Radio Students Spin their True-Life Tales at Microphone of Local Bar

  • By CUNY J-School Staff

By Tom DiChristopher
Class of 2012

Rebecca Sesny, '12, recounts her travails as a teen driver trying to convince her parents they can trust her with the family car. (Photo by Jenny Marc, '12)

Students in the CUNY J-School’s Audio News Writing and Reporting course took the stage at the Hell’s Kitchen dive bar Tobacco Road for an exercise in storytelling on Mar. 15. The event was inspired by The Moth storytelling series and followed the students’ recent lecture with Moth Grandslam Champion Ed Gavagan.

Course instructor Jesse Hardman tasked the students with spinning true-life tales on the theme “Boldness or Stupidity: Moving Past Fear for Better or Worse.”

The stories spanned the globe, with stops on four continents. Justin Mitchell recalled the oversight that almost cost him his toes on a winter trek through Mongolia. Sarah Amandolare recounted how an expired visa and sentimental attachment to her passport in Prague nearly got her banned from the European Union. And Sean Flynn reflected on a night spent in a dead man’s bed in El Salvador, and an unsettling encounter at a checkpoint.

Back in the U.S., Tristan Hallman told of an absurd late-night tableau in suburban Texas that helped him move beyond the comfort of home and strike out on his own. Jesse Leon braved cold, mud, and ice to prove he could complete a 12-mile endurance race in the wilds of New Jersey. And, in this audio clip, Willis Arnold moves into a sketchy building in West Philadelphia after his landlord changed the locks on him.

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Gavagan also graced the stage, taking the crowd through his humanitarian mission to earthquake-ravaged Haiti and his personal realization about the weight of his own day-to-day worries.

When the storytelling event ran overtime, the students were graciously afforded an extra half-hour by the evening’s next act, the Steve Marshall Band. Marshall, an old school New York City rocker, was even inspired to fire off a yarn about a brief encounter with The Ramones.

The assignment challenged students to think about critical elements in radio such as engaging narrative and developing a voice.

“When you read a script for public radio editors, they often ask, ‘Who are you reading this for, who is sitting listening to you?’ This exercise helps radio students to take that concept to heart, to get over any fears of having a strong, engaging presence,” said Hardman.

Twelve students took the stage that night, and their stories were recorded for future air on community radio. Stay tuned!