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Billy Vargus and Sue Serio star in 'Love Letters' at Media Theatre: Talk with Philly2Philly

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We always support the Philly2Philly team in their respective endeavors outside of the website world. So when we were told by our own Billy Vargus that he and his wife, Fox 29’s Sue Serio were starring in the Media Theatre’s production of ‘Love Letters,’ we had no choice but to ask them all the important questions and get the hard facts (well, maybe that’s a stretch) about preparing for this Pulitzer Prize nominated play, Sue’s newfound acting chops, balancing her home and work life during the production, not to mention Bill’s work with the late Chris Farley, and what Star Wars character he says he’s been compared to.

Enjoy. ‘Love Letters’ starts Wednesday!

Joe Vallee: Sue, everybody in the Delaware Valley knows you as a weather anchor on Fox. Bill has some acting experience, but have you ever done something like this before?Billy Vargus and Sue Serio to star in 'Love Letters' at Media Theatre

Sue Serio: Unless you count my high school plays, which you shouldn’t, nope. I’ve only realized since we’ve started rehearsing that my only real acting experience is acting like myself! Playing a character is more challenging than I thought it would be.

JV: How were you approached about participating in ‘Love Letters’?

SS: After I hosted a singing competition at the Media Theatre last summer, Jesse Cline, the theatre’s Artistic Director, asked me if I had any interest in doing a play.  I have to be honest.  I had hinted around about the idea, but never really thought he took me seriously. Jesse said he had the perfect production in mind, but that it would involve my husband, too. When we found out it was “Love Letters,” we were thrilled.

JV: Whose idea was it for the two of you to do this together?

SS: I wish we had thought of it ourselves, but it was Jesse, who had seen this play produced several times before, and thought it would be great for us.

JV: Did anything standout in particular that attracted you two to this project? Other than the fact that this is a play you could perform together in?

SS: No memorization of lines! No blocking or big production numbers.  The simplicity of the production was a big consideration. But performing together: that was a huge attraction.

Billy Vargus: Yeah, the fact that you don't HAVE to memorize was attractive, but the fact is, we've worked hard to get to know our lines anyway, because we want it to be really good.

JV: You guys are following in some very big footsteps with ‘Love Letters.’ Elizabeth Taylor, James Earl Jones, Christopher Reeve, Christopher Walken, and Kathleen Turner  are just a few of the legendary actors that have been involved in this play:

SS:  I’m glad I never saw any other production of this show.  I’d be much more intimidated if I had. With no preconceptions, I know we’ll at least give an honest performance.  Maybe after our run is finished, I’ll see if there’s anything on YouTube.

BV: I've often been compared to James Earl Jones. Okay, maybe not. More often compared to Darth Vader.   

JV: Sue, how do you balance your time between doing the weather on Fox, being a mom, and learning this part? That is a talent in itself!

SS:  A long time ago, I had to acknowledge that when you want to do it all, you cannot possibly do all of it well.  I am constantly changing my priorities. Usually, cleaning my house ends up last!
It’s a juggling act, but I’m grateful for all of it.

JV:  Has Bill offered you any tips he picked up from his experience?

SS:  I’ve learned so much just from rehearsing with him.  He is so good at getting into his character quickly and deeply, that I always feel like I’m trying to catch up.  I still feel a need for improvement for myself, and we open in two days!

BV:  That;'s the beauty of Sue, on TV, in life, and now on stage.  She's so talented, but she doesn't know it. She's truly humble.

JV:  Being that most of the lines are written down on paper (?) How do you prepare for a performance like this?

SS:  By going through the script, over and over again.  Each time we do that, we discover different nuances.  And you have to be very familiar with the lines. No one wants to see us with our heads in a book.

JV:  What I find fascinating with the story is the bond that two people share despite being separated most of their lives after childhood. By all accounts, these two people seem meant for each other, but it’s really a prime example of how life gets in the way sometimes.  Is that accurate?

SS:  Yes, that’s true.  It’s amazing how these characters are such different people, yet the bond they formed in childhood keeps them connected.  And their differences are the basis of their attraction.  Each sees traits in the other that they wish they had themselves, if that makes sense.

BV:  That's a very accurate analysis, Joe. It's like in all those romantic comedy films (that my wife makes me watch!), where the guy doesn't realize he loves her until it's too late.  But whereas in the movies, where he always rushes to the airport and catches her before she gets on the plane, (the classic Hollywood ending), this play keeps it real.

JV:  Bill, I always knew you were a talented guy, but you’ve got an Emmy for sportscasting, you’re an awesome writer, AND you’ve got some acting chops! I know it’s off topic a little, but you were actually once in a Saturday Night Live sketch with Chris Farley. Tell everyone about that:

BV:  Thanks for the great compliment, Joe. I had taken up acting full-time between broadcasting jobs, and was in this skit on SNL where the maintenance people at some high-powered law office perform a variety show over the security cameras after all the suits have left for the day.

There was a foursome in which I  played a gutbucket and pantomimed the words to "Roll Out the Barrel,” while Chris Farley did a crazy dance.  Adam Sandler  and Chris Rock were in the studio waiting to do their part of the skit, but no one was as nice as Farley.  It was a sad thing when he passed away.

JV: How different is doing a live play compared to sports reporting?

BV: I often read where people in television say the stage is very different because you have a live audience and get an immediate reaction from them, as compared to being in front of cameras with a few camera people and a floor director. But I always tried to say something that would cause the camera guys or the floor director or my fellow anchors to crack up out loud on the set, and then I figured that the people at home probably laughed, too.

JV: What can people expect to see if they are going to ‘Love Letters’ for the first time?

BV: It's different form most stage plays. The audience will actually be on the stage, very close to us, instead of sitting in the seats below the stage. It's much more intimate. They'll be able to see our faces, our emotions, our expressions in a way that you can't with most plays. But don't tell Sue, or she'll get nervous.

JV: Sue, do you think acting is something you would like to do more of?

SS: Yes!  I found that acting is more outside my comfort zone than I realized it would be, I would love to explore it more.

JV: Could you two see each other working again on another project?

BV: I'd love to do that. Provided we come through this one unscathed. I mean, hopefully we don't get blasted by the critics! But I don't think that will happen. Will it?

“Love Letters” opens on Wednesday, Feb. 29 and ends on Sunday, March 4th.

Get you tickets at the box office HERE!

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Special thanks to Cindy Goldstein at Fox!