Barley Sheaf Players’ ‘Love Letters’ Cast Includes a Homeless Shelter Director on the Receiving End of Direction

pen, flowers, paper
Image via Debby Hudson at Unsplash.
Love Letters at Barley Sheaf Players runs Mar. 4–19.

Barley Sheaf Players, the Lionville Community Theater, continues to dip its toe into a local theater scene tinged by COVID-19 and health precautions for both audiences and performers. It has opted for a spring play with a small cast: Love Letters, a two-person comedy-drama that runs Mar. 4–19.

The A.R. Gurney-written play traces the unrequited love between a couple whose romance never quite gels over decades of exchanged correspondence.

The Barley Sheaf production, directed by Stephanie (Stevie) Tagye, features local actors that include David James, who works full time at Safe Harbor of Chester County, a resource for homeless men and women.

James is therefore a director of development who has put himself in the hands of a theatrical director. But taking stage direction is nothing new for James.

James’ Performance Past

James has been involved in performance since high school. An early role in Bye Bye Birdie kindled a love of stage work that eventually led to a theater degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He migrated northeastward, bringing with him a voice that friends and family said was “made for radio.” James did indeed work behind the mic at an Allentown radio station, hosting its morning drive show.

His next career hop had an even higher profile: He became one of the few male hosts on QVC.

It’s a job that took a lot of talent and a bit of creativity to land.

“[The producers] wanted you to bring a product to audition with,” James recalled. “I brought a stick because I knew that if I lost my train of thought during the presentation, I could always find something to talk about with a stick.”

James also brought a tape recording of dogs barking. At several points in his pitch, he pretended to talk to a dog at his side on the virtues of the stick he was selling.

“I said that it was time for a testimonial,” James said. “I spoke to a ‘dog’ that had wandered by and asked him what he thought of the stick. Then I played the recording: Bark! Bark!. To which I responded, ‘Yes, I think this is a stick that every dog should have, too!’”

He got the job.

The QVC opportunity ran its course, and James moved on professionally.

Even back to his early radio days, he had a philanthropic gene under his performance talents. Through various connections, that outlook became the impetus behind his current role at Safe Harbor.

On the Boards at Barley Sheaf

James’ night at Barley Sheaf — Mar. 12, with Lauren Rozensky Flanagan as his female counterpart — is only one in the steady rotation of the Love Letters performers throughout the run:

  • Mar. 4: Jennifer Dinan, Ron Blasdell
  • Mar. 5: Barbara Guy, Steve Guy
  • Mar. 11: Laurie Burke, Bryan McVeigh
  • Mar. 13: Cherie Baker, Lew Osterhoudt
  • Mar. 18: Lisa Puy, Allen Puy
  • Mar. 19: Katrya Oransky-Petyk, Ron Quirk

Director Stevie Tagye has very much enjoyed watching different performers tackle the same text.

“It is fascinating,” she commented. “They are all different, and they’re all great. It’s a different show every time.”

She took a light-touch approach in guiding the actors. “I tried to keep directions to a minimum,” she admitted, “because I wanted their interpretations. We did a lot of discussion about these characters’ pasts and personalities. But I didn’t need to do a whole lot of direction, which was great.”

Tague said the theater management agrees that viewing the play’s different iterations is recommendable. To facilitate that, it is enabling paying audiences who viewed one cast to see another for a mere $10 more when presented with a prior Love Letters ticket stub.

More on seeing this local production of Love Letters is at Barley Sheaf Players.