Radio Church

November 18, 2016

Cape Cod

It was dark when we arrived in Woods Hole at 6pm. The last ferry to Martha’s Vineyard had just left. It was the beginning of winter light, on a weekday, easy to park. Across the main street, the community hall was still closed. A sign by the entrance read: “Tonight at 7pm. Listening Event.”

We had been invited by Rob Rosenthal, the workshop instructor at Transom, to join the event and listen to the pieces produced by students after nine weeks of work.

Our dinner next door, seafood by candlelight, took a bit longer. By the time we joined the audience, there were few seats left in the wooden hall from 1878. We sat apart. The curtain was down and the only presence on stage was an antique radio, a wooden console that presided over the radio church, as Rob calls it. Jay Allison, founder of WCAI, the Cape and Islands public radio station, is addressing an audience of 200. The community is mostly white and retired. They are followers of NPR, find pleasure in supporting their community radio with new pieces, and ask questions for the young producers at the end. What intrigued me most about genre was that the local characters portrayed in the pieces were also sitting in the audience, from a man with terminal illness to a mother whose child drowned at a motel pool. In his final bow, Rob rallied the new generation to a “Now make radio!” Then everyone folded their chairs and leaned them against the wall.

The night was cold and windy. Until not so long ago, this town lived from the whales. Kate was smiling by the door, eager to go home. They just happened to open for us the door to Australian radio.

Thank you, Julie. Thank you, Kate.

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