“Pride’s Not Enough”

Fade in ambiance of chanting: “Love Wins!”

ROBYN: Jenn Cameron will never forget the gay pride parade in Traverse City last year.

JENN: I was on the, the start car, my friend Gary’s 1972 Chevy pick-up.

ROBYN: Standing on top of that pick-up, all Jenn could see was people. People everywhere. Six blocks, sidewalk to sidewalk, of marchers with rainbow flags. All Jenn could think was—

JENN: Oh my gosh! This thing has a life of its own!

Audio of the song “Dancing Queen” playing through speakers fades up underneath chanting.

ROBYN: When Jenn co-founded Up North Pride in 2014, only 300 people came out for the parade. The next year, 1200. And the day Jenn stood on that pick-up truck, over 3000 people showed up in support of LGBT rights.

JENN: Oh my god! We’re all in this together! All of these people! This is our community!

Narration pauses, and chanting and music fades up for a few seconds, then fades to silence.

ROBYN: Now, it’s less than a month to the fourth parade and there’s one thought Jenn just can’t shake–

JENN: Pride’s not enough.

ROBYN: Even though Jenn co-founded the largest pride festival in Northern Michigan, it’s only a start.

JENN: We need direct services for this population. It’s so—it’s densely rural, right? And so, what I know from being a kid out in the country is, the closer you get to the city, maybe the better the resources are and the likelihood of acceptance.

ROBYN: Let’s rewind a bit. Jenn grew up in a small town in Texas.

JENN: I really had no idea why I felt so different.

ROBYN: Turns out, Jenn wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

JENN: My best friend, he came out to me. And I said, “Hey, that’s a great idea. Can I come with you?”

ROBYN: After college, Jenn got married and settled down in Northern Michigan. Discrimination wasn’t really a problem, but there wasn’t a hub for LGBT folks, either. The idea for Up North Pride came from Jenn’s friend, Krista, who called Jenn one day to ask if Traverse City had a gay Pride parade.

JENN: And so I asked my friend, my friends Gary and Allison. I said, “Hey Gary, do you think we could throw a pride event at your bar?” And he said “sure— every month!” And I said, “No Gary, let’s just start with one event.”

ROBYN: But like Jenn was saying earlier, the festival has a life of its own. It’s no longer just a parade. This year, there’s a block party… and a picnic and a pride bike ride. Pride yoga. A candlelight vigil to mark the Orlando Shootings… the list goes on. And even though Jenn gets help from volunteers, some days, it’s just too much.

JENN: I’m gonna take a nap. I think I’m actually gonna take a nap today, because I’m feeling a little worn. Umm… no, I’m probably not, actually.

ROBYN: And even working to the point of exhaustion—

JENN: Pride’s not enough.

ROBYN: So let’s be clear– Jenn’s not saying that Pride festivals aren’t important. They build community and show LGBT folks that they’re not alone… but that community needs more than just a week of celebration, Jenn says. They need direct services that Up North Pride can’t provide.

JENN: We’ve got so many young people out in the woods, so to speak, that are struggling. Who are being bullied at school and in their homes so much that they, you know, are either kicked out or, you know, leave. The question is, what can we do now, today, because that— the need doesn’t change.

ROBYN: So Jenn keeps going. This year’s festival will be the biggest yet. And Jenn will be at the head of the parade, riding in the back of Gary’s pick-up truck… And the day after?

JENN: I will be on my little deck, looking out at the bay, sipping, lemonade, hanging out with my wife… and taking a nap.

ROBYN: For Interlochen Public Radio, I’m Robyn Di Giacinto.


This story was originally produced at the June 2017 Transom Traveling Workshop at Interlochen Center for the Arts. It was aired by Interlochen Public Radio on June 23, 2017.


ROBYN (live intro): Welcome, all, to Podcast Corner, our weekly segment where we talk about awesome podcasts that you should be listening to! But sadly, this will be our last episode of Podcast Corner, and my last broadcast for WRGW. So I’m closing it out with a podcast by one of the District’s most iconic institutions: the one and only Smithsonian. Robert, cue the tape—

TONY COHN: So “Sidedoor” is a podcast from the Smithsonian that looks at how seemingly unrelated topics unexpectedly overlap. With the title “Sidedoor,” we wanted to signal to our listeners that this wasn’t your typical entrance to one of our physical museums—which is how we’re traditionally perceived—but rather, it was gonna be an unexpected entryway, the side door, into all the cool things, the cool, wacky, unexpected collection pieces, stories, animals, research topics that are going on at the Smithsonian.

I was on the metro one day coming to work—I live in DC and work down here on the [National] Mall. And I was listening to “Freakonomics,” a podcast. And I realized what… the reason that I loved that show was because it had really great storytellers, it was really good storytelling and it had an ‘aha’ moment of, “I learned something new,” and I felt really smart. And I realized that those are feelings that I have every day on my job at Smithsonian. You know, as a museum, we’ve been in the storytelling business forever. But we just weren’t talking about ourselves on this platform. So I created a proof of concept with my co-worker Gabe. And we literally were in a closet with some curator-friends that we knew. And then from that proof of concept, we were able to get greenlit to get some funding to do a more fleshed-out, eight episode little mini-season.

The amount of content that we have is definitely our biggest blessing and our biggest challenge. We have over a hundred and fifty-seven million collection items, so there’s tons of stories to choose from. So it was a really great challenge for us. We spent a lot of time with a big whiteboard just rattling off different stories and talking to really interesting people—from, you know, the cheetah keeper to an ancient Chinese sculpture conservator to a folk music collector—just really trying to figure out what were the, not the best stories from the Smithsonian, but the best stories to be told on a podcast and in audio narrative form.

I think our podcast is unique because we’re the Smithsonian. I mean, the Smithsonian is an incredibly unique organization. As I said earlier, we’re the world’s largest museum, research and education complex and with that comes the world’s leading experts in arts, science, history and culture. It’s one thing to read a book about research; it’s another thing to actually talk to the person who wrote the book and hear it from the horse’s mouth, a story which—it was definitely something we were trying to accomplish with “Sidedoor,” was bringing—that we are trying to accomplish with “Sidedoor,” is allowing the Smithsonian researchers, artists, zoologists, whatever they are, to talk about what they’re doing themselves directly to audiences.

The short answer is ‘yes.’ We’re coming back with a second season. We’re moving very quickly to make that happen. People should be expecting more content in the summer. We’ll be coming back stronger than ever and I’m really excited about that.

ROBYN (live outro): Be sure to subscribe to Sidedoor on your favorite podcasting app and learn more on their website: www.si.edu/sidedoor.

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Apr. 25, 2017.

PODCAST CORNER: “Alice Isn’t Dead” with Joseph Fink

ROBYN (live intro): Welcome, all, to Podcast Corner, our weekly segment where we talk about awesome podcasts that you should be listening to. This week, we had an exclusive interview with Joseph Fink, co-creator and writer of the hit podcast “Welcome to Night Vale.” But this time, we’re talking about a different show: season two of the serial fiction podcast “Alice Isn’t Dead,” which debuted last week.

JOSEPH FINK: Sure, it’s a scripted fiction podcast, it’s a serial thriller about a woman, Keisha, who is a truck driver driving around the country searching for her wife, Alice, who she thought was dead for a long time, but as it turns out is not dead. And this leads her to kind of a much larger story involving serial killers who may not be human and a lot of other weird things out on the highways of our country.

As some people hearing this might know, I write another show called Welcome to Night Vale. We tour that as a live show, we’re actually touring that right now. Because of that, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in a van, driving around this country. So I just started taking notes as we drove. I just had eventually a lot of notes about things that I’d seen across the country and I started turning that into this fiction show.

Oh, everywhere she goes is real. Every route she drives is a real route that you could actually drive in the time she drives it. Obviously there’s not actually a time-changing factory on the beach in Florida, but everything else she saw in Florida in episode, I think it was four of our first season, everything else she saw in Florida were actually things I saw while going through there… You know, this first episode [of season two], I actually just took—I was running out of tourist stories, so I just rented a car and drove around down near Palm Springs and the Salton Sea and collected a few days’ worth of trip to just kind of turn into an episode.

When I started writing, I was writing for Jasika Nicole—she’s just a really amazing performer. She has a way of really making text come alive. Making her a woman and making her black made a lot of sense. There’s so many sci-fi thriller type things that are almost entirely populated by white men, without comment. And so I just made the decision that every character in Alice would be a woman unless there was a specific reason for them not to be. I don’t know, it wasn’t the—the main goal of the story, obviously, was to create this interesting thriller that was also a travelogue, but it also seemed like it wasn’t ultimately that difficult to also just make the characters the kind of people that don’t often star in stories like this.

Well, we’re going—obviously, for those of you who have heard the first episode, it’s, I think a different focus than the first season in that we’ve introduced sort of a new antagonist and the search is no longer for Alice, but for a different thing. But in a lot of ways, it’s going to be, I think a similar format. You know, we had another voice come in on this first episode, but that voice is only going to come in on a few of the episodes this season. Mostly it’s going to be us listening to Keisha, the main character, talk.

I don’t think there’s any other show that’s doing exactly what we are, which is a horror thriller that is based around real places in the country. Night Vale Presents is something we started in order to try and, you know, create the kinds of shows that we weren’t hearing out there and wanted to hear. So keep an eye out if you like podcasts that are a little different than the big NPR or other kind of non-fiction podcasts.

ROBYN (live outro): Check out nightvalepresents.com to learn more about “Alice Isn’t Dead” and all its lovely counterparts. And be sure to grab tickets for the live show at the Lincoln Theater this Thursday night!

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Apr. 11, 2017.

PODCAST CORNER: “Choice/Less” with Jenn Stanley

ROBYN (live intro): Welcome to Podcast Corner, our weekly segment where we talk about awesome podcasts that you should be listening to! This week, we talked with Jenn Stanley, host and producer of the storytelling podcast Choice/less, distributed by ReWire Radio—about storytelling, being a female producer in a male-dominated industry and, as always, an insider’s look on the making of the show.

JENN STANLEY: Choice/less is a narrative podcast. People come in and they tell their personal stories about the reproductive injustices they’ve faced and then I put it in a large context of what’s happening legislatively.

I kind of discovered radio late, in my twenties, but I did feel like it was a tough world to become a part of and it was very male-dominated. The only people I knew who did any recording were men and every time I tried to ask questions, they kind of dismissed me and never really taught me. And then I just thought, “well, this isn’t for me.” I hadn’t put two and two together that it was a gender thing and once I realized that I was like, “I’m just gonna get a field recorder and start recording people.” And so I just started doing that.

I knew I wanted to be doing audio stories and I knew I was really interested in personal stories. I’m adopted and I always felt growing up that I was fed a narrative. I felt like my birth mother was always really invisible in the equation. And I became really curious about the way we talk about reproduction and how women are so absent in the conversation about reproductive healthcare.

I think that there can be a politically convenient abortion story—and that is not something that I’m interested in. We can’t forget that at the heart of it, these are real people’s lives and that how they experience their story, how they experience their lives, that’s what’s most important. What’s most important is… them.

Our sexual relationships and our decision whether or not to parent and when to parent—these are all complicated and very personal things. So the fact that I can sit in a room with somebody and they talk to me about that and they trust me… I’m so grateful. And I take that really seriously. I really… I want to make their story fair, I want to make their story sound great and I wanna put it into context. And I really want these stories to make a difference and I believe that they do.

When I’m thinking about making the show and who I’m making it for—it’s kind of mostly for people who are kinda on the fence. They believe that abortion shouldn’t be illegal, “but—,” you know? And I will say one thing that’s been really positive for me is there’ve been some people in my life who maybe don’t share my pro-choice view. They’ve given me feedback that they just never really thought about the abortion debate in this personal way and that it’s really opened their eyes. So if the show can do more of that, that would be my goal.

We’ll be back in May for about a month—we’re about to do a short series on the dark history of reproductive health advancements. One of the stories we’re covering is about contraceptive coercion in Puerto Rico and the early [birth control] pill trials there. We talk about the Tuskegee syphilis study. We’re gonna be talking about kind of a wide range but maybe more—a bigger breadth, kind of, and we’re gonna reel it in and give it a personal touch. But it’ll be a little different than a typical Choice/Less story. And then we’re gonna take another break and then we’ll be back with a full season three some time in mid to late summer.

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Apr. 4, 2017.

PODCAST CORNER: “Between the Liner Notes” with Matthew Billy

ROBYN (live intro): Welcome to Podcast Corner, a weekly segment where we talk about a cool new podcast that you should be listening to! If you like music, you’ll love Between the Liner Notes, a documentary podcast on the unsung stories of the musical world. Last month, the show released part one of a two-part series on the rise and fall of disco culture. And guess what? We have an exclusive interview with host and producer Matthew Billy just in time for the release of part two!

Matthew Billy: So Between the Liner Notes is a podcast about music history—and we like to focus on stories that have kind of slipped through the cracks.

I was sitting in a bar with my girlfriend and I wanted to start a podcast. I was kicking around all of these ideas. And it was about 2 a.m. and I started pontificating, if you will, about how Johann Sebastian Bach invented a tuning called Equal Tempered Tuning. But she turns to me at the end of that conversation was like, “You know, Matt, this should be your podcast.”

I mean the people that I’ve met are extremely interesting. For example, the founders of MTV… Oh, you know, that’s a good story! I reached out to one of the creators of MTV, Fred Seibert and he was super nice. He invited me up to his office ‘cause he now makes cartoons for television for a company called the Frederator, obviously named after him. You know I get up there and he has one of the strangest offices I have ever seen. First of all it’s all an open floor plan, right, some everyone’s just sitting at this massive table in the middle. And that table, that massive table is made out of Legos. No joke! It’s a bunch of Legos with a piece of glass on top (laughs). And there are stuffed animals everywhere. They’re all stuffed animals from characters in the cartoons that he produced. But I mean, you have never seen this many stuffed animals in an office. So we end up sitting in an office – also with all of these lady bug stuffed animals – and having this two hour conversation. And at one point his assistant comes in, about an hour into it, and his assistant says, “Hey Fred! Just so you know, it’s almost 12 and you have a 12 o’clock meeting.” And he turns to his assistant and says, “Cancel my meeting. I’d rather do this interview.” I mean, you just don’t get any nicer than that.

In my episode about the origin of disco, it’s called “The Dance Floor Doesn’t Lie.” And what I try to do is I try to create a realistic portrait of how disco was created. In 1970, you know, playing songs back to back and segwaying them in a club was a brand-new idea and these DJ’s ran with it. And in ’70 there wasn’t even music called disco. They were playing soul music and funk and even stuff like The Rolling Stones. And from that endless string of music in the club, this amazing culture emerged. And the first episode is about that culture: what it is and how it came to be. The second episode is about how that culture was misappropriated by Madison Avenue and corporations, and really kind of bastardized and turned into, in the post Saturday Night Fever world, this version of disco that most people find repulsive.

First of all, the production is top notch. You know, I spend a lot of time mixing it, so it sounds like a very high quality audio. I think the stories that I select, you’re not going to hear anywhere else. The Gimlet podcast, Undone – which I think is canceled now – but their very first episode is about Disco Demolition Day, right? Very similar topic to what my second disco episode is gonna be about. But they did not get into it the way I do. My clips are crazier. Like, for example, having Joey Carvello insult the DJ is, um… you’re not gonna hear that on that other show. So I think you’re gonna hear stuff on Between the Liner Notes that you will not get in other podcasts. There’s a lot of similar shows out there, but nothing quite like it.

ROBYN (live outro): Thanks again to Matthew Billy for talking to us! You can subscribe to BTLN on your favorite podcasting app and sign up for their monthly newsletter on their website.

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Mar. 21, 2017.

Student Association elections kick off with annual postering day

ROBYN: Okay…


ROBYN (narrating): 6:30 a.m. Kogan Plaza. It’s Postering Day and the official start of SA campaign season. In about a half hour, candidates are gonna meet at the starting line and race to claim prime wall space for, well, posters.

ROBYN: How does it feel being up this early out here?

STUDENT: It’s very cold…. But honestly I’m a morning person, so I’m okay with it.

(Students talk in background. The chatter gets louder as more arrive.)

ROBYN (narrating): Now’s a good time to mention that GW students are really serious about elections… we are in DC, after all. So Postering Day is known for being a free-for-all.

ROBYN: So what’s your guys’ strategy? Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

IMANI ROSS (candidate for SA Undergraduate Senator At-Large): Getting there as fast as possible. We made puzzle pieces, so you can—

ROBYN (narrating): By puzzle pieces, she means six posters taped together, two by three, so you can tape up blocks of posters more efficiently. Honestly, you’d be surprised what folks are willing to do for the perfect poster.

ROBYN: Well that’s a snazzy poster! It says, “A Voice for GW a Voice for You.” It’s got him with his arms crossed, looking off into distance.

STUDENT: That was interesting because the best lighting we could get was him staring directly into the sun.

KAARISH MANIAR (candidate for SA CCAS Undergraduate Senator): It hurt, but—

ROBYN: Oh geez! Are your eyes okay?

KAARISH: I don’t know. I mean, for now…

ROBYN: Okay, well there you have it: Kaar risking it all for the campaign!

ROBYN (narrating): But at the end of the day, it is a friendly competition and there’s a genuine excitement in the air as students prepare for the race ahead.

STUDENT: Where’s our materials?

Alex Simone (Joint Election Committee Chair): Alright guys I just wanted to announce some rules last minute before we start. Don’t cover other people’s posters— kind of in line with the tripping thing, it’s just not nice and we’re adults. We’re gonna have Anne and Amy go stand in the streets so no one gets hit by cars. But, again, look out.

(Students chatter.)

Alex: Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

(Sudden eruption of noise as students run across the street to hang posters. Yelling and the noise of packing tape ripping can be heard.)

ROBYN: We have some teamwork here.

STUDENT: In the right light, I can find the tape seam. I’m having tape problems. I’m up at 7 a.m. and I’m feeling great!

(More tape ripping and students talking.)

ROBYN: Okay, there’s a… that’s dedication. People hanging off the balcony—well, not hanging off of it, just leaning off of it. So how you guys feeling?

STUDENT: How are we feeling?

ROBYN: Yeah, how are you feeling.

STUDENT: I’m just contemplating whether or not it needs more tape.

ROBYN (narrating): It goes on like this for maybe ten minutes. It’s fun to watch. People are competing, but they’re also lending each other tape. Soon, it starts to wind down as people finish up.

ROBYN: How many posters do you think you’ve gotten up so far?

STUDENT: This is our last one.

ROBYN: Your last one! Well I’m glad I caught it! How are you feeling– accomplished?

STUDENT: I’m feeling very… it’s a surreal experience, waking up at like, what, six in the morning to do this. But it’s definitely worth it.

(More tape ripping and students talking.)

ROBYN: I’m heading over to U Yard. Seeing if there are any stragglers.

(Sound of tape and chatter dies down. Gradually replaced by sound of cars and birdsong.)

ROBYN (narrating): You have to admire their dedication. The sun has barely come up, and they’ve already gotten more cardio than I get in a week… and all to hang up a few dozen pieces of paper. So I ask one of them: was it worth it?

STUDENT: I would say absolutely, without a doubt in my mind.

ROBYN: Is that a sarcastic absolutely or…?

STUDENT: No! We have visibly made an impact on the political spirit of this campus.

ROBYN (narrating): And there you have it. GW: a model for the rest of the nation. Robyn Di Giacinto, WRGW News.

This piece was produced and broadcast for WRGW District Radio on Mar. 21, 2017.

PODCAST CORNER: “Embedded” with Chris Benderev

ROBYN (live intro): Welcome to Podcast Corner, a weekly segment where we talk about a cool new podcast that you should be listening to! This week, we have a WRGW exclusive interview with Chris Benderev, producer of NPR’s hit podcast ‘Embedded,’ which returns on March 9!

CHRIS BENDEREV, producer of NPR’s Embedded: So the podcast is hosted by NPR’s Kelly McEvers, who’s also the host of All Things Considered. And the tagline is, “We take a story from the news and we go deep.” Often it’s something that wasn’t the biggest headline of the year, but something that was persistent or we had a lot of questions about to kind of get a longer reported documentary-ish sort of piece on that topic.

The main thing that we felt set us apart in the first season and we want to continue to do is—most of our tape is from the field. Most of it is us with recorders and microphones outside of a radio studio, like out somewhere—whether that’s, you know, with biker gangs or in a school or in an immigration court. You wanna hear that both in the ambient sound of wherever we are and in the fact that it’s deliberately written in a way so that you are rarely leaving the scene that you’re in, if that makes sense.

I mean, there’s only one episode that I did a lot of reporting myself on. The story was basically this school outside of Pittsburgh, which is in a low-income, mostly African-American neighborhood called Wilkinsburg. And they have one high school that’s been there for 100 years. It was closing that year—last year, 2016—and so we wanted to be there for the closing. We visited about three or four different times and the second time, the time we spent the most time there, it just happened to be that there was this horrific, briefly national headline making shooting of like…seven or eight people at a barbeque nearby. So we were there for this very sad day at the school where people were realizing that people they knew or relatives had—had died. And the thing I hadn’t realized and that Kelly had always told me was that there is a certain little… there’s a difference when you go somewhere for a sustained period of time. And I hadn’t really experienced that yet and I think the difference was—you know, this school is in a neighborhood where most of their encounters with the media are after bad things. And we were just really—we had been at the school a few times and we’d been there a couple days that week before the shooting happened and we did not know going in whether they would let us in, whether they would want to talk to us at all. And people were more trusting than I quite frankly expected. So that’s the main thing that stuck with me.

Yeah, ok, so we have a new—I wouldn’t call it a full season. It’s like three episodes that are coming out in March—March 9, 16 and 23. If you recall, back in the summer there was that one week where, I believe, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille were both—videos of their deaths by police were all over the news. And then in Dallas there was an attack on police. And we just—Kelly, especially became really interested in police videos and these things we see from time to time and she wanted to pick a few and tell the before and after stories of those videos. So they are different—this is a different season in that it’s only three episodes for now—we will be back with more after that.

ROBYN (live outro): Can’t wait to hear the new episode? Listen online and/or subscribe with your favorite podcast app. And be sure to follow the show on Twitter @NPREmbedded for more updates!

This piece was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Mar. 7, 2017.

A chat with Darren Davis, iHeartMedia President and proud GW alumnus

ROBYN: I’m talking with Darren Davis, president at iHeartMedia and iHeartRadio, GW Class of 1995. Thanks for talking with me!

DARREN: Sure, glad to be here.

ROBYN: Alright, so you started your radio career at GW, right?

DARREN: I started while I was at GWU, yeah. I was a sophomore. I was napping in Crawford Hall. I got a phone call from WASH-FM, 97.1 WASH here in DC saying that they’d received my application to be an intern and I went in to see them and they hired me as an intern. That was at the beginning of my sophomore year and within about a month, they hired me full time. I don’t know when I slept, because I mean there were several jobs I was doing. I was the morning show producer. I would catch a city bus out on Pennsylvania Avenue at 2:30 every morning to head up to WASH, which was up on Idaho Avenue. And there was a period during my junior year where I was a full time overnight DJ on WASH-FM from midnight to 5:00, six nights a week—so I was writing my term papers in the studio while I was playing Elton John and Billy Joel and Rod Stewart songs on the radio.

ROBYN: –That’s great.

DARREN: And then I’d get off the air at 5:00 and go down and try and sleep at school a little bit and then go to class during the day. It was a lot but it worked out well. I mean it’s what I always wanted to do since I was a little kid—I wanted to be in the radio business so it—it was a dream come true, it still is a dream come true. It’s been a blast.

ROBYN: So how did the iHeart and WRGW partnership start? I mean, I don’t think that you did WRGW while you were at GW, right?

DARREN: I didn’t, but I reached out to the WRGW folks because, frankly, I wanted alumni to be able to hear WRGW. And having WRGW as one of the thousands of awesome radio stations that you can get on iHeartRadio is great for the alumni. So I’m excited to see the Alumni Association promote it and see how folks enjoy tuning in.

ROBYN: What’s your favorite thing about working in radio and what’s your least favorite thing?

DARREN: There’s never any time off, you know, what people in a typical profession would consider time off. You know, radio, like so media, but certainly radio—it’s a 24/7 business. We’re always on the air. But, you know, on the flip side—so to your other question—what’s one of the great things about the job? That! I absolutely love it. It’s so invigorating. There’s something different every day. We never know what’s going to be going on here. Katy Perry will be walking down the hall one minute and Rush Limbaugh walking down the hall the next minute. It’s always a huge variety of things going on.

ROBYN: So one last question before I let you go. So we have a lot of, you know, great folks working at WRGW and I’m sure that some of the students listening are hoping to go into radio one day. What’s your advice for GW student who are radio hopefuls for getting into that field?

DARREN: I did two things. When I started that internship at WASH, I didn’t look at it like a six month internship and then I was just gonna be done and add it to my resume and move on to something else. I was there all the time—not just the hours that I needed to be there. I was there all the time. That’s why I wanted the internship in the first place, to be there, for heaven’s sake! So I was there. And my advice is pester people, pester people, pester people. That’s what I did. ‘Can I help with that project? Can I sit in on that meeting? Can I please sit in your office and listen on that phone call? Can I please try to go on the air late at night?’ And finally, when you pester them enough, they say ‘Alright already! You can help! You can sit in on that call or you can sit in on that meeting and learn what’s going on!” I mean, I was 19, 20 years old and I was sitting in meetings with 40, 50 year old executives who’d been running radio stations for 20 years. In hindsight, I had no business being in some of the meetings that they let me sit in on. But I was precocious, I was persistent—maybe bordering on annoying, I don’t know, but it sure worked out. You’ve got to immerse yourself in it. And frankly, if it’s not a job that you want to immerse yourself in, then you’ve probably chosen the wrong field for yourself.

ROBYN: Mm-hmm, definitely. Well thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it.

DARREN: You bet! I’m a huge supporter of GW, so I’m glad to get to join you today and talk a little bit.

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Feb. 28. 2017.

Behind the scenes at GW’s “This Body” Opening Night

(Students talk in background.)

ROBYN (narrating): It’s Thursday night and I’m covering the world premiere of This Body GW, a student written show put on by the GW Feminist Student Union. It’s replacing their annual production of The Vagina Monologues, a popular show from the 90’s that’s recently come under fire for lacking diversity. And to be fair, This Body is also a series of monologues– but this time, it’s written by students and it includes stories you might not have heard before. I talk to a cast member named Phedra. Her girlfriend is watching tonight, so she’s feeling–


ROBYN: Yeah?

PHEDRA: Yeah… I’m excited, but also it’s like, the first day and the only time they’re coming so I’m just like– YIKES! But once I’m in there I’m like, in the zone and I’ll be good. But the before part is always like…nightmare inducing (laughs).

ROBYN (narrating): And there’s plenty else to think about. Cast members lounge in the first couple rows of chairs, talking, laughing, eating take-out. In the back, the producers are working on sound check and stage lights with some GW staff. At the front, there’s one of those carpeted pop up type stages that shakes when you walk up the stairs.

(Indistinct chatter.)

NEGI (executive producer): Doors are opening! House is open!! House is open.

(Audience talk in background.)

ROBYN (narrating): Looking around, I’d put the crowd at about 50 people. Oh, and hey– remember Phedra, that girl who was so nervous? Well, while I was milling through the crowd, I met her girlfriend!

ROBYN: She is so nervous!

PHEDRA’S GIRLFRIEND: I know, that’s what she told me, but I’m very excited to see this! And it’s the first one and it’s gay a.f. and I’m so ready (laughs).

(Someone whistles for attention and audience members stop talking.)

NEGI: Hi everybody and welcome to our first ever production of This Body!

(Audience cheers and claps. Producers read announcements. Audience cheers as show starts.)

ROBYN (narrating): A lot of the show is pretty serious– it deals heavily with race, sexual assault, mental illness and identity.

CAST MEMBER 1: And still, I think about what I would’ve done had I known better. Had my older self wrote a letter and it would say: When your mother tells you that you are a mistake, do not believe her. When the boy you like takes forever to make the first move, kiss him first. Do not apologize for feeling.

(Audience cheers and claps.)

ROBYN (narrating): But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any humor.

CAST MEMBER 2: So I decided to explain—“Well, umm, I’m abstinent for religious reasons.” Tinder date’s eyes went wide. Umm, he sat up completely bewildered. [In deep voice] “Oh wow really?! Wow!” I almost started looking around to see if the abstinence centaur had just galloped into the room and laid this crown of abstinent flowers on my abstinent head and then just galloped away and left behind a sense of, like, peace and wonder (audience laughs).

(Audience cheers and claps. As applause dies down, audience and cast members start talking and milling around, hugging and congratulating each other.)

NEGI: Alright, feel free to go mingle, y’all!

CAST MEMBER 3: Can we have a group hug?

ROBYN (narrating): You know, people really like to rip on my generation about trigger warnings and safe spaces and that kind of thing. They say we’re too coddled to have uncomfortable conversations. But tonight, I saw just the opposite: millennials confronting trauma head on and growing because of it. I think this audience member sums it up best–

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I appreciated how honest it was. Like, you know, you’ll some, you’ll have your very close friends where you’ll have someone that you really connect with and will share these things with you, but you aren’t very often given insight into someone’s world that way and you can benefit so much in your own reflection.

This piece was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Feb. 21, 2017.

An interview with the “This Body” creative team

NEGI: Hi! My name is Negi Esfandiari and I’m the executive producer.

MADELINE: My name’s Madeline Stoltz and I’m the assistant producer.

OLIVIA: And my name is Olivia Eggers and I’m also the assistant producer.

ROBYN: So can you guys tell me a little bit more about how the idea for this show came about?

NEGI: Yeah—so a lot of students might know, especially if they’re not first year students, that [GW Feminist Student Union] does a production of The Vagina Monologues every year. It’s been an annual event for our organization for about five years now. I’ve directed it every year that I’ve been at GW and now I’m a senior. But every year that we do it, we kind of amend it a little bit, which they advise not to do on the website for The Vagina Monlogues. But you can only do so much when the script calls for certain things and certain experiences and not others. So we really wanted to make the effort and push ourselves to have a student written production that would better represent GW because it was actually coming from the voices of the students.

ROBYN: So, speaking to that difference—how is this different than The Vagina Monologues? What are some of the voices that are being represented in this production that we didn’t see in the past?

OLIVIA: It’s kind of different just—well, one, the title is different. Not necessarily the theme of the production, but kind of the focus, in that it is ‘this blank body’ and you’re supposed to fill in the blank. And it’s talking about your own individual experiences as a person, or with your body, or pertaining to your body in some way—

NEGI: –Yeah, I mean, Vagina Monologues was obviously a pretty dated piece written in the 90’s, so a lot of the issues that were in the media and exposed then were not all-encompassing, or didn’t really reflect the world’s diversity, or college diversity, GW diversity, whatever. So there were a lot of voices here that were just simply not represented in the original script.

ROBYN: Tell me a little bit more about the production process. What exactly goes into putting together a show like this?

MADELINE: We met with people last semester that were interested in joining the production. Then the selection process happened in January; all the pieces we got were so great. And since then we’ve had individual workshops and group rehearsals where they can work on their pieces, get feedback from us and the other performers. And we just had our dress rehearsal today, so you just saw it all—how it’s gonna happen. That was really exciting. I think just being able to see the flow and having everybody meet each other if they haven’t met was also really cool. Just seeing the community there.

OLIVIA: Well, the tagline that Negi started using, and it’s just been kind of incorporated is “One Campus, Many Stories.” What I think is really revolutionary about this show is that it is actually reflecting on the stories of those around us, and you’re hearing things that you might not have ever heard before. And in total it’s just gonna be a really incredible experience. You’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cry, everything like that. So that’s why I’d say—you know, it’s five bucks and it goes to a great cause. So there’s not really any reason that you wouldn’t want to come see this show.

NEGI: Yeah, I mean, I think people are eager to hear stories. And I think [what’s] really, really valuable about this is its realness and the way that each performer and each writer has committed to sharing this part of themselves. And I think it’ll be really empowering for people who have not been represented in this way before and get to see something where someone like them is talking about something that they might relate to.

This interview was originally broadcast on WRGW District Radio on Feb. 14, 2017.