Live at Henrietta’s at 9th & Main
|Text and photos by Bill Ectric except top right photo by Billie Anderson
For dedication to his craft, innate talent, and hard work, Al Letson deserves the title
of “consummate professional.” I don’t use those words lightly. His delivery is precise;
the emotion is fresh - Letson never seems to be on autopilot.
Penumbra, Letson explained to a full house, means basically "in between." This night
consisted of a mixture of poems and performance pieces that he has done in the past
from different shows, as a kind of pause before he begins to put out new work, and to
introduce himself to those who have not yet seen him.
Letson's live performance, which
began at 9:00 PM, was a diverse and
exhilarating selection of poetry,
acting, and monologue, sometimes
accompanied by three percussionists
near the stage. Interspersed among
the live performances were two of
Letson's videos on a large screen
backdrop. I believe we will see more
poetry & spoken word videos and Al
Letson is already helping to set the
standard. Followed by an
intermission, we all reconvened in
the theater for a big screen viewing
of Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam -
My favorite piece of the evening was called "Eunice". It's
about a young black girl, a child in 1943, playing her
first piano recital after much practice. During the recital
she is distracted by a disturbance in the audience. Her
parents are being told to move to the back of the room
to make room for a white couple. Through this debacle
she must keep playing, as her father mouths the words
to her, "you know what you suppose to do." Near the
end of the poem we find out that this is a true story and
the young girl, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, later changed
her name to become famous as the great Nina Simone.
the 2nd episode of the season, featuring our man Al Letson as the first guest! He had
recently taped the episode and this night was the first time he, or anyone had seen it.
When he wasn't on stage, Letson was in great demand from fans, friends, reporters,
and members of his crew, so I mostly had to ask him questions on the fly.
"Who did your videos?" I asked him.
"I do most of my own video work," he said. "The two you saw tonight were filmed by Don
Solomon from Jacksonville Beach, but I do all my own editing and effects. I know quite a
lot about video production and I enjoy doing it."
I said that I could easily see him acting in films. Someone spoke up and said, "He writes
plays. One of his plays will be on Broadway someday!"