‘Love Letters’ fundraiser for Steel Beam Theatre marks stage reunion decades in the making

“Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney is regarded as a modern romantic masterpiece. Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles is using the play and two high-profile stars in a special limited engagement fundraiser, running Feb. 23 to March 3.

The production will star Rikki Lee Travolta and Deborah Swinford, under the direction of Heartstrings Award-winning director Regina Belt-Daniels.

Steel Beam’s managing director Catie Early and artistic director Marge Uhlarik-Boller successfully guided the theater through surviving the COVID-19 shutdown.

However, a governmental agency’s processing error is delaying grants for Steel Beam, as well as other theaters, leaving the organization in dire circumstances.

“Steel Beam Theatre needs a little extra love and tenderness right now in the form of financial support, and seeing a top-tier production of one of modern time’s best romantic scripts being performed by two of the area’s premier talents is one way people can do that,” Early said.

Travolta was originally brought to Chicago as the first special guest star in “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.” Earning rave reviews, Travolta ignited record ticket sales making the production one of Chicago’s most successful long-running comedies.

Travolta has gone on to a successful career spanning theater, film, television, music, and literature. In addition, he hosts the popular entertainment news podcast “It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee” — providing a backstage pass to all things entertainment. He is also one of the Chicago core theater critics, heading reviews for Life and Times (

The two-character “Love Letters” presents soulful interpretations of a lifetime’s worth of “Love Letters” between two entwined souls — beginning when they were just children and culminating at the end of their lives. The play was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama.

“Love Letters” is a go-to fundraising tool that allows celebrity pairings that delight audiences with one-of-a-kind theatrical experiences.

High profile duos to tackle the work include Richard Thomas and Swoosie Kurtz, Katheleen Turner and John Rubinstein, Timothy Hutton and Elizabeth McGovern, Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, Larry Hagman and Linda Grey, Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, James Earl Jones and Elizabeth Taylor, and Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks.

In the play, Travolta portrays Sen. Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Swinford plays free-spirit Melissa Gardner who share a lifelong friendship. That chemistry should come naturally to the two actors. The duo starred together in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” in the late 1990s and have maintained an incredible friendship since.

“The true, deep loving friendship that I share with Deborah is the kind of eternal connection that makes the characters of ‘Love Letters’ so appealing to play,” Travolta said. “Our natural affinity comes out without trying.”

As close as the twosome is in their private lives, “Love Letters” marks the pair’s first onstage pairing since the Tennessee Williams classic over two decades ago.

“Twenty-five years ago we had an onstage chemistry that had people on the edge of their seats,” Travolta said. “Audiences for ‘Love Letters’ should expect that same level of quality.”

“’Love Letters’ is definitely a play that touches the heart,” Belt-Daniels said. “And what better way to cap off the romantic nature of this time of year as well as raise money to keep the performing arts alive at Steel Beam?”

Celebrated scenic artist Barry Norton is painting a one-of-a-kind mural to be featured in Steel Beam Theatre’s “Love Letters” fundraiser.

Recognizing the importance of Steel Beam Theatre’s contributions, a number of sponsors have stepped up to help produce the fundraiser including Poster Sponsor Kimmer’s Ice Cream, Publicity Photo Sponsor Laura Orrico Public Relations, and Men’s Formal Wear Sponsor Generation Tux. Additionally, John Olson Communications has also been instrumental in helping with publicity and Joseph Keefe has proved vital as a fundraising consultant.

Companies are responding to the suggestion of buying blocks of tickets for their employees or customers. It’s a way to support the community and give a fun perk to the employees and customers that make your business run.

To book tickets for Rikki Lee Travolta and Deborah Swinford in “Love Letters” to benefit Steel Beam Theatre in its time of need, visit

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, from Feb. 23 to March 3, at Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St. in downtown St. Charles.

For more information visit or call (630) 587-8521.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available for companies, foundations, and individuals looking to help keep Steel Beam Theatre in operation. A full list of sponsorship opportunities is available at:

To donate or pledge a sponsorship, go to

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.