27 episodes

Now in its sixth consecutive season, LETTERS READ is the series of usually live events in which local performance artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities and is an ongoing series presented by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins and Antenna.

During COVID-19, events are podcast.

LETTERS READ Nancy Sharon Collins

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

Now in its sixth consecutive season, LETTERS READ is the series of usually live events in which local performance artists interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities and is an ongoing series presented by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins and Antenna.

During COVID-19, events are podcast.

    LETTERS READ: Lady Louisiana Artist Michel Varisco

    LETTERS READ: Lady Louisiana Artist Michel Varisco

    First in the 2022 mini-series, Lady Louisiana Artist is letters and missives to and from eco-feminist artist, and Letters Read Executive Advisory Board member, Michel Varisco.

    Our subject in this recording creates photography, assemblages, and installations that bear witness to our relationship with nature as observed in architecture, engineered, and the wild.

    Varisco writes further about the promotional image for this listing...“Sr. Alison McCrary, the radical nun and lawyer is holding a dead yellow warbler. She had told me she was mourning the slow death of the Catholic Church, while I mourn the disconnect of religion for the environment and the future of all sentient beings.” —2019 King Tides exhibit, Good Children Gallery, New Orleans, LA.

    In addition to letters from Varisco’s wide family of friends, cohorts, fellow artists and collaborators, this podcast includes edits from the email exchange between Letters Read Director and lady Louisiana artist, Jacqueline Bishop. Bishop contributed in an advisory manner for this production. Her work reflects on complex connections between climate change, species extinction, and migration.

    Christopher Kamenstein, co-artisic director of Goat in the Road Production, reads Varisco's letters and other correspondence of interest. The audio production is by Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio.

    About the image: WARBLER, thermal dye print on aluminum, by Michel Varisco. Of this piece, Varisco writes, “I used a warbler ... Ersy's gift stuck in my mind, just not that specific bird. this one I froze years later to use."


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    • 19 min
    LETTERS READ: The Only Person Brought to Trial for Conspiracy to Assassinate President John F. Kennedy

    LETTERS READ: The Only Person Brought to Trial for Conspiracy to Assassinate President John F. Kennedy

    Wrapping-up the previous programming season, Doing Business in New Orleans, we present the story of Clay Shaw. On March 1, 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison arrested him on conspiracy charges. Shaw was a beloved, successful, local businessman, and closeted queer man.

    On January 29, 1969, Garrison tried Shaw in Orleans Parish Criminal Court on three conspiracy charges. A little over a month later the jury took less than one hour to acquit Shaw.

    After, “…jurors expressed their bewilderment as to motive. Respectable socialite Clay Shaw, it strained credulity as to why he would become involved in the murder of the President. Jim Garrison believed that Shaw was acting as Oswald’s shepherd in New Orleans, under instructions from CIA. But he couldn’t prove it, certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt.” —Joan Mellen.

    Many theories swirl around these, now infamous, Big Easy characters. Both Shaw and Garrison. This reading strives to represent the man who was Clay Shaw and, to a lesser extend, who was Garrison.

    Robert Valley reads as the voice of Shaw, David Zalkind is Jim Garrison. Audio production is by Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio.

    PHOTO: 1956. Clay Shaw dressed for Mardi Gras. From an original 35mm slide in a boxed tray labelled, “Carnival, 2/14/56. Sally Del Sue Ray.” Property and copyright of Letters Read.


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    • 26 min
    LETTERS READ INCUBATOR VIII: Mid-20th Century Foreign Intrigue & the Almighty American Dollar

    LETTERS READ INCUBATOR VIII: Mid-20th Century Foreign Intrigue & the Almighty American Dollar

    Wrapping-up the 2021 Doing Business in New Orleans season is a true, rags to riches story. Another incubator-style, informal production, with stuff found along the way. That may or may not fit into full-length Letters Read, Louisiana and New Orleans-centric, programming. This material surfaced while researching the Clay Shaw story. That story is postponed until 2022. Shaw is referred to more than once in this reading because there’s a rhyme in it, a theme that repeats in this story, and in Clay Shaw’s. Throughout, the reader is Letters Read Director, Nancy Sharon Collins. Additionally, a link to the 2008 panel discussion referred to in this broadcast is HERE. And a link to the other referred-to party, a Letters Read Executive Advisor, Michel Varisco, is HERE.


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    • 12 min
    LETTERS READ: Mad Men New Orleans-style!

    LETTERS READ: Mad Men New Orleans-style!

    Premiering Thursday, November 25, letters and ephemera created in 1962 by a local professional association for graphic designers.

    If you liked the TV show, Mad Men, you’ll love the real thing, New Orleans-style. Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans (ADDA) was chartered in 1961. Illustrators, lettering artists, art directors, photographers, commercial artists, and graphic designers banded together and promoted themselves to advertising executives throughout the Gulf South.

    Central to this was a promotional slideshow presentation. Digitized in 2008. You can view an animation of it HERE.

    If you are curious about the then new-fangled entertainment gizmo, slideshows, watch the Mad Men scene about their origin, HERE.

    In this compelling podcast, join reader Colin B. Miller, himself a practicing graphic designer, as he continues the 2021 programming theme, Doing Business in New Orleans.

    For this production, thanks are given to Steve Chyzyk and Steve Himelfarb, Sonic Canvas Studio. To Paul Broussard for additional recording. To Antenna, the project's fiscal partner. Thanks always to major funders, Corner and Reba Judith Sandler Foundations, Mark Cotton, Robert Heriard, Gayle Boudousqie, and to our executive advisory board Bill Hagler, Cole Halpern, Chris Kamenstein, and Michel Varisco. Additionally, thanks to Letters Read alum, Adam Newman. The very last ADDA vice president and, to this day, a practicing graphic designer.

    Special thanks to the first president of ADDA. Don Smith, now 92. Who physically gave the slideshow presentation to Mrs. Collins, project director. Thanks to Don’s work chum back in the day at Knox Reeves Fitzgerald, Ron Thomson, now President - Marketing, Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald. The current agency from who Knox-Reeves Fitzgerald evolved. Thanks to Dave Walker, THNOC. Big thanks to Kure Croker, Loyola University Special Collections and Archives for ongoing support of the History of Graphic Design in South Louisiana physical archives and to Jennifer Abrams, director, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History for her unwavering support of the oral history part of that project. 

    Intro and outro-music are from the reel-to-reel audio tape recording of the original jingle composed and performed in 1961 by Paul Guma.

    Image: Slide 32 in the 1962 Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans slideshow presentation.


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    • 20 min
    LETTERS READ INCUBATOR VIII: The Power of a Personal Letter

    LETTERS READ INCUBATOR VIII: The Power of a Personal Letter

    As prelude to the Thanksgiving, 2021 reading, we share advertising executive Ron Thomson's story about the letter he wrote to motion picture actress, Audrey Hepburn, and the friendship that ensued. Thomson is President - Marketing, Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald, Inc. The oldest agency in the southern United States. By the time they met, Hepburn had already starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, and My Fair Lady. Winning Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

    When Thomson sent the pivotal letter, Hepburn was devoting herself to UNICEF. Her work with UNICEF was the reason Thomson became emboldened enough to write to the famous Hollywood star. 

    Back in the day (1960s) Thomson worked with Don Smith, art director and fellow adman at Knox Reeves Fitzgerald in New Orleans. It was the largest advertising agency in the South. The Letters Read Thanksgiving podcast tells one story about the old ad-days Don and Ron share.

    Image: Paramount-photo by Bud Fraker - eBayfrontback, Public Domain.


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    • 5 min
    LETTERS READ: Bananas Anyone?

    LETTERS READ: Bananas Anyone?

    Welcome to this reading from a handmade, 1906 photo-album compiled in response to the last documented yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans and the United States. 

    The podcast is fourteenth in the ongoing, Letters Read project. Readers are William Bowling and Grace Kennedy with audio production by Steve Chyzyk and Sonic Canvas Studio. Antenna is the project’s fiscal partner, and, 2021 is the fifth consecutive season.

    In photographs and text, “Quarantine Tour of Central America and Panama by Health Authorities as guests of The United Fruit Company” presents the idea that bananas imported by the largest importer of them in the world at that time were safe and did not promote the spread of yellow fever.

    What was the real purpose for this curious piece of ephemera compiled and produced in New Orleans? Documentation of United Fruit’s best practices in sanitation and mosquito abatement? Merely propaganda? Follow along online in the digitized album at The Historic New Orleans Collection Williams Research Center. 

    The album is large, slightly crumbling. After the covers and end pieces, it contains 83 individual pages. 69 are photographs, 14 are text, letterpress printed. The cover boards are faux leather, a composite of some sort, and the title gold-foil-stamped on it in a calligraphic lettering style reminiscent of Looney Tunes or Bugs Bunny cartoons titles. The spine is leather in matching burgundy red. The physical article is at The Historic New Orleans Williams Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana.

    All of the photographs are black and white, mounted by hand, with a black paper border on alpha-cellulose paper. 

    Through the album’s lens, we see orderly ports and company towns, infrastructure like steam shovels, roads and railways being constructed; agriculture, maritime, and river industries; hospitals and quarantine stations. New, Colonial-style buildings and, except for members of a few brass bands, a couple of inhabitants of a “Native Hut”—or three, “Hospital Nurses”, “Natives Marketing Bananas”, and soldiers representing the “Honduras Army Stationed at Cortez”, there are very very few locals represented. The only people photographed, pretty much, are white, North American representatives in rumpled suits. Where were all the workers? What were their working conditions? Other than brief textual descriptions of United Fruit’s best practices, not a single practice was photographed.


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    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

linfeldm ,

Entertaining, informative, personal

This was a great listen! I am drawn to all things about New Orleans. This is one in a series called “Letters Read,” all historical, though topical and relevant, about slices of life in New Orleans. Each features real letters from real NOLA characters, this about life in the LGBT community in the 1960s to 90s. Readers of the letters make the letters come alive.

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