Intro from Jay Allison: We have a series here at Transom we call “Short Lists” where you hear a list of things and then find out how they’re connected. Hairpieces, Coyotes, Village Portraits, Grind Core Punk, Personal Tragedy, Songwriting, Fibromyalgia, Singing at Funerals, Roller Derby… okay, that’s a list of the stories produced by the Transom Story Workshop this fall. The students came here from all over the country (and two from Canada this time), somehow discovered these stories hidden away on Cape Cod, and then, using the skills they just learned, turned them into radio. It’s quite a trick—to go from never having done it, to doing it well. I’m amazed every time.
About “She Is Mighty”
I never envisioned this story as a non-narrative piece. In fact, I didn’t really want it to be a non-narrative piece. But upon listening to the tape, I decided that Lynne and Talia had to tell their own story. At its core, this is a piece about women who insist upon telling their own story — who obstinately carve their own path from the tensions between self and social expectation. I felt that my voice would distract from their mission.
So I gave non-narrative radio a go. There was a lot of experimenting involved. I obsessed over the order of my actualities, the ways I could use sound rather than narration to transition between ideas. At some point, I lost the ability to hear what worked, what made sense — so I foisted what I had upon classmates, parents, and friends. I cut and whittled, and exactly two hours before the story was due, I decided that it was all terribly wrong. So I upended everything. And this is the result.
The biggest change I made was to my introduction. Initially, I opened the piece with Lynne in her living room. I wanted the listener to meet Lynne as the nurturing wife/mother figure of whom everything is expected. She’s running after her two-year-olds, feeding the dog, trying to get out of the door on time. The audience’s expectations for Lynne would then be reversed when they met her second persona, Lulu Nori Morse, a strong, fearless, roller-derby-playing badass who exists beyond her domestic role.
That was my vision. But when I tried it out, it was slow going. The introduction dragged, and I worried that I would lose the listener’s attention. So at the last minute, I inverted that order and opened, instead, with the roller derby persona. We drop into a world of loud music and sassy, irreverent alter egos. Then the music cuts out, the door slams, and the dream is over. The listener tumbles, quite suddenly, into the less glamorous reality of the day-to-day. This new introduction juxtaposes the duality of Lynne’s life in a much more engaging and effective way.
As frightening as it was to scrap so much material with a deadline just around the corner, I’m glad I made the changes that I did. In fact, that holds true for the leaps I took throughout the process. From discarding early story ideas to embracing a non-narrative structure, making this piece became a lesson in attachment. When you sink a lot of time and heart into something, it’s tough to let go and experiment with alternatives. But ultimately that flexibility can take you to places far better than the one you’d planned on reaching.
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Phoebe’s Sonic ID
I was taking a dip in Quissett Harbor when Timmy Souza pulled up in a small boat loaded with quahogs. We started chatting, and I realized I’d have to come back with my microphone. The guy is a born storyteller. I’m in the process of producing a longer piece about Timmy that I hope to have online soon.