No rehearsals, no lines to learn and one of the performances is on her 40th wedding anniversary.
That was the package that convinced S.C. Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn to agree that taking on the role of Melissa Gardner in the upcoming production of Love Letters was meant to be.
Her husband George, a Conway attorney, didn’t disagree when he learned that his wife had already accepted the challenge presented to them by Theatre of the Republic director Tim McGhee. George Hearn, the only other performer in the show, will fill the role of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.
The unusual show, with only two people, who don’t actually see each other until the end, simply read love letters that the two characters wrote to each other for more than 50 years, beginning when they were in second grade.
Although the two truly loved each, things just never could work out for them, and they never married.
Kaye Hearn says in the show she’s the rich girl from a family where the husband and wife couldn’t stay together, they married other people and probably both had alcohol issues while Ladd’s family was wonderful.
“The lingering question is if they had been able to get together, and be together, would she have turned out differently, and I think she would,” Mrs. Hearn said.
George Hearn says the show was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the drama category. The show has been on Broadway featuring such stars as Alan Alda and Candice Bergen and Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal .
When it’s done on Broadway, George Hearn pointed out, they usually bring in a new couple every week or two because there’s no real prep time.
The show was actually done at the Theatre of the Republic, starring Chuck and Diane DeVaughn Stokes, several years back, and everybody loved it, according to McGhee.
Although the couple in the show never married, the long-married Hearns say they do have some things in common with the couple.
The fictitious couple is from New England, and although the Hearns have never lived in New England, Kaye Hearn points out that her daughter went to boarding school there. Melissa is an artist and Kaye Hearn said sometimes she has an artist’s touch.
The male actor in the show is a very successful attorney, and both of the Hearns have met much success in the legal field, and the couple in the show loves each other. They’ve just done it from afar and through letters.
“They love each other, but the timing is never right,” Kaye Hearn said.
He went off and served in the military and became involved with a Japanese girl and her character took up with someone else whom she eventually married.
Earlier in the week, the Hearns said they have gone through the show several times just to become more familiar with it and to capture the emotions of the star-crossed couple.
“I think it gets better and better. The more you read it, the more you pick up from it,” Kaye Hearn said.
Her husband added that he thinks the writer, A.R. Gurney, wanted people to be pretty monotone in their reading, but he expects to add some emphasis to words here and there to help capture the emotion.
“I think we’ll find a way to make it expressive and keep it moving,” George Hearn said.
Performing on stage is nothing new to the Hearns. They’ve appeared in South Pacific, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Meet Me in St. Louis and more. Kaye Hearn says her husband usually gets speaking parts, and she’s relegated to the chorus. He says he usually gets speaking parts because there aren’t as many men auditioning.
They both agree that being a good lawyer requires some acting ability.
For this show, George Hearn laughs that his wife will have to toss out the coconut bra she wore as a nurse in South Pacific.
They began working with the Theatre of the Republic when their daughter Kathleen became interested in theatre. She actually went on to be a theatre major.
When she left for college they stepped back from a lot of performing, but say they remain huge supporters of the Conway theatre and the work that McGhee has done there.
“We’re all about helping that little theatre. We always have been,” Kaye Hearn said, adding that with Coastal Carolina University talent and newcomers to Conway, the theater has really “moved up.”
McGhee also thinks teaming up with the Hearns for this show was meant to be.
It isn’t based on a real story, he said.
“An author wrote it. It’s a very simple, but beautiful little play, and the one thing about this play is no rehearsals to speak of. It’s basically two people sitting down and reading these letters.”
And one of the best things about this show is it comes with George and Kaye, according to MdGhee.
“There is a 40-year relationship versus two strangers,” he said.
The show, coming Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 3 p.m., is a special addition to the Theatre’s schedule. Tickets are $28.
Feb. 16 is actually the date of the Hearns’ anniversary.
“We’ll do the show; then we’ll celebrate,” George Hearn said.
Actually Kaye Hearn said they had planned to take a trip for their anniversary, but decided to stay home because Kathleen, who works with her father, is going to have a baby about that time.
“We did ask her not to go to the hospital during the show,” George Hearn said.
George Hearn’s formula for a long successful marriage is to always laugh at each other.
‘We’ve been very lucky,” he said.
Kaye Hearn added, “We have a lot in common. We were best friends and we have our work in common. We never run out of things to talk about.”