Section: Features

Folktales with a twist: radio series embraces magical world

Folktales with a twist: radio series embraces magical world

by Emma Welsh-Huggins

As is often said by tour guides, Kenyon’s campus is comparable to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts with the grandeur of the dining hall, the intricate antique woodwork of Ascension’s Philomathesian Hall and the intriguing mystery of the woods along the Kokosing River. The campus can evoke a sense of wonder in all who traverse Middle Path. A group of students have recently taken these mythical associations to the airwaves with their new radio show. “The Magical History of Knox County”, which airs every Friday at 9 p.m. on WKCO, is “like NPR’s “This American Life”, only with weird magical things going on,” Chris Wilson ’16 said of the storytelling program.

The inspiration for the show came from Knox County itself. While on a walk along the Kokosing Gap Trail, Wilson, along with Colton Flick ’16 and Kyle Fisher ’16, stumbled upon “a place where it looked like there used to be a bridge, and [there] wasn’t [a bridge] anywhere, and we wondered what happened,” Flick, a film and religious studies double major, said.

Adrift in his imagination, Wilson, a drama major and classics minor, immediately improvised a story. “Off the top of my head, I just made up something about, ‘Oh yes, this is where two giants were fighting in years past, and one of them got knocked down, and that’s why the geography is the way it is,’” he said.

By the time they had returned to their dorm, they “somehow had a weekly narrative show planned,” Flick said. The show centers on a character named Mordecai Dogwood, voiced by Dylan Gregory ’16, a radio host who has taken over the station. Mordecai is accompanied on his subsequent adventures by a radio technician named Ned, voiced by Cora Cull ’16. In an early episode, Mordecai “is going out to find this guy to interview, but along the way he gets lost, and because he works for the radio station, the people who he stops have stories to tell him,” Wilson said. This style of narrative harks back to the inspiration of “This American Life” and, as Wilson went on to explain, “[Mordecai] mentions that he’s looking for this scientist who knows about the Kokosing, so they all have stories about the Kokosing, and all of their stories have something weird happen to it.” 

At the end of the episode, Mordecai finds the scientist, who takes him down to the Kokosing, only for a kraken to appear. This twist of magical realism gives the show the kind of intrigue that originally attracted almost 30 students to audition for the opportunity to voice the small roles, with actors alternating each week according to the vocal needs of the new or recurring characters. The majority of the weekly narrative is based on the same kind of folk fairy tales that inspired the show in the first place.

In addition to Wilson, Fisher and Flick, Alex Greenwald ’16 contributes as a writer, along with Emma Lasky ’16 and James Currie ’16. As a weekly show, the group runs on a tight schedule writing their episodes, which last around 20-25 minutes each, over the weeken. Then, “We edit it, get it all ready. We normally record on Wednesday,” Flick said. “That alternates between either the WKCO studio or my room in Caples, depending on how well the week’s going for us.” The editing process can take as few as two hours and as many as six for a more complicated script, which, as Wilson explained, means that “Thursday and Friday are then a mad dash to get it all together.”

With episodes available via WKCO’s livestream, which pulled an estimated 20 listeners for the show’s debut, or the show’s Tumblr (magicalhistoryofknoxcounty.tumblr.com), which attracted 302 listeners during its first episode, the show serves as a way for both its creators and any number of listeners to immerse themselves in an imaginative world. 

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