For Grace Gist ’14, an English and music double major, the Honors program offered an opportunity to delve into what she loves – radio drama – at “an intensive level.” She explains that she grew up listening to “Prairie Home Companion” and other shows on public radio and wanted to get involved in the field of radio. Her Honors project involves both writing an original dramatic radio series and analyzing contemporary audio work.
Gist is working with Visiting Assistant Professor of English Stephen Cope as her Honors adviser. Cope’s radio show, “Conference of the Birds” produced in Ithaca, plays classical, folk, and art music from around the world with an emphasis on cross-cultural exploration and experimentation.
“He’s incredibly passionate about how radio works, both on a technical and an intellectual level. We’re both very excited about this work, and feeding off of that excitement has yielded some pretty cool things,” says Gist.
For instance, when Gist mentioned to him her interest in a new podcast called “Welcome to Night Vale,” it sparked a discussion that led them to determine the podcast would be the primary contemporary work she would analyze for her project.
“Welcome to Night Vale” is presented as the radio show of a fictional town in the Southwestern U.S. where all conspiracy theories are true. In the year and a half that the show has been running, it has gained quite a following on Tumblr and attention from what Gist calls “nerd media outlets,” including Wired, Nerdist, and Den of Geeks. In August, NPR’s “All Things Considered” ran a segment on the show. However, to date no formal analysis of it has been produced.
Gist says, “I’m writing the first academic paper on ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ and that prospect makes me ecstatic.”
Meanwhile, she is also writing her own radio series called “Shotek and Divana.” She explains, “It’s about a wandering fortune-telling card reader – Shotek – who discerns from his cards that he’s meant to be with this girl – Divana – from a mountain village, but this is complicated by the fact that she is promised to someone else.”
In the spring of 2014, Gist will work with WHWS to start producing episodes from the series. Greg Cotterill, station manager for WHWS and WEOS, is very excited to work with her on the production of her project.
Gist has applied for a Fulbright grant to do some higher production work on the series at the University of Sheffield in England. Pending that, she is also applying to library science programs at Simmons College, Syracuse University and Catholic University.
In addition to her work with radio, Gist sings with the Colleges’ Chorale, Cantori, and Perfect Third. She studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, in the fall of 2012.