BY JEFF LEVENE
If art is measured by its personal connection, the upcoming workshop performance of Letters from the Public: and Other Scary Stories is as intimate as art comes, combining music written by local playwright and singer-songwriter Jessica Eckenrod and her creative partner and boyfriend Michael Cherry, along with letters and short stories they have received from their creative community.
“Michael Cherry and I love working creatively together, so we brainstormed for some time before we came up with the idea to request letters surrounding a life story, a major event, a funny memory, literally anything from anyone who would answer us,” says Eckenrod.
Utilizing her archives of unfinished songs as well as creating new works by using the letters for inspiration, Letters from the Public: and Other Scary Stories proved to be the perfect way to tap into a pure embrace of the emotions necessary in creating a powerful and relatable show.
“The letters allowed me to peek – or in some cases submerge myself – into an emotion or situation that maybe I wasn’t familiar with,” says Eckenrod. “The idea of creating songs based off of these personal, moving moments was one thing – but the thought of being able to share them with their writers seemed impossible to overlook.”
“Whether the letter induced a gut busting laugh, a skin-crawling awkward situation, or a heart-wrenching struggle,” Jessica added, “I wanted to show how these letters had affected me, while ultimately sharing these stories with anyone who may be experiencing the same situation.”
Eckenrod sees this as the perfect starting point for a project that she predicts will only grow with more shared experiences. “I like to refer to this performance as a workshop, one of many, that will continue to make this a fantastic song cycle,” says Eckenrod. Also in true workshop fashion, Eckenrod added, “We are always accepting new letters!” which you can send to her at email@example.com.
Jessica assured us that the more letters they have received, the stronger her idea has become. “This could’ve easily invited chaos – but the goal of successfully creating something truly original has driven the cast to work very hard and connect to these amazing stories.”
And speaking of cast, Jessica has also enlisted terrific Upstate actors and singers Simone Mack, Benjamin Augusta, Cody Cobb, and Mary Evan Giles, along with some of Greenville’s best musicians to kick off the project.
You won’t want to miss the project’s debut at Coffee Underground in downtown Greenville on Wednesday, June 15th at 7:30pm with FREE admission! You’re sure to love and connect with the many stories, and you might just be inspired to join Jessica’s project and send in your own personal letter.