Al Letson

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Al Letson
Al Letson.jpg
Born (1972-08-08) August 8, 1972 (age 45)
Plainfield, New Jersey

Al Letson (born August 8, 1972) is an American poet, playwright, performer, journalist, and radio and podcast host. Since 2013, he's been the host of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Before that, he created and hosted the show State of the Re:Union, distributed by National Public Radio and PRX .

Early life and career[edit]

Letson was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of a minister. At the age of twelve he moved with his family to Orange Park, Florida, a suburb of Jacksonville. As a teenager he became interested in recording and hip hop, spending much of his free time in the studio and participating in Jacksonville's music and arts scene. After graduating from Orange Park High School, he took a job as a flight attendant for American Airlines, allowing him to participate in poetry slams across the country.[1]

Performance poetry[edit]

Letson became a heavy weight in the slam scene performing on stages across the country and on TV including Russell Simmon's Def Poetry Jam,[2] and CBS's Final Four Pre-Game Show. In 2000 he won the Atlanta Grand Slam and placed third in the National Poetry Slam competition.[3]

Playwriting[edit]

Letson subsequently shifted to playwriting and acting, and in 2001 he produced his first one-man show, Essential Personnel, for the local Jacksonville stage. The show earned him commissions for his work and performances across the country. In 2004 the Baltimore School for the Arts commissioned him to write Chalk, a "poetical" combining stage acting with poetry.[4] Other plays include Griot[5][6] and Julius X, a retelling of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar set in Harlem in 1965.[1] His solo show Summer in Sanctuary opened Off-Broadway at the Abingdon Theatre Company in 2011 [7]

In 2007, Letson produced a short film which he released on the internet; this got him a call to audition for the Fox Network film-themed reality show On the Lot, though he was ultimately not selected.[1]

Public radio[edit]

Al Letson and the crew of State of the ReUnion at the 74th Annual Peabody Awards

In 2007 Letson discovered a radio competition called the Public Radio Talent Quest on a whim. The program, organized by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) announced the Public Radio Talent Quest, provided an open search for new public radio talent.[8] The five-round competition started with more than 1,400 applicants and was voted on by fans, professionals and celebrity judges. Letson submitted a pilot for State of the Re:Union, and was chosen as one of three winners. From there, Letson's State of the Re:Union and Glynn Washington's Snap Judgement Radio were awarded funding by the CPB.

The first season of State of the Re:Union aired in 2010 and the show continued for six seasons ending due to funding in 2015.[9] State of the Re:Union won 3 consecutive Edward R. Murrow awards, 2 NABJ Awards, 3NLGJA Awards, and a Peabody in 2015.[10]

In 2013 Letson hosted pilots of Reveal, a podcast/Public Radio Show from PRX and Center for Investigative Reporting.[11] The first pilot of Reveal received a Peabody and went into full production in 2014. Letson went on to become the full-time host of the program which is currently heard on over 400 public radio stations. In 2016, Letson began hosting his own story Podcast, Errthang Show![12]

Comics[edit]

Letson credits comic books with teaching him how to read and helping him conquer dyslexia. He's worked on two independent comic books, Imperfect and Planetfall. In 2016 he was chosen by DC Comics to participate in the 2nd DC Comic writer's workshop. Letson and his cohorts learned to write comics the DC way and were given the opportunity to write for the company. His first story for DC comes out in Nov. 2017.[13]

Rally Against Hate[edit]

On August 27, 2017, Letson intervened to stop a man from being beaten during a protest. During a Berkeley, California "Rally Against Hate" that he was covering, Letson saw five masked protesters beating an unarmed man with sticks.[14][15] Fearing for the man's life, Letson used his body as a human shield and encouraged the protesters to discontinue their attacks.[16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bosworth, John (September 27, 2007). "npr’s american idol". eujacksonville.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  2. ^ Al Letson (2006-07-05), Al Letson-Def Poetry, retrieved 2018-03-21 
  3. ^ "Poetry Slam Inc". www.poetryslam.com. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  4. ^ "Florida Times Union Discusses Youth Theater and Letson's Chalk, as well as its involvement with the Baltimore School for the Arts". 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ Desk, BWW News. "SUMMER IN SANCTUARY NY Opens At Abingdon Theatre Co, Opens 4/3". 
  8. ^ "PRX » Projects". PRX - Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  9. ^ http://stateofthereunion.com/about-2
  10. ^ WJCT. "Awards - State of the Re:Union". State of the Re:Union. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  11. ^ "Al Letson". Reveal. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  12. ^ "Errthang Show!". SoundCloud. Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  13. ^ "DC Writers Workshop Class of Fall 2016 – DC Talent Development Workshop". www.dccomicstalentworkshop.com. 
  14. ^ "Jacksonville's Al Letson protects man from California rally beating: 'I thought they were going to kill him'". jacksonville.com. Retrieved 2017-08-28. 
  15. ^ "Scattered Violence Erupts At Large, Left-Wing Berkeley Rally". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-08-28. 
  16. ^ "Reveal host Al Letson shields man from beating at anti-hate rally". Reveal. 2017-08-27. Retrieved 2017-08-28. 
  17. ^ "Radio host witnesses man being attacked at rally to protest far right - and jumps in to save him". The Independent. 2017-08-28. Retrieved 2017-08-28.