Wednesday, February 29, 2012


New Jersey Rep
By Al Letson

WHEN: March 8-25, 2012; Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 PM; Saturdays at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM; and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Special previews are on Thursday, March 8 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM and Friday, March 9 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
WHERE: New Jersey Rep, 179 Broadway in Long Branch
TICKETS: $35 with discounts for students (full-time 13-25), and groups of 10 or more. Additional performances can be scheduled on Thursday and Friday matinees or Sunday nights for groups of 30 or more.
For tickets call 732.229.3166 or visit for online ticketing.
Warning: Strong adult language.

New Jersey Repertory Company is proud to present Summer In Sanctuary, an explosive new play by Al Letson, a nationally recognized award–winning slam poet, performer, playwright, and the host and producer of the popular State of the Re: Union on National Public Radio.

The title refers to “Sanctuary,” a community center located on 8th Street, in one of the toughest sections of Jacksonville, Florida, where Mr. Letson spent three months as a creative writing teacher at a summer camp for inner city teenagers. His intentions were noble. Letson grew up in a middle-class family in North Jersey, the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, and he wanted to make a difference. Imbued with idealism, he enthusiastically went down to Jacksonville but very quickly learned that “sanctuary” was a dangerously deceptive word, and that soon he would be challenged as he had never before been challenged, and that all his ideals of “giving-back,” good intentions and resolve, would soon be tested bitterly.

The kids he was supposed to “instruct” were fighting for survival on a daily basis in an environment rife with poverty, drugs and violent crime, and the fact that Mr. Letson is African-American did not give him a free pass. He had been dropped into a veritable war-zone, and although he sought desperately to connect and to impart the literature that he loved to his students, he was completely unprepared for what came next. He was confronted from the get-go with sullen faces, curses and rage, and quickly learned that the job description of “creative writing teacher” was much too narrow and that he would have to improvise if he was to survive serving as coach, therapist, advisor, chauffer, videographer and policeman. He found that things could explode at any moment and often did in this highly charged uncertain environment, and that the kids that he was trying to teach could be swallowed up at any time by the dangerous neighborhood where gang killings were the norm.

Most would have fled, but much to Letson’s credit he stayed put and dug in his heels, recognizing that although the painful journey that he was about to embark upon would test his character to the extreme, he could emerge with his compassion and ideals burnished and strengthened by reality.

With poetry, music and videos Summer in Sanctuary takes the audience on an intimate journey with Letson into the dark and wavering soul of America where redemption is still possible.

Special thanks to the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for support of NJ Rep and this production of Summer in Sanctuary. Additional funding provided by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Horizon Foundation for NJ, and the NJ State Council on the Arts.

NJ Rep is a non-profit, professional theater located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, only minutes from the Jersey Shore. Free on-site parking and easy access from NJ Transit (North Jersey Coast Line) and Academy Buses.