Going retro to tell family stories
Radio drama gives voices to student’s grandparents
Terrence Stallworth Jr. was enrolled in a copywriting course when his instructor, Will Anderson, approached him. Anderson asked if he wanted to participate in a project related to one of Anderson’s passions: radio drama.
Stallworth, who was pursuing a degree in Integrative Public Relations, knew nothing about radio drama but took a crash course. The result was a pair of stories told from the perspectives of his grandparents.
The most recent story, which is also his favorite, is an anecdote from his grandmother’s life as a nurse’s assistant.
She worked in a Detroit-area hospital where she met a man who was transferred in from a nearby nursing home after suffering from gangrene due to neglect. She changed his bandages and, more importantly, showed him that she cared.
The anecdote reminded Stallworth of the good in the world.
“There are kind souls out there,” Stallworth said.
For his first audio drama, Stallworth interviewed his grandfather about the 1967 Detroit riots. In it, his grandfather described witnessing the rioting, and he and his friends made the mistake of leaving safety to take a closer look.
The interviews for both took about two-to-three weeks, he said. Two close friends provided the voices for the first audio drama, while two student actors helped with the second.
Both were recorded in a Moore Hall studio, and Broadcast and Cinematic Arts students edited them down to about five minutes, Stallworth said. Each took approximately five months to make.
Using audio drama isn’t a new way to create media, Anderson said. In fact, it’s kind of like a broken clock that is currently right for the second time in the day. The techniques used to create them can liven up podcasts.
“That is a very cool way of storytelling,” he said.
Both of Stallworth’s audio dramas were part of Anderson’s Voices of Our Grandparents project. The goal of the project was to give black stories about history that might otherwise be lost.
“Everyone has a story,” Anderson said. “Everybody is here for a reason.”
Stallworth’s latest audio drama debuted in May at an audio drama festival and was praised for its message.
Stallworth graduated last December with a degree in integrative public relations. He hopes to use the skills he developed telling unique stories for his employer, the Mt. Pleasant Community Foundation.