State of the Re:Union
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State of the Re:Union is a nationally aired Public Radio show created and hosted by playwright and performance artist Al Letson. With a journalistic, documentary-style approach, the hour-long program focuses exclusively on one city or town in the scope of an episode featuring interviews, commentary, recordings, listener-generated letters and music. State of the Re:Union is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange and National Public Radio and is available as a free podcast.
|Running time||60 Minutes|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Created by||Al Letson|
|Senior editor(s)||Taki Telonidis|
|Produced by||Tina Antolini, Laura Starecheski, Brie Burge, Jan Bennett, Creative Empire LLC.|
|Executive producer(s)||Al Letson and Ian DeSousa|
State of the Re:Union was a concept created by Al Letson as an entry in the Public Radio Talent Quest, which started with more than 1,400 hopefuls. The contest aimed to identify a new generation of Public Radio on-air talent. After four rounds and voting from both a select panel of judges and the public at large, three winners were selected. For his pilot episode, Letson and team created "Welcome to D.C." Two of the three winning shows were awarded with a year's worth of funding to produce new episodes, including State of the Re:Union.
The stated mission of State of the Re:Union is to "show listeners how we are more alike than we are different and the many ways our differences are celebrated." The additional underlying premise is to show "how a particular city, town or area creates a community." Each hour-long episode centers on a particular area and typically poses a question with which to explore the area. For example, the Jacksonville episode asks the question, "Is Jacksonville the Bold New City of the South?" as it is advertised. Typically, the show centers on three to four segments that feature stories that try to answer the proposed question. Letson narrates the program and conducts most of the interviews, but stories are also heard from first-person narratives. The main segments are accompanied by listener-written and read letters to the city, music, lighter fare and Letson's spoken word pieces.
Chosen topics are typically selected from current events, cultural happenings and out-of-the-ordinary business ventures. Due to such a wide range of features, the tone ranges from serious, investigatory and at times somber to happy, hopeful and humorous.
About Al LetsonEdit
Early in his career, Al Letson established himself in the Poetry Slam Movement, reaping artistic credibility and renown. He has performed on a number of national, regional and local stages, including HBO's Def Poetry Jam, CBS's Final Four PreGame Show and commercial projects for Sony, the Florida Times Union, Adobe Software and the Doorpost Film Project.
In addition to hosting, producing, editing and writing State of the Re:Union, Letson works as a professional playwright, actor and director. His plays have been performed across the country to critical acclaim including Summer in Sanctuary, Julius X and Griot: He Who Speaks the Sweet Word. Letson has directed several stage productions and three movie shorts, one of which, Sign Language, was a semi-finalist for the Fox filmmaking reality show On the Lot.
Pilot episode - Welcome to D.C.
Featured: Washington, D.C.
Produced by Al Letson and Taki Telonidis
Episode 1 - Motor City Rebound
Produced by Al Letson and Zak Rosen
Episode 2 - Jacksonville: Bold New City of the South?
Featured: Jacksonville, Florida
Subjects: Church of Jacksonville Takes on Racial Issues, Operation New Hope Paves the Way for Recitivism Programs and the Controversy surrounding the Name of Local High School Nathan B. Forrest High School
Produced by Al Letson and Creative Empire, LLC.
Episode 3 - Heart of the Heartland
Featured: Des Moines, Iowa
Subjects: Al Obeidi on His Story and New Home, The Des Moines Social Club, The Envy Corps and their music, a personal voyage on Gay Marriage in Iowa and innovative, yet simple Pig Farming methods used by one creative farmer to prevent being squeezed out by bigger factory farms
Produced by Al Letson and Creative Empire, LLC.
Season one is composed of 12 total episodes that include five spring season episodes, five fall season episodes and two specials. State of the Re:Union's spring season carriage topped out at 172 markets and the Black History Month special on Bayard Rustin was carried in 165 markets.
Black History Month Special - Bayard Rustin, Who Is This Man?
Featured: Bayard Rustin
Subjects: Bayard Rustin - Rustin counseled Martin Luther King Jr. on the use non-violent resistance, was the architect of the March on Washington and forever altered the course of American History. Despite these accomplishments, his name is not mentioned alongside other civil rights leaders. This episode explores his work, his life and tackles the question, why didn't Rustin make the history books?
Brooklyn - Change Happens
Featured: Brooklyn, New York
Subjects: Atlantic Yards is the biggest development project in Brooklyn's history and State of the Re:Union examines why residents are so divided about it. The episode also includes a whimsical tour through the borough, a look into the memory murals found throughout Brooklyn and an interview with musician and producer John Forté.
Brooklyn - Change Happens was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.
Greensburg - To the Stars through Difficulties
Featured: Greensburg, Kansas
Subjects: A massive tornado came close to wiping the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, off the map in May 2007. This episode includes residents recounting their experience on the night of the tornado and the aftermath, as well as a look into the town's decision to rebuild green.
Greensburg - To the Stars through Difficulties was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.
Milwaukee - City of Vision
Featured: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Subjects: Family House, an assisted living center for seniors that was started by a registered nurse that quit her job and moved back to Milwaukee to make a difference. Also featured is Will Allen's urban agricultural movement and the effects of violent crime are explored as former convicts face residents and local law enforcement.
Milwaukee - City of Vision was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.
New Orleans - The Big Easy
Featured: New Orleans, Louisiana
Subjects: State of the Re:Union visits New Orleans to explore how the city is negotiating that tension between the old and the new, from race relations to po boys to combating crime, five years after Hurricane Katrina. Topics from the rebuilding process to bounce hip-hop are included.
New Orleans - The Big Easy was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.
Oakridge - A Work in Progress
Featured: Oakridge, Oregon
Subjects: At one time considered "The Heart of the Timber Empire", the town's economy came crashing down when the lumber mills closed shop. This episode explores how the town is rejuvenating its economy and image.
Oakridge - A Work in Progress was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.
Española - The Land Remembers
Featured: Española, New Mexico
Subjects: Acequias are an ancient tradition and this episode explores what they are, how they work and their uncertain future. The area's culture is explored through folk musician, author and educator Cipriano Vigil. Lowriders are a family tradition in the area dubbed the "Lowrider Capital of the World".
Española - The Land Remembers was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.
Twin Cities - World within Two Cities
Subjects: From Tibetans to Somalis, Iraqis to the Khmer people of Cambodia, the Twin Cities have become a wildly diverse haven for immigrants. In this episode, SOTRU explores the worlds within the Twin Cities, from Ethiopian Lutherans to Hmong rappers to a Somali community struggling with a devastating mystery.
Twin Cities - World within Two Cities was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.
Austin - Growing Pains
Featured: Austin, Texas
Subjects: Austin is wrestling with maintaining its countercultural feel due to the success that has ushered in new development and population growth. The episode also explores the boom of trailer eateries, the Cathedral of Junk and the Make Austin Normal movement, a counter to the Keep Austin Weird movement.
Austin - Growing Pains was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.
Los Angeles - Home, Sweet Home
Subjects: The episode explores the idea of home from many vantage points. The Mariachi Plaza has been a gathering place for mariachis since the 1960s and has become a fountain of employment and community for them. The episode also includes the Watts House Project, the Starry Kitchen and transitional age youth homelessness.
"Los Angeles - Home, Sweet Home" was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.
"Appalachia - Appalachia Rising"
Subjects: This episode explores mountain top removal mining and its economic and environmental implications. Also featured is a radio show that gives hope to prisoners and a small West Virginia town reinventing itself as a center for the arts.
"Appalachia Rising" was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.
State of the Re:Union Veterans Day Special - Coming Soon
State of the Re:Union's website, www.stateofthereunion.com features segments produced solely for the web, videos taken from stories featured in the radio show, articles, a music podcast titled Sounds of the Re:Union, and blog posts from Al Letson as well as members of the State of the Re:Union team.
Podcast and Videos State of the Re:Union features a number of videos and podcasts that dig further into stories featured in the radio program, thoughts from host Al Letson on a wide range of subjects as well as a podcast that focuses exclusively on music called Sounds of the Re:Union.
Sounds of the Re:Union recently released a podcast exploring indie rock featuring some of the genre's biggest names including Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service), Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, Chris Hrasky (Explosions in the Sky), Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Pat McGuire (Editor-in-Chief of FILTER Magazine).
State of the Re:Union Preview Party - June 19, 2009
Al Letson hosted a preview party at WJCT studios that included:
- A video feature as well as an interview and audience question and answer session with Pastors Mike and Connie Smith from the “One Nation, Under God” segment.
- An interview and audience question and answer session with Kevin Gay of Operation New Hope from the “Operation New Hope” segment.
- A video feature of the "What's In a Name?" segment.
- A sneak peek of the nearly-finished State of the Re:Union video introduction.
- An audience question and answer session, as well as a spoken word performance from the show’s creator and host, Al Letson.
SOTRU - A Celebration of Community - September 8, 2010
State of the Re:Union held a fundraising event at the Hicks Auditorium in the downtown Jacksonville Library that included:
- A presentation by SOTRU host, Al Letson, that was emceed by WJCT's Melissa Ross and an introduction from NPR's Eric Nuzum.
- A recounting of Season 1 travels.
- A viewing of three State of the Re:Union documentaries - New Orleans: Murder Board, Austin: Trailer Eateries and Appalachia: Mountain Top Removal Mining. and
- A multimedia poem.
State of the Re:Union is in the planning and research stage of Season 2.