February 26's Ear Cave in Hartford

The other night I attended the Ear Cave, a monthly series of audio and video stories. The series is overseen by Catie Talarski, who's a producer at Hartford's WNPR. Curating this month's collection of pieces was Tina Antolini, who's a producer for the show State of the Re:Union. She's also the author of a great piece that went online earlier this month titled "So You Want to be a Radio Producer" which is a great, thoughtful read for anyone interested (I've read it a few times).

I'm a big fan of State of the Re:Union (or SOTRU), which in each episode explores a different community. They've traveled from one corner of the country to another and found some really fascinating stories about different people and places with a lot to say. It was joked that they still have yet to do episodes on Key West and Hawai, but Antolini spoke a little about how they work . She described how she ends up with about 30 or so hours of tape for what ends up as a single episode (roughly 50 minutes) and how the crew spends a busy week in each location.

The first piece was a clip that Antolini produced for the Greensburg, Kansas episode. She described her goal to get as many people as possible talking about the same event. In this case they're discussing the tornado that wiped out the town and though I know that I heard the episode a while ago, it was a radically new experience just by virtue of sitting quietly in a darkened room focusing on it. The sound design really jumped out for me as the piece begins with a series of voices, builds to a moment of complete silence for a few seconds, and then the sound is even louder, representing the storm. It was striking and a little beautiful. A good reminder that often those little moments on the radio that we half listen to have been labored over in an attempt to get it just right.

The second piece was another of Antolini's that she produced more recently. For an episode about internet communities she produced a piece titled "A Social Networking Site...for Dead People." It's really quite a beautiful and wonderful piece, though I admit the title did make me wonder exactly what would follow.

The next piece is a short one from Helena de Groot titled "Lonely Night." The full audio piece is available on cowbird and it's a short vignette that Antolini said stood out for her because of de Groot's voice, which just draws you in, and the music, which comes in at just the right moment.

Antolini next played a piece of hers which is up on cowbird, "A Love Story with a 70-Year Gap." which came out of a piece she was doing. This story came to her attention and even though it wouldn't fit into the piece she was producing, it was a great story so she created a short piece about a couple who first met in college and then after they were married to others, had kids and careers, met again in their eighties and got married.

There was a loud and pronounced "aww" out of the crowd.

The Truth is a podcast that comes up at the Ear Cave on a regular basis and Antolini played "Eat Cake," because it's the time of year when everyone needs to play/tell/perform a romantic story. Of course one person objected to the story saying that the moment after the story ended she expected something horrible and gusome to happen and Antolini joked that this was far and away the sweetest episode of The Truth.

Then she played the final act of a 2003 episode of This American Life. Episode #241 titled "20 Acts in 60 Minutes" about teenage girls in a detention center who perform a song for their parents and it's wonderful and sweet and sad and touching. A great piece but also a great finale to the episode.

"That's why he's the shit," Antolini said of Ira Glass.

As the finale, Antolini played a segment she did for SOTRU about Southeastern Washington. This one happens to be about slurpees, and it's a lot of fun. A nice light-hearted moment.

She mentioned that she'll be moving to New Orleans this year, and it's clearly Northampton's loss, but it should be interested to hear what stories she picks up while she's there.

Antolini's personal website:
Antolini on twitter:
Antolini's cowbird page with more stories:

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