Letters Read is the ongoing series of live events in which local performers interpret historically interesting letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities.
Produced by stationer, Nancy Sharon Collins, in conjunction with fiscal partner Antenna, each reading brings general audiences into intimate moments usually experienced while reading a personal letter from one whom one knows.
Major support for the 2021 programming season is provided by Corner Foundation. Over the four previous years, additional support has been provided by Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities,* LGBTQ+ Archives Project of Louisiana, Reba Judith Sandler Foundation, The Louisiana Museum Foundation, Crescent City Books, Dorian Bennett Sotheby’s International Realty, Felicity Redevelopment, Inc., Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
Since May 2017, this series continues to partner with many cultural institutions providing primary source content and programming. Examples are Goat in the Road Productions, Acting Up (in Acadiana), Alexandria Museum of Art, Louisiana State Museum, Amistad Research Center, Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections & Archives, Louisiana Division/City Archives & Special Collections, Hermann-Grima+Gallier Historic Houses, The National World War II Museum, The Historic New Orleans Center Williams Research Center, Vorhoff Library Special Collections, and Bastion|Community of Resilience, and Faerie Playhouse.
Letters Read provides unique glimpses into thoughts meant only for two people, author, and recipient. Letters we read from a close friend or relative can be as mundane as who brings Thanksgiving turkey and as complex as explanations of hardship. Personal letters can also explode with emotion, express tenderness and love. Three times annually the readings are from institutional archives, special collections, personal and business records.
Once a year this project provides an opportunity to include contemporary material. All events, those based on history and those with content which is new, strive to use intimate, written, human interactions as models for how we get along today.
To further explain the power we perceive in reading letters, offered here is a quote from Donald Windham. Williams and Windham were long-time friends and collaborators. In this passage, Windham describes reading one of Tennessee’s letters addressed to him.
‘They are as intimate as his presence was, and often more informative. To read them is to know why I liked him. Alone with his typewriter he talked to me almost as to an ideal listener, as though he knew that my faith in him was total. If he sometimes, to use his phrase, is “striking poses on paper”, they are poses for himself not for someone else.’
* The 2020 Letters Read Season is 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 program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For the full list of previous events, go here.