director for such companies as the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, the Birmingham Festival Theatre and Birmingham Children’s Theatre. He previously taught at Birmingham Southern College, Shelton State Community College and Southern Union State Community College.
Actor and singer Jim Nabors, who came to fame playing the lovable Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” passed away today at the age of 87. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and fans, but his loss hits close to home. There are those in Chattanooga Theatre Centre circles who know that decades ago, Jim appeared on our stage when we operated as the Little Theatre.
Jim was born in Sylacauga, Alabama, where he sang for his high school and church. He attended the University of Alabama, where he tried his hand at acting. After graduation, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a typist for the United Nations, but after a year, he moved to Chattanooga, where he got his first job in the TV industry as a film cutter. It was during his days in our city that Jim auditioned and earned a role in the Little Theatre’s production of “A Fireman’s Flame,” a melodramatic musical about the life of the red-hot hose boys in the days of the volunteer firemen.
We don’t know much more than that. If you know any details, such as when the show was staged, what role Jim played, or stories about his experience here, please share! Email Julie at [email protected]
Rest in peace, Jim.