Now in its fourth consecutive season, LETTERS READ is the series of usually live events in which local artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities and is an ongoing series presented by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins and Antenna.
Thursday, August 20, 2020: Blanchard, “Skip” Ward was a gay activist in rural Louisiana during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and into the beginning of the 21st century. His home was in Pineville.
Skip became increasingly involved in LGBTQIA activism in the early 1980s when he first came out. Or, as he would have phrased it, “came up front” about his sexuality. He co-founded the Unitarian/Universalist Church’s Gay Caucus. He also created Louisiana’s first publication tailored to its gay population, called Le Beau Monde. Ward held some form of membership with nearly every Louisiana LGBTQIA organization from the 1970s onward and was particularly active in the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), a political activist organization, and the Radical (or Raedical) Faeries, a national organization for rural-based gender and sexual non-conforming spiritualists.
The emcee for this event is Shannon Flaherty, co-artistic director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP). Frank Perez, president of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana reads as the voice of Northern Louisiana conservative clergy. Two other ensemble GRP members are part of this reading. Owen Ever reads as the voice of Skip Ward and Dylan Hunter is the audio engineer on this production. Original music is composed and performed by Dylan as well.
The 14th Letters Read event and first produced entirely as a podcast.
The usual, live reading was scheduled for March 26, 2020 at Frenchman Art & Books on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. It was preempted by the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Listen to Dylan Hunter as the voice of our subject. Rebecca Hollingsworth is Anne. Both self-recorded in the safety of their own home. Our emcee is Frank Perez, President of LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. Frank was recorded through a telephone conversation with Dylan. Dylan is also our audio engineer for this event. Music is written and performed by Rob Hudak.
This event provides a rare glimpse into the personal life of an important Louisiana political activist. It begins with the 1967 correspondence from Anne, an intimate friend. The reading weaves in annual Valentine’s letters beginning in 1999 that, as recently as this year, were still mailed to 200 of his dearest friends.
Since the 1970s, Butler was a significant force in the Louisiana civil rights movement. In 1984, 1986 and 1991 he strategically advocated for changing gay-rights ordinances. Butler was a co-founder of LGPAC (the Louisiana chapter of Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus) and has served on boards including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, PFLAG, and LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana.
Thanks to Antenna, our fiscal agent. To David Zalkind, owner, Frenchman Art & Book, and to Dancing Grounds from whom we were borrowing chairs. The live audio engineer was to be Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio. Thanks also go to Bill Hagler, John Magill, Robert Feiseler, and Courtney Sharp for providing background and context. Thank you Letters Read narrative and storytelling advisors Ted Cotton and Cassie Pruyn.
Support for the 2020 programming season is provided by the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, Corner Foundation, Reba Judith Sandler Foundation, and from private individuals to whom this project is enormously grateful.
The Letters Read 2020 Season is also funded under a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this event do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
As an experiment with potential material for LETTERS READ, this was the first in a series of live recordings for the 2020 programming season. A work in progress, this set of letters developed into the April, 2020 podcast of Stewart Butler letters.
The letters in both readings were from a large wooden chest in the home of Butler’s home, the Faerie Playhouse. A Letters Read sponsor, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, regularly met there.
We listen to a set of letters from 1967. Written to Butler, they were authored by Anne Garza. At the time these letters were accessed, Butler was 89. While his memory was crystal-clear on some points from his past, others eluded him. At the time of this recording, Stewart did not remember Anne yet continued sending $200 monthly to help support the widow of Greg Manella. Greg is also mentioned in this reading along with expectations and misgivings about being in a relationship in the middle of the last century.
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
The Cabildo Louisiana State Museum
The Louisiana Museum Foundation, Louisiana State Museum, Letters Read, Antenna, and stationer Nancy Sharon Collins bring an intimate, performative evening celebrating our love for history and architecture, and a unique understanding of our relationship with property.
A special reading in which professional actors read and interpret contemporary and historic communications surrounding the current exhibit The Baroness de Pontalba & the Rise of Jackson Square at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo.
This event weaves the legacy of Don Andrés Almonester (1728–1798), his formidable daughter, Micaela, the Baroness de Pontalba (1795–1874), and specific members of her descendant family into an exploration of our notions of property and property ownership.
Special guests include emcee Christopher Kamenstein and Grace Kennedy.
About the image: “Spanish Cabildo” by artist Jim Blanchard, 1992. From the exhibition The Baroness de Pontalba & The Rise of Jackson Square at the Cabildo, French Quarter, New Orleans. The drawing was lent by Paul St. Martin and photographed by Advocate staff photographer Chris Granger.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
6:00 to 7:30 pm
Crescent City Books
124 Baronne Street, New Orleans, across from the Roosevelt Hotel.
Thanks to Susan Larson and George Ingmire for this recording and including it on their show, Thinking Outside the Book on New Orleans Public Radio.
ABC@PM, Crescent City Books, and LETTERS READ present a second open mic night for book nerds. CODEX is a conversation about the physicality and context of interacting with and using books. Attendees are encouraged to bring any book they’d like sharing! Loads of conversations about the interaction with and what is a book are a goal.
Listen to Jessica Peterson talk about her history and relationship to her favorite book.
Sunday November 25, 2018
3:30 to 5:00pm
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
1139 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
New Orleans, LA.
Twenty years ago, a Northshore, LA developer worked with New Orleans Mayor Morial, two City Council members and two Central City clergymen to demolish a 4-square city block area between St. Mary and Polymnia streets, Baronne and an altered Carondelet Streets. What was planned to replace historic, architecturally important homes was a suburban strip mall-style Albertsons grocery store more than 60,000 square feet large. Two of the four city blocks were planned to become a parking lot.
Locals and preservationists were in an uproar and a grand fight ensued.
This is the story of why and how Felicity Redevelopment began and how two women stopped the Albertsons project from being built.
Mack C. Guillory III, emcee.
Grace Kennedy, reader.
Jeremy J. Webber, audio engineer.
Jeffrey B. Goodman, urban planning consultant.
Kure Croker, information consultant.
Thanks to the generous support of Dorian Bennett and Felicity Redevelopment, Inc, the script for this event was recorded live in the vault of Crescent City Books.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
6:00 to 7:30 pm
Nora Navra Library, 1902 St. Bernard Avenue
Free and open to the public.
Mack Guillory III, Emcee.
Julie Dietz, Reader.
The historic fight for civil rights in New Orleans is more complicated than most movements in the other 49 United States. Prior to Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era, free people of color here could legally own property. Free persons of color could even own slaves.
Another anomaly, albeit post-Jim Crow, is how and when our libraries changed from a separate but equal policy to total desegregation. Without fanfare, our libraries desegregated almost a decade prior to most of the rest of the deep South. An amazing accomplishment for a small, deeply southern town rooted in antebellum sensibilities and unique, international roots.
This event was made possible by Friends of the New Orleans Public Library and this recording was created live during the event.
To read more about desegregation in the Jim Crow era South, go here.
Though Janet Mary Riley did not define herself as a second wave feminist, by today’s standards, she was a quiet but fierce civil rights advocate and tireless women’s rights activist.
Throughout her life, she fought for equal pay in the workplace.
This event is dedicated to her successful efforts to revise Louisiana’s community property laws giving women equal management rights of a marriage’s community property. Prior to Riley’s heroic efforts, under Louisiana law, no married woman owned the right to manage her own property. That right was given, by law in marriage, to her husband. The law was changed in 1980.
The evening features emcee Chris Kaminstein, Co-Artistic Director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP), and Leslie Boles Kraus, GRP Ensemble Member/Social Media Coordinator.
Through live readings of letters written during War I and World War II, LETTERS READ: Veterans Day presented little moments where lives of military service members and civilians intersected.
The November 11, 2017 reading focused on love letters from The National World War II Museum, letters from United States Army Air Force officer Francis I. Cervantes (1922-1945) to his mother while training for and serving in WWII, and correspondence between individuals organizing, administrating, and serving in World War I Newcomb Relief Unit overseas.
This special event was held at Bastion, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is an intentionally designed community for returning warriors and families in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.
Emcee: Chris Kaminstein, Co-Artistic Director of Goat in the Road Music: Peter J. Bowling
Readers: Ashton Akridge, Mack Guillory III
Special Reader: Melinda Flynn
As part of researching the life of Tennessee Williams and his later life living part-time in New Orleans French Quarter, Letters Read producer Nancy Sharon Collins interviewed Dorian Bennett. Williams befriended Bennett in the 1980s, this is an edited moment from that interview.
Welcome to LETTERS READ, sixth in the series of live events in which local artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and New Orleans communities presented by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins and Antenna.
Thanks to New Orleans Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and especially to Susan Larson whose idea it was for LETTERS READ to perform The Luck of Friendship, The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin, edited by Peggy Fox and Thomas Keith. Thanks also goe to readers Jean Allemond, Dante Fuoco, Reed Everette, Colin Miller, Robert Valley, Dorian Bennett, Augustin Correro, Wes McWhorter, Nick Shackleford. Extra special thanks to emcee by Chris Kaminstein.
Welcome to PART II of LETTERS READ: Text Dating. This is sixth in the ongoing series of live events in which local artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and New Orleans communities presented by me, Nancy Sharon Collins, and Antenna.
Thanks go to Antenna, Press Street, Paper Machine! If you don’t already know, Paper Machine is the new, bricks and mortar printing center in Old Arabi owned and operated by Antenna. It also houses Artist Book Collection.
Welcome to PART I in the fifth installment of LETTERS READ. The ongoing series of live events in which local artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and New Orleans communities presented by me, Nancy Sharon Collins, and Antenna.
Thanks to Antenna, Press Street, Paper Machine, and to contributors Mikita Brottman, Kyle Petrozza, John Rushing, Cate Root, Erin Callais, Folwell Dunbar, Chris Kamenstein, Charles Thomas T. Strider, and to emcee Adam Newman.
When Peter Rogers was a young man, he moved from Hattiesburg, MS, to Manhattan. He was so poor he took in a roommate to help share the rent. Introduced by fellow Hattiesburg-ites back home, Peter's roommate was non other than Jim Adams, Tennessee Williams’s cousin. In this short, Rogers recalls the evening Williams breezed into town, treated them to the Broadway play, Duel of Angels, with Vivien Leigh. After, Williams took them backstage to meet the beautiful Ms. Leigh, who went on to become Scarlett O'Hara in the movie, Gone with the Wind. Williams continued the evening entertainment with a post-theatre dinner and the (then) elicit Absinth, at his apartment chatting and drinking the infamous liquor until 4:00 in the morning. Needless to say, young Rogers was awestruck and impressed.