Hear at Duke
It is fifteen minutes to showtime. My co-producer, Alex, and I look out on the audience and see a few handfuls of people scattered across a sea of empty chairs. We turn to each other and agree -- we need to step outside and get some air.
This happens every time Hear at Duke puts on a live storytelling event. Last year, we launched the project with our first annual spring show in the Duke Gardens, in which audiences witnessed a live production of a podcast, with narrators on stage weaving a story with accompanying audio. In April, we hosted our second annual show, “Unfinished Business,” featuring stories about tying up loose ends from the lives of five Duke students. Both times, we were worried that no one would show up. And both times, the Duke community exceeded our expectations: in total, 300 people have attended our events, and we almost didn’t have enough seating room this year in the Gardens.
People crave stories, and with the support of organizations like LAMP and the Bacca Foundation, we have been able to bring to life the perspectives and experiences of our community on stage.
Our main goal with Hear at Duke is to share important stories for and by the Duke community. We believe storytelling has the power to shorten the distance between East and West Campus, connect first years and seniors, and transcend party lines. Hear at Duke spotlights stories that have the power to bring us together through their humanity, humor, pain, and depth.
In addition to our live events such as “Unfinished Business”, we also share stories from the Duke community online through our website. Each month, we produce a long-form audio podcast featuring these stories. Similar to our live events, each episode is centered around one theme which varies greatly month to month. Some months we will have an episode on a particular aspect of Duke’s secret societies. We have even done a collaboration with Inside Joke, the student organized sketch comedy group on campus, to produce a comedy podcast. Based off of our theme, we gather audio for the podcast by interviewing members of the Duke community to record their stories. From that, we try to connect the stories together and find an overarching narrative for the theme based on our collected stories.
Another avenue through which we have been able to share stories is our Instagram. The engagement on these stories has been absolutely incredible, with nearly 1300 followers on instagram and over 300 likes per post. Each week, we post short clips of students at Duke retelling some event that has happened to them during their time at Duke. These instagram posts allow us to connect to a larger audience and share more stories.
We also aid others in launching their own platforms for storytelling. If someone in the Duke community has an idea, we meet with them to help flesh out their ideas more and guide them to resources so that they can create their own podcast. We also host workshops throughout the year open to anyone in the Duke community who wants to learn about how to edit audio. Our group has also reached out to younger members of the Durham community by showing middle and high school students how to create their own podcasts through Duke SPLASH.
Storytelling brings people together, and Hear at Duke’s mission and motivation is to bring the story to our community through the magic of audio.