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Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise: Love Letter Experience
“My brother and I knew that our parents met by letter because their parents wanted to set them up,” explains playwright Ken Ludwig. Their correspondence began during World War II, while Army Capt. Jacob Ludwig was serving as a doctor at bases in Oregon and Texas before finding himself on the front lines in the European theater, and Louise Rabiner was working as an actor, dancer, and singer in touring companies of popular Broadway shows. It took them three years to finally meet during V-E Day celebrations in Times Square. Their playwright son, an avid reader of the personal letters of historical figures (he describes the form as “intimate, like something whispered in bed”), wrote Dear Jack, Dear Louise, an epistolary two-hander with letters written from scratch—to replace the lost originals—and it premiered at Arena Stage in December 2019. Then COVID-19 closed theaters. But Arena’s artistic director Molly Smith called Ludwig with an idea. Casting director and line producer Teresa Sapien wanted to let audiences experience the play in a new way: via letters. “I was thrilled by the idea, but my role was mostly as a consultant and giving my blessing,” Ludwig says. For the audience at home, nine letters from Jack and Louise will be mailed out over the course of April, reproducing period details of envelopes, stationary, stamps, and cancelation markings researched by Arena’s props department led by properties director Jenn Sheetz. “They’re the experts,” says Ludwig. “The research and details are mind-boggling.” Registration is available at arenastage.org through March 23. $35–$55.