Back in 2001, I had the pleasure of seeing the Guthrie Theater’s production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The play starred Mercedes Ruehl, Bill McCallum, Carrie Preston, and some English chap named Patrick Stewart, who seemed very familiar to me.
It was a great production, and all the actors were very good. I decided to try to get a memento of the performance. I packed up my paperback copy of the play and mailed it to Patrick Stewart care of the Guthrie. I enclosed this sincere and silly letter:
Dear Mr. Stewart,
I’ve followed your work for many years now, so it was a pleasure to see last Sunday’s matinee of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a thoroughly entertaining performance. I wonder if it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you to sign the enclosed copy of the play and send it back to me in the enclosed return mailer. If the rest of the fine cast had time to sign it as well, that would be most appreciated.
This was the first time I’ve seen the play on stage—I have, of course, seen the film version many times. Now, having seen it performed live, I understand Albee’s negative comments about the film, although I don’t entirely agree with him. The stage play, especially in the first act, is much funnier than the film. I think the black and white cinematography combined with the closeness of the film medium made for a darker, more claustrophobic atmosphere. And yet, this seems to me a valid interpretation, not necessarily ruining the play, as Albee has said; look at some of the marvelous reinventions of Shakespeare that have been done over the years. But perhaps if Shakespeare were alive today he would consider Ian McKellen’s fantastic fascistic interpretation of Richard III (which I also had the pleasure of seeing on stage) a ruining of the play as well—and who would have the nerve to disagree with a nearly four-hundred-and-forty-year-old man, especially given Elizabethan bathing habits?
Congratulations on a fine performance. In fact, I hope to see the play again this month. Thank you for your time.
[signed] Scott Pearson
PS: I guess I should mention that I’ve been a raving Star Trek fan for almost thirty years. Do with that information what you will.
Only a week or so went by before my book came back signed by all four of the actors, as you can see in the photo. That’s so cool. It’s a fun coincidence that the book was published by Pocket Books, who also publish Star Trek fiction (although this edition came out a couple years before Pocket got the franchise license).
So that’s my Patrick Stewart story.