LTE also has embraced the art of writing and performing plays. In a collaborative effort, eight members -- Diane Perez, Nasheed Jackson, Zarifa Oswg, William Brown, Jahkey Kleinhans, Terry Fernando Newton, Kristoff Skalet, and the collective's founder Shamele Jenkins -- have not only penned individual parts of the entire show but in the process, perhaps quite appropriately, they've become actors. Each of the poets portrays the character he or she crafted. "We realized that we wanted to have something to help people see the true essence of everyday people," says LTE member Terry Fernando Newton.
An admirable mission indeed. But be forewarned: Although the tapestry of monologues and dialogues from varied perspectives promises characters to which anyone can relate, once onstage the players are not the most pleasant people to be around. In the case of Newton's character, they're pissed-off urbanites. He dreamed up an irascible man named Al Mean Mad. "I'm mad at everything," he explains. A less loquacious Jenkins, who refuses to reveal the gist of her character, assures there will be an uplifting ending. Hinting about the show's evolution, she says: "You know how when you hear a poem or a story and they're talking about how they love someone or hate someone? What happens before that? What happens after that? This is just a continuum."
Future plans for LTE include more plays, but first the group wants to spend a year taking this one on the road. Performances already are set for Jacksonville and Atlanta, where they hope to appeal to all sorts of audiences, literary nuts or not. For those who hear the word poetry and start to sweat, Jenkins offers these somewhat comforting words about the play: "You will never know it's poetry. It's straight drama, better than a soap opera. This is a piece that is so powerful and so inspirational, it will make you want to slap someone -- if not yourself!"