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Summer in Sanctuary



Written and Performed by Al Letson

Directed by Rob Urbinati

October 2011


Told through monologue, song, poetry, and multimedia, SUMMER IN SANCTUARY challenges perceptions about race and class as “Def Poetry Jam” alumus Al Letson recalls a summer spent working at the Sanctuary on 8th Street, a community center in an economically challenged neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. As Al works with the kids in his creative writing class, he finds himself changing with his students. Summer In Sanctuary explores the heart of a community and gives theatergoers a better understanding of the world.



“[An] intimate portrait of the chaotic world of gangs, drugs and violence…Letson is a powerful performer

who tells his story by moving fluidly from one role to the next.”

The Baltimore Sun


“Fast, turbulent, filled with ruckus, or slowing down for contemplation, picking up some characters along the way… he’s an engaging presence blending the language of a poet with the language of the streets. Moving in and out of character

as easy as flipping his hands or shrugging his shoulder. Letson fills the large stage.”



“Letson is an exceptional performer, and he succeeds in making the show nuanced and diverse despite the fact that he is alone on stage. At times, his monologues are airy and natural, as if he were talking with a few friends,

but he is equally capable of delivering a pointed and downright tear-jerking monologue.”

ShowBiz Magazine

AL LETSON (performer/playwright) creates soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work that has garnered him national recognition and devoted fans. Early in his career, Letson established himself as a heavyweight in the Poetry Slam community and went on to be a featured performer on stages across the country, including such venues as HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam”, and CBS’s 2004 “Final Four PreGame”. Drawing on his background as a performance poet, Letson seamlessly weaves spoken word into the fabric of his theatre work. With plays like Essential Personnel – a solo performance; Griot: He Who Speaks the Sweet Word – a theatrical celebration of African American performance art; and Julius X – a mash-up of Shakespeare, spoken word, African mythology, and Civil Rights history – he has taken traditional theater into new directions.


In 2008, Letson was one of the three finalists out of more than 1,500 applicants to win the Public Radio Talent Quest. The Talent Quest was an effort by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Radio Exchange to find new voices and innovative programming to launch nationally on public radio. Since that time Letson’s program “State of the Re:Union” (SOTRU) has become one of the fastest growing shows in public radio, airing on more than 200 stations, receiving critical acclaim and the first co-distributed program by NPR and the Public Radio Exchange. Every episode of “State of the Re:Union” travels to an American city or town to tell stories about the American people and explore how community is being created. Matt Martin, General Manger, KALW, San Francisco says “State of the Re:Union” models the curiosity and open heartedness public radio should stand for, and never forgets the beat.” SOTRU is currently in production of its second season and is also being developed for television. While his many interests are diverse, the common theme in Letson’s work is his effort to bring people together. By examining difficult topics and influential historical themes, Letson strives to focus on our common humanity and always present a production with consummate artistry.

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