Intro from Jay Allison: There's something about Louis' voice; it's both wise and callow. It feels like he has the answers while he's searching for them. Louis used to rob people on the street, but he stopped. Now, he's trying to reconcile the person he was with the person he is and wants to be. Louis worked with Anthony Mascorro at 826NYC to tell this powerful, complicated story. (By the way, it was nice for us to learn that Anthony acquired his editing chops at Transom.) We all hope you'll visit Transom to listen, and talk to Louis and Anthony about their piece.
About “Running From Myself” from Louis
I learned about 826NYC when their staff came to my high school to work with my English class. The goal was to publish a collection of our short stories. 826NYC approached me at the end of my senior year to ask if I would be interested in telling my story in a radio piece. I met Anthony who gave me a mini-disc recorder and a microphone and told me to record anything I thought would work for the piece.
“Running from Myself” begins after I give up my negative lifestyle. I question whether my days of mugging have permanently stopped. And I look at my fear of losing many of the positive things I’ve struggled to gain since I stepped on a brighter path. The piece is my attempt to establish if I’ve legitimately changed. And so, I talk to various people about the old me.
Picking the recordings that would make the final cut was time consuming. Many of the conversations were spontaneous, resulting in a mixture of both significant and unnecessary material. The passing of time made the shape of the project clearer, which made editing simpler.
Piecing this together was an emotional time for me. Hearing my friend express her disappointment in me was hard to swallow. There were days where I didn’t want to hear the recordings I’d made to avoid feeling depressed. There were many cuts and changes in what I wanted to say throughout the editing process, because each time I spoke to someone, I learned something about myself. I can honestly say that working on this piece with Anthony and 826NYC was a growing process for me which I enjoyed and am grateful for.
Gratitude is a good thing.
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About “Running From Myself” from Anthony Mascorro
I work for 826NYC, a non-profit writing and tutoring center in Brooklyn. We operate out of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. The store is basically set up like a hardware store, but for superheroes. We sell all kinds of superhero supplies, like capes, cans of Anti-Matter, blobs, unstable molecules, etc. It serves to get kids inside the space and interested, and it also generates a portion of our annual budget to run the educational programming. One of the best things it does, I think, is that it lets the kids know in a very direct way that it’s possible to make kind of a lifelong practice out of honoring your imagination, being creative, and entertaining yourself as opposed to always turning to someone else for entertainment. You know, those things don’t have to end once you grow up and decide to do something productive, like run a tutoring center. It also really does get kids inside and doing homework, a lot of whom would not otherwise seek out the help that they need.
We first met Louis during the In-Schools program he mentioned above. Louis wound up contributing a few personal essays that were really well written and compelling, so when we decided to try a radio project with a high school student, it seemed natural to ask him if he was interested. He agreed, and we decided to use one of his essays as a jumping off point.
We got set up with an Mbox, Pro Tools, and a mini-disc recorder that Louis took with him to conduct the interviews you’ll hear in the piece. We really kind of figured everything out as we went along – not so much the technical stuff, which I was fairly familiar with, but more how to approach the story Louis wanted to tell through the medium of radio. Almost all of the radio classes we’d run at 826NYC up until now had produced fictional dramas and narratives. Neither Louis nor I had any idea how to deal with something that was, for lack of a better term, real. So, we figured, “real” means “interviews.” It was a good starting point, anyway.
Over the course of several months, Louis came down to Brooklyn (an hour and a half commute from his neighborhood in the Bronx), and we listened to the conversations he’d recorded with different people the previous week. We’d load it all into the computer, and then go through it to see if it could help us define the over-all shape of the story. A lot of the process for us turned out to be the trimming down of what was, at first, a huge amount of material. Not just in terms of recorded audio, but in terms of the potential scope of the story. The more I hung out with Louis and got to know him, the more I realized that the story he was telling could potentially reach back through his entire life. And that, to me, made it all the more interesting.
Something else that was interesting to me about the whole process was what a strange way of getting to know someone producing a radio piece is. You end up listening to hours of recorded conversations they’ve had with all kinds of people, and in that way are able to observe them relating to a variety of people in a variety of contexts. Louis’s conversations were consistently warm, often funny, and always driven by his desire to better understand himself. Something else that’s evident in all of them, and that I noticed the first time I met him, is that he’s a really good listener. All of these qualities, I think, add up to a person who’s got a natural capacity for making interesting radio.
Hours and hours of conversation and monologue, however, interesting as it was, probably wasn’t going to yield a very digestible piece. So, we whittled and cut and re-focused on what emerged as the most immediate, important threads in the story. What came out, I hope, still retains the character of Louis’s voice and style, and the real meat of his story. I also hope that listening to it is sort of like hanging out with Louis. Because it’s pretty fun.