Monday, April 21, 2008


Monday. April 21st 2008.

Wow. I woke up this morning completely overwhelmed. The response for Summer in Sanctuary was absolutely incredible and unparalleled in the history of my career. I’ve done a ton of work, and people have been kind, generous, and encouraging. But this is something different.

When we (Willie Evans Jr. and director Gary Anderson) did the show in Baltimore, we had so many technical issues and we were working out all the kinks in the script, we didn’t get a chance to really revel in the experience. Good reviews. People were moved. Vicky and the kids from the Sanctuary came up and that was very special. It was a good thing. But doing the play here in Jacksonville has got to be a highlight in my career.

We booked the show at Players by the Sea, my theatrical home in Jacksonville, and didn’t really give Joe (a patron saint in the career of Al Letson) much time to promote. We got the word out, Bob White (another patron saint) plugged the show at the Jacksonville Arts Awards luncheon, and then Friday came and we had a really good crowd. People were enthusiastic, and giving to the show, and we put on a good performance. If felt very different performing the piece in Jacksonville. Like this is where it needed to be done, finally the piece is home. The second night the theatre was full, and the love the audience gave Willie and I was tremendous. Vicky came the first night, and she returned the second night with a big smile and Biko. Biko left the Sanctuary, and has been on the streets living his life the best way he knows how. He never came to Baltimore to see the show, so this would be his first experience watching himself on stage.

I haven’t seen Biko in awhile, frankly I was surprised he was there. I hope he saw a reflection of who he really is, and not what the street tells him. In doing the play every night I’m moved because I love him, and all the kids at the Sanctuary, but it’s hard to tell them that in a way that they understand. People can tell you they love you, but when you live in their conditions words seem pretty empty. More then anything I’ve ever written, this play is a love song to them, to the kids, to Vicky, to the city. I hope that Biko got that. That someone loves him unconditionally. When he walked down the stair to give me a hug, I wrapped my arms around him and was right back in that Summer in 06’ where I didn’t want to let him go.

After having a successful run, my only worry is that people got the wrong idea. I don’t want people looking at the piece and going “Oh, that’s a nice story and he’s a good performer”, and give me all the props. It’s nice and I appreciate it. But at the end of the day, what I want is change. I want people to get up and do something. I want them to feel like if this nerd can do something small, so can I. Government can’t change the story of Springfield, of poverty, of lost children. Only people can. God may work through governments at times, although evidence of that in recent times is slim to none, but I think it’s in the heart of man, where he whispers his providence. I hope this piece will soften some hearts so they can hear that whisper and do something.


Anonymous said...

Al spits the truth. You feel him, even it you don't want to feel him. Biko

Anonymous said...

Al spits the truth. You feel him even if you don't wana feel him.

Anonymous said...

"Summer in Sanctuary" was one of the most power theatre experiences of my life on several levels---the portrayal fo the Sanctuary and its people; the power of Al Letson; and the reality of the inner city's impact upon its children. This dramatization needs a wider audience both in Jacksonville and beyond." James B. Crooks, Professor,University of North Florida, retired

Anonymous said...

"Summer in Sanctuary was funny and touching and it brought back lots of good and bad memories." Deron, a Sanctuary kid since 2002.

Anonymous said...

whats up Al dis keith and alonzo we just wanted to say that we really enjoy the play we really think it captures everybody's stuggle good and want to thank you for getting the word out that everyone in the ghetto is not as bad as they seem ,that they have a heart and a good mind just like everyone else, all they need is someone to guide them in today's world also before the play we did not know you thought so deeply about us, we really appreciate all the love

cynthia gaskin said...

Amazing, moving, goosebumps, tears and laughter were a few of the feelings I felt at your show today. I have been to the sanctuary many times mostly to pick up my daughter Ari who worked there. Joe my son also worked there and the effect on them was moving. I remember hearing a conversation at my house from one of those "rich white kids" who worked there one summer and believe me I really know he got it....he explained the daily struggles and survival mode these kids have to go through, it was heartfelt. My prayers are that people get up and help!!! You are awesome!!