Life and Death in Chicago Youth Theater

Life and Death in Chicago Youth Theater

In this short television news feature, I explored the importance of youth theater in Chicago in a video about The Yard–a student run ensemble putting on their first play, “The 4th Graders Present: An Unnamed Love Suicide.”

Joel Ewing, director of the production and Lead Theater teacher at Senn Arts Magnet High School, reflects upon the many components that formed The Yard and how theater can help young people develop their voices.

Read More

A Review of Jessica Abel’s Book OUT ON THE WIRE

A Review of Jessica Abel’s Book OUT ON THE WIRE

Timing is everything, and rarely books come along at the exact moment we need them in our lives. Last week, I read an article in the Chicago Reader about Jessica Abel’s yet-to-be-released graphic non-fiction book Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, the same week I officially began my Masters program in Digital Storytelling.

Despite having lived for two years in Japan, I steer clear of comics and graphic novels. I love regular
novels, movies, and podcasts, so I never felt like I needed to learn about and appreciate another format. Just as National Public Radio revealed the power of audio stories to millions of listeners, Abel opened my eyes to the power of comics. Her research could have been presented in a multitude of platforms, perhaps a documentary film, but no platform would have the soul of her artistry. The characters’ idiosyncrasies and brilliance came to life with her drawings.

Read More

Q: Are we not storytellers? A: We are DEVO

Q: Are we not storytellers? A: We are DEVO

Seeing my high school students walk down the hallways making films out of every insignificant tick of the second hand, I wonder if we’ll all look back on this era as a true renaissance, a time when technology enabled us to finally create the grandiose visions previously locked up inside our heads. Perhaps all these young minds needed was a piece of technology as awesome as a smart phone to unlock their true potential. We hear the messages the advertisers are sending loud and clear–WE’RE ALL STORYTELLERS! No longer are we consumers; we’re creators.

I teach journalism, and I find this message frightening. By taking the “We are all storytellers” message seriously, my students, really folks of all ages, run the risk of hubristically producing films and projects that abuse all the worst parts of our culture–stereotypical tropes, unlikeable characters, pointless special effects, and Michael Bay level dialogue. I’d choose Aunt Patty and Aunt Selma’s vacation slides any day.

Somehow storytelling became one of those jobs/hobbies/careers that the American everyman feels competent in doing, recreationally or professionally. I believed it in myself as well, for years. Just as I was convinced as a child that even though I didn’t make the junior high basketball team, I had what it took to make it to the NBA (that Michael Jordan story got to all of us).

Read More

The Jonny Hollywood Saga Part One: Along for the Ride

The Jonny Hollywood Saga Part One: Along for the Ride

I met Jonny Hollywood in 2002–he picked me and my friend Chris up late one summer night in his white van. What should have been a five minute ride turned into a trek around the many landmarks that made up Jonny Hollywood’s life.

After a few near death moments, and after I fled the van in terror, I realized the story of that night would remain with me for years. So what happened to Jonny Hollywood?

Read More

Conquering the Phone Interview: 7 tips for journalists

Conquering the Phone Interview: 7 tips for journalists

Long before I hunted for interviews as a journalist, phone calls created anxiety and sometimes near panic. Whether I was mustering up the courage to call a girl in my high school class or spilling the beans to my parents about a bad grade on a college exam, the telephone felt like it only created awkward moments and shame. But as a budding journalist, I see the need to abandon my hang-ups about phone interviews and pick up some essentials from experts in the field.

What challenges arise with a phone call? As an interviewer, it’s harder to make the interviewee comfortable over the phone. Chit chat with a stranger isn’t as natural without eye contact and hand gestures. The small talk we use in person (“Do you come to this coffee shop often?” “Isn’t that a neat painting!”) doesn’t work; there’s no common ground when a ringing phone is picked up. But that doesn’t mean the conversation has to be uncomfortable. In his article “The Phone Interview Lives, and Why That’s a Good Thing,” public relations blogger Clay Zeigler wrote, “The telephone allows for a level of detail, clarification and nuance not possible with other electronic methods.” Though an in person interview might be ideal, the phone is a close second.

Read More