Braddock on ‘Love Letters’: It’s not what you expect

Watch video interview

By Kevin Spradlin

* Video interview with Jason and Emily
‘Love Letters’ set to open Oct. 23
* RCT announces 2014-15 lineup

ROCKINGHAM — Emily Braddock and Jason Buckner will be on stage beginning Oct. 23 for a 75-minute play. And throughout, the two will not be able to look at each other. Not even once.

Kevin Spradlin | Jason Buckner and Emily Braddock will star in "Love Letters," opening Oct. 23 at Richmond Community Theatre in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin |
Jason Buckner and Emily Braddock will star in “Love Letters,” opening Oct. 23 at Richmond Community Theatre in Rockingham.

Braddock and Buckner will open A.R. Guerney Jr.’s “Love Letters” at Richmond Community Theatre next week in downtown Rockingham. Show are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 25, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on Oct. 26.

The play is a unique and imaginative theater piece comprised of letters exchanged over a lifetime between two people who grew up together, went their separate ways, but continued to share confidences. What is created is an evocative, touching, frequently funny but always telling pair of character studies in which what is implied is as revealing and meaningful as what is actually written down.

Buckner, 38, of Rockingham, is owner of Frutke, a small business that aims to help other small businesses with website construction and management. He and his wife, Merrielle, also offer one-on-one tutorials and coaching. Braddock, 21, of Hamlet, works at Cafe on Main in Hamlet while taking some time off school. She plans to return to school in the near future to study theater.

Buckner plays Andrew Makepeace Ladd III while Braddock portrays Melissa Gardner. The two meet early in life at young Andy’s birthday party — prone to pick on each other and nothing more — and grow, over the years, to mean much more to each other.

For both actors, it is their second time on stage with Richmond Community Theatre, though the two took very different paths towards the same stage at the same time. Ten months ago, Braddock debuted in “All the King’s Women,” a play of comedic skits revolving around Elvis.

Braddock said her character is “almost a complete opposite” of Buckner on stage.

“Andy is more of a calmer person, and Melissa is really just no boundaries … in-your-face, especially with Andy,” Braddock said. “Throughout the play, you see her grow. I can relate to some things with her … on the other hand, there’s a lot of different things that I’ve got to experience playing Melissa that I probably never would have.”

Braddock said she enjoyed a summary of the storyline but realized her perception changed when she saw the entire script.

“It’s not what you expect,” Braddock said. “I just kind of fell in love with it. “I think Melissa, in her own way, is this woman who is so complex. I feel the same way about Andy, too. The opposite sides they are, it’s a good match.”

Buckner’s first time on stage, meanwhile, took place at a much earlier age. Some three decades ago, Buckner made his stage debut in what was then Richmond Community Theatre’s Children’s Theatre (now Young People’s Theatre).

Theater Director Shelley Walker has opined that it’s easy to tell when Buckner is joking — anytime his lips are moving — and Buckner, in a recent on-stage interview before a rehearsal, doesn’t let her down. He was drawn to return to the stage only after “a lot of therapy.”

“I’ve let these guys know I had years of nightmares (about) missing my cue, forgetting my lines, being on stage in my underwear,” Buckner said. “All kinds of really pleasant things.”

In college, Buckner said he attempted improv comedy — funny was a requirement, and there was no script.

“I think that kind of broke” the fear, he said.

When Buckner learned of the special storyline of the play, which is a series of letters between Ladd and Gardner, he figured, “I can read. I can do that.”

“So maybe it was a little bit of optimism that I could pull it off,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Through the play has moments of light comedy, it’s a drama — a fact that does not go unnoticed. Buckner said he prepared for that as best he could.

“Let me speak with great experience as an actor,” said Buckner, with little experience. “Everyone has to reach deep within themselves and find something, when they’re upset for angry, something to focus that anger at. I have a little sister … and that’s all it takes.”

He delivered the punchline with precision, leaving no doubt he’s ready for an audience larger than a single reporter.


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