KALAMAZOO—Radio listeners across Michigan will be entertained by a Western Michigan University professor Saturday, Oct. 27, when she is featured on her own one-hour special on Michigan Radio.
In addition to being host and co-producer, Allison Downey, WMU associate professor of teaching, learning and educational studies, also will perform on "The Living Room," airing from 4 to 5 p.m. this Saturday and again from 3 to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22. The show will air in West Michigan at 104.1-FM, in the Ann Arbor-Detroit area at 91.7-FM and in the Flint area at 91.1-FM. People also may listen online and offer feedback by visiting michiganradio.org.
Downey spent the academic year 2010-11 in New York City conducting a comparative analysis of contemporary American storytelling formats for her sabbatical research, and ultimately took the stage as a storyteller. She was approached by Michigan Radio to develop a pilot radio program after her storytelling performance for The Moth Mainstage event in June 2011 at the Power Center in Ann Arbor.
"The Living Room"
Downey developed the concept for her one-hour pilot as a theme-based celebration of Michigan and Michiganders through story, song and poetry. She sought out storytellers, musicians, historians, museum curators and everyday people with exceptional stories as advisors and contributors to develop themes for multiple shows.
With the help of award-winning, multi-media producer Zak Rosen, Downey built the pilot episode around the theme of migration. The first segment features a humorous take on her own story of moving to Michigan and closes with her new, original song "In Michigan (Begin Again)." Rosen's work has aired on the BBC, National Public Radio and Public Radio International.
The next segment features a historical story about a free African American family's journey by foot from North Carolina to Covert, Mich., in the 1840s as told by a descendant and historian Anna-Lisa Cox, who recently presented a lecture on African American migration at WMU. The segment also celebrates the music of Joshua Davis of the band Steppin' In It.
"I am so grateful to Michigan Radio for this incredible opportunity and their vision in conceiving of and directing this project," Downey says. "I have been a Michigan Radio fan for the 10 years I've lived here, and it is a true honor to contribute to their high quality programming. I greatly appreciate the support from WMU in translating my sabbatical research into creative work."
In addition to being featured as a storyteller at festivals, conference and national events, including The Moth, Story Collider and The Liar Show, Downey is an accomplished singer-songwriter. As a professor, she leads workshops on creativity, storytelling and arts integration.
Michigan Radio is an award-winning National Public Radio affiliate with 500,000 listeners each week.