A year after launching Capital Storytelling, a series of live events during which performers share personal stories, Lisa Cantrell, assistant professor of Child Development is, in a sense, expanding the project by stripping it down.

Simply replace the stage and audience with a microphone, and the results are just as powerful, though very different, Cantrell said.

“Some of the most meaningful things I’ve learned, or when I’ve had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, (has) been when I have earbuds in and I’m listening to a radio story or a podcast, and you’re hearing someone in your ears tell their story from their perspective,” she said. “It gives you time to reflect and rewind and listen to it again, and think through it.”

In April, Cantrell started an audio storytelling workshop, during which seven students and one community member spent four weeks recording and editing two audio stories and, in the process, developed audio recording and editing skills, learned interviewing techniques, and gained experience in a medium – podcasting – whose popularity is dramatically expanding.

The workshop is an extension of Capital Storytelling, which Cantrell began with the aim of using storytelling to build empathy and bring the Sacramento community closer together. Three live storytelling events have been at Sacramento’s Verge Center for the Arts, and the most recent, on April 12, was attended by nearly 100 people. The project is funded through a grant from University Enterprises Inc. and recently received a grant from Associated Students Inc. for 2019-20.

Cantrell, who also produces a podcast about human psychology, plans to share with the public the audio stories from the spring 2019 semester, either online or during a listening event. She said she hopes eventually to offer the workshop for credit.

During the workshop, which began April 11, students completed two projects. In the first, called a “Vox Pop,” they asked random people on the street a question and then edited a montage of the responses. The second project, “Two Voices, One Story,” asked workshop participants to tell a story from their perspective, while offering insights from another person who participated in or witnessed what was being recalled.

For her Vox Pop, senior communication studies major Victoria Boston asked people at Sacramento State and in midtown Sacramento how they felt about technology. She also solicited their opinions about doing what you love compared to, as she put it, “chasing the money.”

Boston, who helps produce a podcast for the Sac State student radio station KSSU and wants to work in audio and video production after she graduates, says the workshop allowed her to use new equipment and software as well as sharpen her interviewing skills.

“I’m learning how to interview people better, to get myself out there,” she said. “What I’m learning here is definitely going to help me out in the future and with what I’m doing now.”

Cantrell said storytelling builds empathy by helping people relate to one another. Audio storytelling, she said, benefits both storytellers and audiences. Storytellers may share their stories without concern for performing on stage or how a live audience will react. Listeners benefit from being able to hear the stories at their leisure, whether in a car, while cooking, or as is often the case for Cantrell, out for a run. 

“There are people who are like, ‘I don’t know if I want to get on stage,’ but they are super down to make a podcast,” Cantrell said. “It gives more people a voice and a platform and a space to share whatever their story is. And it goes into peoples’ ears and that allows people then to take on someone else’s perspective.” – Jonathan Morales