Ocala Civic Theatre bringing ‘Love Letters’ to life with two dinner shows

Ocala Civic Theatre Inc. is preparing for a special Dinner Theatre Production of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.”

The play stars Fred Mullen and Janet Shelley for two performances only: Friday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 22 at 3:30 p.m.

“Love Letters” will be held at the Ocala Elks Lodge (702 N.E. 25th Ave.) featuring an Italian buffet of tossed salad, chicken parmesan, baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread and Cannoli. A cash bar will be available.

Tickets are on sale for $36 per person (tax and gratuity included). For reservations, call the Ocala Civic Theatre box office at (352) 236-2274 or purchase tickets online at OcalaCivicTheatre.com.

In “Love Letters,” Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (played by Fred Mullen) and Melissa Gardner (played by Janet Shelley), both born to wealth and position, are childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards. Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters through boarding school and college.

Fred Mullen

Andy goes on to excel at Yale and law school, while Melissa flunks out of a series of “good schools.” While Andy is off at war, Melissa marries, but her attachment to Andy remains strong. She continues to keep in touch as he marries, becomes a successful attorney, gets involved in politics and eventually is elected to the U.S. Senate. Their letters make it eloquently clear how much they really mean to each other over the years – physically apart, perhaps, but spiritually as close as only true lovers can be.

Mullen has been affiliated with Ocala Civic Theatre for more than 40 years. While he has been a part of more than 100 shows in some regard (acting, directing, set designing, crew, etc.), his passion is interacting with his fellow actors on stage. Audiences may remember his roles in several musicals including “Camelot” as King Arthur, Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Tevye in “Fiddler On The Roof,” Noah in “Two By Two,” and many others.

Mullen recently appeared in “Over The River and Through the Woods” as Nunzio, for which he won his most recent Harvey Award for Best Actor. He has also appeared in a number of professional roles in theatre venues in Nashville, including “On Golden Pond” as Norman Thayer.

Mullen has directed several shows at the Ocala Civic Theatre and will do so again this spring with “Father of the Bride.” He and Shelley have appeared together in a number of productions over the years, and she also directed him in the premiere of J.T. Glisson’s one-man show of the life of “Sigsbee Scruggs.”

“I am excited to be working with Janet again, especially in this beautifully written production of ‘Love Letters,’” Mullen said.

Janet Shelley

Shelley is the theatre director of the Marion County Center for the Arts at West Port High School. She received a BFA in Theatre from New York University’s School of the Arts and holds a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University.
Shelley has served on the board of directors of Ocala Civic Theatre, where her acting credits include M’Lynn in “Steel Magnolias,” Yente in “Fiddler On the Roof” and Chelsea in “On Golden Pond.” She has directed Ocala Civic Theatre productions of “The Speed of Darkness,” “Patient A,” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “The Complete History of America,” “Dearly Departed” and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as well as several children’s plays.

Shelley teaches Acting Honors, in addition to Introduction to the Humanities and Mythology in the Humanities, for West Port’s Early College program. She is the founder of (F)Actor Theatre Company, a summer theatre for teaching artists in collaboration with the College of Central Florida. Shelley also was the recipient of a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to Florida High School theatre programs.

The upcoming performance is a fundraising project of ACT 4. Profits from this show are designated for use by the Ocala Civic Theatre, including scholarships for youth after-school and summer classes and college scholarships for students majoring in the arts.