Now in its forth consecutive season, LETTERS READ is the series of live events in which local artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and New Orleans communities and is an ongoing series presented by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins and Antenna.
As an experiment with potential material for LETTERS READ, this is the first in a series of live recordings for the 2020 programming season. This experiment is a work in progress.
The letters in this reading are from a large wooden chest in the home of Stewart Butler, the Faerie Playhouse. A Letters Read sponsor, the LGBTQ+ Archives Project of Louisiana, regularly meets there.
"This Creole cottage became the home of Stewart Butler and Alfred Doolittle in 1979 and was the site of many organizing meetings in the LGBT civil rights movement ...The garden behind the home contains the cremains of many significant leaders in the struggle for equality, including Charlene Schneider, John Ognibene and Cliff Howard, as well as artist J.B. Harter.
While Alfred passed away several years ago, Stewart still resides in the Faerie Playhouse. The large wooden hearts that adorn the front of the house are said to be a tribute to his life partner, Alfred, who loved Valentine’s Day and all that it meant." —https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-faerie-playhouse-new-orleans-louisiana
We listen to a set of letters from 1967. Written to Butler, they were authored by Ann Garza. Butler, who is 89, does not now remember Garza. He does, however, continue sending $200 monthly to help support the widow of Greg Manella. Greg is mentioned in this reading along with expectations and misgivings about being in a relationship in the middle of the last century. Ann struggles to find herself in her relationship. At the same time, Ann projects her own emotions on to those she imagines are Stewart’s for Greg.
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.
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.