LETTERS READ is the ongoing series in which local performers interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities. Ordinarily, performances are  live, free, and open to the general public. Due to Covit 19, readings are currently produced as podcasts. Listen to the Stewart Butler and other past events, here

LETTERS READ 2020 Season, upcoming:

In the manner a visual can affect us directly rather than the same point explained in many words, this image evokes Letters Read programming for 2020. Thank you Wallace Merritt for the use of this photograph. It refers to many cultural triggers—such as identity, stigma, language, and law—to be explored this year.

Skip Ward

Thursday, August 20
The Letters of Skip Ward
A podcast hosted by:
Alexandria Museum of Art
Alexandria, Louisiana.

LISTEN HERE 8/20/20 

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.

Ward’s letters provide a rare glimpse into rural gay life and the political struggles of the 1980s and 1990s. —excerpted from the caption to “Letter to A Friend Just Coming Up Front”, in the online exhibit, Women and Gender.

Date soon to be announced
A Podcast with Actors George Saucier and Colin Miller.
Inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams.
This production is a conversation about being an actor, theatre as an art form, ruminations about Tennessee Williams, the Southern Gothic genre, and the arc of one’s career. In collaboration with Acting Up (In Acadiana) and with particular help from Amy Waguespack, Artistic Director and founder of Acting Up.

Sound recording and audio engineering by Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio in New Orleans, and Paul Broussard, Leap Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Wednesday, November 11
Letters from Louisiana Veterans
Bastion, community of resilience
1901 Mirabeau Avenue, New Orleans.

LETTERS READ 2020 Season, earlier this year:

The Letters of Stewart Butler

The 14th Letters Read and first produced remotely and podcast.

Originally scheduled for March 26, 2020 at Frenchman Art & Books on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, this event was preempted by the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, listen to Dylan Hunter reading 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 has been 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 go 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.

Taboo Busting, a panel discussion
Hotel Monteleone, Riverview Room

Panelists: Dr. Thomas Bonner, Jr., John Whittier Treat, Marion Hill.

In conjunction with the New Orleans Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and the Saints and Sinners conference, Letters Read offers a second, experimental musing. How do we talk about things that were once taboo? How do we reconcile with language that has become politically derisive and now appears taboo?

With Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) as its center point, this panel will examine the canons of 20th-century narrative and how institutional bias is viewed today.

Professionally, Hearn was an internationally recognized journalist credited with putting New Orleans on the map as a tourist destination and introducing Japan to readers in the West. As a man, he pursued a transgressive, outsider existence embracing, and writing literature that crossed Reconstruction-era cultural taboos.

Questions? Contact us!