Some background on The Letter. It is all Jane Alexander’s fault. In 1975 she was playing Gertrude to Sam Waterston’s Hamlet in New York, at Lincoln Center Theater. I’ve known Jane for years and went to New York to see the production I told her that I was going to see Albert Finney play Hamlet in London two weeks later. “Let me know what you think”. That was the beginning.
What started as a hand-written letter of 1 ½ sheets of medium sized paper covering one show, grew to being produced on a computer, covered several shows I saw in London, New York, Canada and elsewhere, in 15 to 20 pages.
At first I sent the letter generally to actor friends. I found that they would pass them to other friends. Gradually the list of who got the letters grew to such an extent that it was getting out of hand and definitely out of pocket. I had to start charging. Now, not only do I have actors, artistic directors and other theatre professionals subscribing, I also have a healthy list of ‘civilians’ who just love the theatre.
Actors use them as a resource, often to find out what a production or performance ‘looked like’. Artistic Directors, producers, and literary managers etc. use them to find out what’s ‘out there’ and to plan their seasons. ‘Civilians’ are just interested.
The internet is a great thing. People can learn instantly what plays are getting the attention. The Slotkin Letter is not for that purpose. I hope it will tell you what the performance looked like, as if you were in the theatre with me. The analysis of the plays is also in more detail than ordinary reviews. I do not put The Slotkin Letter on my website. I want people to hold it in their hands, as they would a play.
The letter comes out monthly and deals with about five or six plays per issue. There is also an Other Stuff section that covers, well, other stuff, such as news tidbits, observations and rants.
I love writing the letter, as I hope is obvious. I hope I’ve brought the productions I saw vividly to life.