It seems that podcasts come and go from our cultural conversation. There’s no talk about them, and then something like Serial happens. Then they go away again until a series such as S-Town comes along, and once again we’re all taking about podcasts.
Well, it was around the same time that all of the controversy over S-Town was bubbling up that we learned about Mouthful, a brand new podcast featuring the real-life and often gritty stories of Philly teens.
And while Mouthful doesn’t have the tension of a Serial or the deep darkness of an S-Town, lighthearted it is not. These are moving first-person narratives that shed a light on just how difficult it is to be a teenager today.
Take, for instance, Mouthful, Episode One: One Hundred Sleepless Nights. This first episode is based on a monologue written by Hunter M., a trans high school senior in Philadelphia, and it focuses on issues surrounding trans and non-binary identities.
During the 21-minute episode, host and co-producer Yvonne Latty, a former Daily News reporter and current NYU prof, interviews Hunter M. and teens at Philly LGBTQ youth center The Attic, and transgender TV actor Scott Turner Schofield (you’d know him if you enjoy the guilty pleasure known as The Bold and the Beautiful) performs Hunter M.’s monologue. It’s an intimate, gripping portrait of a trans teenager.
The second episode doesn’t let up.
Mouthful, Episode Two: Comfort features a story written by Science Leadership Academy student Taytiana Velazquez-Rivera, who pens blog posts like “The School to Slavery Pipeline”.
Comfort is all about eating disorders and being an obese kid.Noted Philly actress Taysha Canales (she plays Hermia in the Arden’s fantastic Midsummer Night’s Dream, which closes this week), performs Velazquez-Rivera’s sad, insightful monologue, and local clinical psychologist Samantha DeCaro weighs in with her experience treating teens with eating disorders.
By the third episode, we’ve arrived at an examination of race.
Mouthful, Episode Three: Pedestals tells us what it’s like to be a student of color in a school that’s mostly white. In Pedestals, Latty interviews high school students of color who attend private schools in the area, including Olivia Nelson-Haynes, a Penn Charter student who made a video called The Black Boy Project, in which she interviewed black male teens about their experiences.
Nelson-Haynes is also the daughter of Mouthful executive producer Lisa Nelson-Haynes, the head of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. That’s the organization behind the Mouthful podcast.
The episode also includes some perspective from Latty and her own daughter, Nola, a student at Friends Select School.“As a parent, I am constantly amazed by the complexity of being a teenager today,” says Latty, who has raised two teenagers of her own. “It is not an easy time, filled with rapid change, struggle and awareness. Working on Mouthful has opened my eyes to so much. It has helped me be a better mom, because when you hear these kids express their joys, fears, and hopes so honestly, it opens you up. It makes you look at your own kids and want to listen, really listen, in a way you didn’t before.”
The first season of Mouthful is currently slated for ten episodes. Its launch coincides with Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ High School Monologue Festival at the Drake, which features performances of new monologues written by 18 high school students from across the region. Thursday’s opening night show is sold out, but it runs through April 22nd.
As for Mouthful, it will make you change the way you think about Philly teens — and teens in general — and if you have kids who haven’t quite hit those years, it may be a real eye-opener.
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I used to hate my morning commute on the El. Like really hate it. But not for lack of trying. I tried very hard to like it: I created special for-the-commute playlists every week and developed a financially irresponsible La Colombe addiction, all in an effort to look forward to my train ride. But no matter how many almond milk lattes I grabbed en route to the El or how many upbeat Hall & Oates songs I loaded a playlist with, I still loathed my often jam-packed, physically uncomfortable subway ride. Until I discovered podcasts. (I wasn’t living under a rock, I just somehow thought they were all just like Car Talk, so no, thanks.) And now, I kid you not, as I near City Hall, my stop to get off the subway every day, I get sad — like dropped-my-ice-cream-cone-after-one-lick sad — because getting off the subway means I will soon have to turn off whichever podcast I’m listening to.
Podcasts. Are. Magical.
And good news: I’ve found, in the same way podcasts work to make my SEPTA ride enjoyable (a miracle!), they make solo workouts less dreadful, too. There’s just something to be said for the distraction of an interesting conversation when you’re nearing mile six of your run and you feel like your legs just might fall off. It’s a distraction a Pitbull song can’t provide. And if you only allow yourself to listen to your favorite podcast when you work out (hello, temptation bundling), you’ll start to really look forward to your workouts. After all, you need to know if Adnan did it or not, right?
So below, seven podcasts that will make you look forward to getting your sweat on — really! And bonus: A few of them might even provide you with some knowledge to drop at your next dinner party. Read more »
Former FBI Special Agent Jerri Williams has returned to her roots now that she has retired from her most recent gig, that of serving as the head of SEPTA’s media relations office. At the time, she announced that she was going to work on a crime novel based on her previous career, but since then, she’s found a way to make true crime stories riveting as an interviewer. She also has a great source for these stories: her fellow former FBI agents, who she interviews for her new podcast, “FBI Retired Case File Review with Jerri Williams.”
The idea came to her, she said, while she was taking walks around her neighborhood while she had the time. “It came from out of the blue,” she said. “This time last year, I knew what a podcast was, but I wasn’t listening to them. I was reading blogs about writing and marketing a book. But after I retired, I had more time, and as I was walking around, I started listening to podcasts.” Read more »
It may be hard to believe, but urban wildlife extends far beyond subway rats and cockroaches. Local nature nuts, Billy (aka Bernard) Brown and Tony Croasdale, launched the Urban Wildlife Podcast on July 1st. The podcast focuses on obscure critters that share our home and even wonder city streets when we’re not looking.
Brown and Croasdale talk with some of the region’s renowned wildlife brainiacs and prove that you don’t have to off-road the Serengeti to interact with fascinating creatures. “There is great stuff to treasure close to home, even as close as our backyard,” says Brown. The podcast covers a wide range of topics that aims to surprise and educate. Listen as Brown and Croasdale delve into the secluded life of urban coyotes, and discuss the overlooked yet still captivating history of sidewalk plants.
Serial was a riveting, record-breaking, 12-part podcast series that re-investigated the murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the crime, but he has always insisted he is innocent.
As a fan, I’m in awe of the show’s reporting, which revealed deep flaws in the criminal justice system, as well as its deft storytelling that hooked listeners.
As a journalist, I have questions: Has Serial changed podcasting forever? Does its success mean all the wonderful things I want it to mean for investigative reporting? And on the flip side, was it worth it to reexamine a murder case if it wasn’t obvious in the end whether Syed did it?
In advance of Serial creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder‘s live presentation Thursday night at the Kimmel Center (details here), I interviewed Koenig. Our questions have been paraphrased her responses have been edited lightly for clarity.
Ticket: Serial was the most popular podcast in the world. Now that some time has passed, why do you think it caught fire?
Koenig: We had no idea why, we had like no idea, and now with a little bit of time, we’ve kind of started to think about what just happened and why did that just happen. And I think it’s a bunch of things. It’s funny, none of the elements that we did are new, you know what I mean? To re-investigate a murder case is not a new idea. A serial is not a new idea. Podcasts are not new. But there was something about the combination of all the elements that we chose to put together in one medium that felt really new.
And I think people weren’t used to hearing journalism in that form, in a sort of serialized audio podcast where you had to stick with it week to week, where I was a very strong narrator, so I’m leading you through almost like a character. And I think all of that felt new and I think that’s what was interesting for people. And then crime stories are unfortunately very, very popular for people, which I also weirdly had not understood going in. I didn’t get that, oh, it’s a murder story and people are going to be interested. I didn’t foresee that. Because I’m an idiot [laughs]. Read more »
Veteran radio journalists and producers Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder will be in town on May 14th for a live presentation that delves into the creation of their binge-worthy NPR series, Serial, which made history by becoming the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads in iTunes history.
The ladies will use tape from the show to tell behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Serial, touching on how they constructed favorite episodes and sharing personal anecdotes about working with the podcast’s players, like Adnan Syed, Jay Wilds and more.
Tickets are on sale now, ranging from $35 to $99 a pop, but we have five pairs that we’re giving away for the price of zilch. The giveaway tickets are valued at $90 a pair, and the seats are located in the balcony section of Kimmel’s Merriam Theater. To win, just sign up for our weekly e-newsletter in the box below. The contest ends on Friday, May 8th at 4 pm, at which point we will draw five names at random. Winners will be notified by email.
Best of luck to you. If you don’t happen to win tickets, you can purchase some of your own here.
Pre-sale tickets went on sale today for the upcoming evening at the Kimmel with Serial podcast creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder.
The veteran radio journalists and producers will be in town on May 14th for a live presentation that delves into the creation of their riveting 12-part NPR series, which made history by becoming the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads in iTunes history.
LISTEN: Neil Patrick Harris Chats With Terry Gross About Playing Hedwig, Escaping Doogie Howser and Coming Out in Press Release in 2006
In the latest episode of Philly-produced podcast Fresh Air, host Terry Gross conducts an interview with triple-threat talent and one of today’s shiniest gay stars, Neil Patrick Harris.
Harris was there to chat about his new memoir Choose Your Own Autobiography, which is structured like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books you probably read as a kid. Throughout the course of interview he and Gross cover everything from escaping the Doogie Howser label and playing a transgender dynamo in his Tony-winning role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch to his decision to reveal he was gay via press release in 2006 when bloggers like Perez Hilton were putting pressure on him to come out.