Stories from the Top is a podcast featuring people you know and people you should know. Artists, educators, and entrepreneurs linked to Southeast Michigan share stories about how they connect with others, cultivate inspiration, map out processes, or rise from failure.
Listen to and subscribe to Stories from the Top wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes will be released weekly starting May 27, 2021.
Episode 1 – David Zinn
Ann Arbor artist and Top of the Park regular David Zinn, reflects on his work and his imaginary friends. Thanks to the temptations of a box of sidewalk chalk on an unusually sunny day, David is known all over the world for the art he creates under his feet. David’s temporary street drawings are composed entirely of chalk, charcoal and found objects, and are always improvised on location through a process known as “pareidolic anamorphosis” or “anamorphic pareidolia.” His most frequent characters are Sluggo and Philomena, but the diversity of David’s menagerie seems to be limited only by the size of the sidewalk and the spirit of the day.
Episode 2 – Michael Rau & Asa Wember / Wolf 359
In this episode, we hear from the co-creators of “Temping” by the theater collective Wolf 359. The show, a theater for one production that takes people through a unique experience with no actors—puts audience members in the role of a temp, filling in for Sarah Jane Tully, a 53-year-old actuary who is taking her first vacation in years. Director Michael Rau and technical designer Asa Wember talk about their collaboration with playwright Michael Yates Crowley, how the Wolf 359 collective came to be, and why they believe so strongly in the exploration of everyday technology’s impact on our lives.
“Temping” runs June 15-July 3, 2021 in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library. Go here to sign up for the show for free.
Episode 3 – Heena Patel / MELA Arts Connect
In this episode, Heena Patel, CEO of MELA Arts Connect, talks about her upbringing in Toronto, Canada, how she transitioned from being a sanitation engineer into a tabla player and performing arts entrepreneur, and where she is now as a cultural connector for arts organizations. Over the years and through MELA, she’s assumed the roles of producer, booking agent, manager, dancer, musician, teaching artist, and diversity and equity advocate. She serves as producer and artistic director for the immersive dance experience Garba360, which is part of the 2021 A2SF summer festival season.
Episode 4 – Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes
Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is a professor of Spanish, American Culture, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan who’s main research interests are queer/LGBT Hispanic Caribbean studies, U.S. Latinx American literary, cultural, and performance studies. In his first book, Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora, Larry analyzed portrayals of migration, sexual diversity, and gender nonconformity in Puerto Rican cultural productions. His most recent book, Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance was published in 2021. In this episode, Larry talks about his upbringing in Puerto Rico, his journey though higher education—both as a studen t and a professor—and his own drag persona, Lola Von Miramar, who lectures and educates about queer Puerto Rican and Latinx culture in the United States.
Episode 5 – Abigail Browde & Michael Silverstone / 600 HIGHWAYMEN
In this episode, we hear from Abigail Browde & Michael Silverstone, otherwise known as the theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN, about their newest piece, A Thousand Ways, which A2SF and The University of Michigan Museum of Art are co-presenting. Abby and Michael make live art that, through a variety of radical approaches, illuminates the inherent poignancy of people coming together. They talk about their struggles of working during a pandemic, learning to embrace different perspectives, and diminishing the divide between people who otherwise might not talk with each other.
Season 2 Credits
Interns: Associate Producer Bonnie Bremer & Sound Engineer Evan Starr
Music mix and mastering: Elliott Sabbagh
Episode 1 – Joan Belgrave with Linda Yohn
Joan Belgrave has been a great success since she was a child, and has seven recorded albums, including tributes to Billie Holiday and Ray Charles. She’s worked with some of America’s leading jazz singers and musicians like Regina Carter and Charlie Gabriel. Local jazz radio personality and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Grove Stage Manager Linda Yohn joins Joan as they dig into all aspects of her creative process, including meeting her late husband Marcus Belgrave, and her journey to becoming a producer.
Episode 2 – Swaroop Bhojani with Adam Hess
In this episode, we sit down with Swaroop Bhojani, owner of the restaurant Hutkay Fusion and former University of Michigan Cancer Researcher. Swaroop is a Ph.D. graduate from the Indian Institute of Science and was a Max Delbrueck Fellow. He continued his post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan, where he was also appointed as a faculty member in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Since the start of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, Hutkay Fusion has provided free food to shelter homes, safe houses, and displaced workers. Swaroop sat down with his friend and colleague Adam Hess, a Registered Nurse at St. Joseph Hospital, to talk about what we eat, why we eat, and how we can eat better.
Episode 3 – Mike Farah with Michael Kosta
Mike Farah, CEO of Funny or Die, and Michael Kosta, correspondent on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, discuss challenges in the entertainment industry and what’s on the horizon for comedy as it relates to social justice and public health.
Season 1 Credits
Host/Producer: James Carter, Programming & Operations Manager
Marketing & Graphics: Natalie Robbins, Marketing and Communications Manager
Interns: Associate Producer Stephani Hicks & Sound Engineer Justin Levine
Music Composition & Recording: Nadim Azzam
Music Mix and Mastering: Elliott Sabbagh