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Highlighting History

Student in recording studioDr. Will Anderson, a professor in the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, uses his passion for finding new uses and distribution avenues for audio dramas. His latest project “Voices of our Grandparents” seeks to help students create and preserve African American history that their relatives witnessed and were part of.

“This project seemed a natural extension from the work I had done with Honors students in 2018 and 2019 dramatizing the oral history and lore of Beaver Island,” Anderson said. “During the social unrest of 2020, I realized a similar approach could be used to document and share family stories that would otherwise never be heard, so I began investigating what would be needed to bring these stories to life and then strategizing how I could make that happen.”

Dr. Anderson was able to write and obtain a grant that allowed him to hire Terrence Stallworth Jr., a former student and gifted writer, to interview his relatives about the events in their lives; this resulted in a dramatized account of the 1967 Detroit riots as witnessed by his grandfather, Kenneth Stallworth. As an audio drama expert, Dr. Anderson worked to assist and advise Stallworth regarding technical aspects of audio dramas, such as scriptwriting and helping arrange its recording, but left creative decisions up to Stallworth, saying “It’s not my story to tell.”

To begin, Stallworth interviewed his grandparents about their experience living through the 1967 Detroit riots. He then developed a script and cast voice actors to help bring the story to life. Serafine Hinz, another student of Dr. Anderson’s, technically produced the vignette by adding music and sound effects to immerse the listener.

The vignette gained traction after airing on WMHW and was since picked up by WCMU Public Media where it will air over the radio for Black History Month. Dr. Anderson hopes this coverage will inspire others to tell their stories using the medium.

Dr. Anderson is proud of this accomplishment and praises Stallworth’s efforts. “I am very happy to have had a hand in helping bring this story valuable to life, but at the end of the day, Terrence did this.”

Creating transformational experiences for students while exploring new avenues for audio dramas is something Dr. Anderson does best. He enjoys using audio dramas to bring snapshot experiences to life. “History isn’t always huge front-page events,” Dr. Anderson said. When used in a historical context, audio dramas act as a tool to “get people talking.” Stallworth’s “Voices of our Grandparents” does just that by bridging the understanding of African American life in the United States during the 1960s.

At CMU We Do Creative, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS Intern, Hailey Nelson

February 2022