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This Valentine’s Day and the day after, a real love story takes center stage in the Center of the Universe.

As young teenagers, Becki and Wally Jones met doing a play at Theatre Bristol. They fell in love with theater—and each other. Seven years and many plays later, they got married at the theater in which they had met. Through the years, they’ve continued to perform in community and professional productions across central Virginia, including for the Theater Company at Fort Lee, Dogwood Dell, and the Chamberlayne Actors Theatre. Becki worked for a time at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, taught theater for eleven years at the Specialty Center for the Arts in Chesterfield, and is now the theater teacher at Liberty Middle School. An illustrator and designer, Wally has created artwork for numerous games, magazines, and books, and has taught digital entertainment and game design for eight years.

This February, for the first time, they will be sharing the stage opposite each other as they take on the roles of Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III in the Ashland Players’ production of A. R. Gurney’s classic play Love Letters.

Written in 1988, Love Letters was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has featured in its two roles actors such as Kathleen Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett, Sigourney Weaver, James Earl Jones, Martin Sheen, Alan Alda, and Tom Hanks. The play follows the relationship between Andrew and Melissa from childhood through boarding school, college, and the ups and downs of adulthood, careers, marriages, and families. Unlike most plays, the story is told entirely through the letters and cards that the two characters send each other over the years.

“On one level, Love Letters is a play about two people who share a genuine romantic bond—a bond that at times has its flaws, but which is all the more authentic for those flaws,” observes Ashland Players co-director Matteo Pangallo. “More than that, though, Love Letters demonstrates what great storytelling can accomplish, the transcendent power of the written word, and the capacity for theater to move us to reflect about, and appreciate, the connections we share with the people in our own lives.”

Love Letters runs two nights only: Thursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15  with 6:00 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm dinner reservations times available. Theater production begins at 7:15 pm at Ashland Coffee and Tea (100 N. Railroad Ave, Ashland, VA). Tickets are $10 for the show. Dinner features choices of Chateaubriand for two ($32); seared Ahi Tuna Steak medallions ($16); lasagna ($14); or a heart-shaped meatloaf with asparagus arrow on a bed of pink rice ($12). Desserts will be available for additional charge. Couples wine night special…half off first bottle of sparkling wine.    Wine and beer are also available for purchase.

NOTE: The Ashland Players is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making meaningful, accessible, and enjoyable theater part of the cultural life of Ashland and the surrounding communities. For more information about the Players, Love Letters, or to become a donor or business sponsor, visit facebook.com/AshlandPlayers or contact ashlandplayers@gmail.com.

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