Monday, May 11, 2009



"I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot... and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why... I succeed."

Michael Jordan

I wasn’t going to post these thoughts because I look at this blog as a place where I talk about what’s going on in the career of Al Letson. Generally, I like to keep it positive. I usually try not to talk about the struggles here, but in reflection, I think that without talking about the bad times, the celebration of the good times doesn’t have as much meaning.

That being said, I’m at the point of burn-out. On everything. I need to get away for awhile. Leave the computer on the desk and relax. But I don’t see where I’ll have time to do that until August (if then). All the projects I’m working on seems a little too big, or a little too hopeless. I’m still working to perfect the Jacksonville episode. I like what I have, but I feel like I could do better. I need to give people a better sense of the place. Right now I think I have good solid stories, but I need more parts to fill it out. If I was okay with being good, then I think it’d be fine. But I’m not okay with being good. I want to be brilliant. I will be brilliant. Period. The space between good and brilliant is a hard spot. In some ways I feel like I'm just not doing enough. Like the show needs to work better in some key areas, and I'm not sure how to do it. So, yeah, it feels like I'm failing. I don't know what else I can do. It's got to come from outside of me. I have a great team but I need a senior producer to really help find that missing part. Until then, I've got to push to make it work. Fortunately, in circumstances like this, I am always at my best.

The theatre side of my career is where most of my frustration comes from. My best friend Jamel told me the other night, “How come every time I talk to you, it’s like you are waiting on someone else to give you the green light?” He's right and for a person like me, who likes being in control that’s the part of being an artist that kills. I’ve got all of these great ideas, scripts, and stories, and yet I always feel like I’m on the outside begging to get in. Today Julius X will be read for a second time by the Classical Theatre of Harlem @ the cell theater. I am extremely excited for this to happen. But on the flip side, I’m a little disappointed because I feel like this will probably be the end for the play. I could be completely wrong, but I can help but feel like what I was hoping for (someone who could help produce the play) would see the work, and want to help find a way to make it work. I’m confident, that if the right person is in the room, the play will get what it needs to be given a full run in NYC. The actors are amazing, the director is excellent, and the story and writing are on point. And yet, I don’t have much working as far as getting people out. It’s the never-ending problem for me. I create good work, but have no advocate to get that work out there. It’s beyond frustrating.

My play Summer in Sanctuary is in neutral. After having great success in at home and in Baltimore, the piece has been rejected by every juried festival I’ve sent it to. I believe in the play again I know it’s strong. I’ve seen solo shows in NYC and I’m always disappointed. I know my plays are stronger then what I’m seeing, but I can’t get anyone to really take me seriously. I’m working on a new play and I’m getting the feeling of “Why?” Why create anymore because it will be like all the other pieces. Good work that will collect dust. That feeling never last for long because the answer to the question “WHY?” is simple, because I could not, not do it. I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop performing. It’s who I am. On a dark day in Boston eleven years ago, I learned what the consequences were of not following the art. I’d tried to stop writing to make other people happy to fit into someone else box, and one day it all came crashing down. I thought about just ending it all because I was so lost. It was a terrible day that I had to go through to learn who I really am. An artist. A writer. A doer. A dreamer. And no matter how bad I feel right now, it’s nothing in comparison to sense of utter loss I felt when I tried to stop being me.

My mantra has always been “Do the work” and everything else will work out and I’m going to keep that mantra going, but some days when you do all the work and nothing works out it can be demoralizing.


kelly said...

Times like these are when I am so glad to have found this quote, by Martha Graham.

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

I read it, and reread it, as many times as it takes until I have even the smallest bit of confidence. Hang in there, Al. Brilliance is inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Never, ever stop being you because you are a beautiful, brilliant man. You are a superior artist and friend. Much love!

Anonymous said...

Never, ever stop being YOU! You are a beautiful, brilliant man. You are a superior artist. Much props and love!

Plowshares Theatre Co. Blog said...

Al, its frustrating for a lot of us right about now. Art is not respected in a world where creativity is considered a commodity. The options are to quit and try something else. I'm glad you weren't that blinded by confusion that you couldn't see the truth. We all have felt like you. Be at peace and do your art.

John Adams said...

Hey Al, been a while! Too much talent for the juries hear, follow Al's heart and inspiration it has created some amazing work thus far -;0)


Anonymous said...

Al you have to KEEP ON KEEPING ON!!! You are amazing and all artists go through this period. We believe in you and your work and your passion to
not only put on brilliant plays but meaningful plays!!
After going to your Summer in Sanctuary Play I heard people's core's being shaken.
So Al you can doubt yourself once in a while but know you have a whole crowd who will NEVER do that!!
We will be there always and forever!!