Searching for Storytellers — And a Little Relaxation
Unheard voices find a microphone with Shannon Woolley Allison’s theatre company, Looking for Lilith. Shannon uses her free time listening, reading, and watching media to hone her storytelling skills, find out whose voices are the loudest, and to unwind after a day of applied theatre.
Listening to? Shannon just spent an entire morning listening to Ear Hustle, a podcast that tells stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it. The stories are based out of San Quentin State Prison located in California.
“I spend a lot of time listening to oral history,” Shannon says. She’s also a fan of This American Life, a weekly podcast that shares people’s authentic stories based around a theme. “I love this.” “There are hundreds of great podcasts.” A couple more of her favorites include Strangers by Lea Thau and The Heart, both found on Radiotopia.
“I listen to a lot of podcasts on Radiotopia,” says Shannon, who finds time to tune in while in the car or cleaning houses. “That’s what I do for entertainment and nourishment while I make extra ‘butter’ money. Believe it or not, there’s not a whole lot of money in feminist theater.”
As for the news, she listens to Louisville’s local NPR station, WFPL. “As a human being, [it’s important] to be informed to what’s going on. With my job, I also need to seek out the voices that aren’t being heard and to be aware of who is being heard. Who’s getting the microphone?”
When it comes to music, Bruce Springsteen is “boss.” “My husband is always burning CDs for me. For the last couple of days, I’ve listened to ‘The Boss’ in Cleveland in 1978.”
Reading? As Shannon sips her first cup of coffee in the morning, she also takes in her morning news. She scours Reuters for its balanced approach. “Reuters doesn’t skew things conservatively or progressively,” Shannon says. Its journalistic style reminds her of a phrase Adolph S. Ochs used regarding his leadership of The New York Times: “… to give the news impartially, without fear or favor …” She switches to Jezebel for a feminist perspective on news events.
Shannon describes Facebook as junk food but doesn’t shy away from her scrolling habits. “I read a lot of Facebook to keep up with people. When I lie down at night, I could pick up a novel and read something that would fortify me — or I could scroll through Facebook and read things that are mildly entertaining. A lot of times I do the latter.”
She’s also reading the self-help book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. “It’s really helping me in my work life,” Shannon says. “I am imperfect, as are all of us, and it’s good to read a book that celebrates that. As a woman who started her own business, [there’s a] pressure to do things right; being consciously imperfect is helpful.”
Watching? “My husband and I watch a lot of sci-fi,” says Shannon, who notes that Legion just started up again. She’s also watching Riverdale, a CW show based on Archie comic books, and MTV’s The Challenge. “[If I’ve had a day] doing applied theatre with middle schoolers on the topic of suicide and working with 30 fifth graders who want to act, I really want something light and silly at night,” Shannon says, who prefers viewing her shows on the couch versus in the bed.
Shannon also likes Call the Midwife on PBS. It’s a show about midwifery and family in 1950s East London. “I’m always interested in good storytelling that looks at universal questions through a personal lens.”
Who are you following? “On Facebook, it’s my friends.” “I don’t follow anybody. I don’t have Twitter or Instagram. I’m old.” Regardless of age, Shannon’s choice of media falls in line with her passion for storytelling, with a little “fluff” sprinkled in for good measure.
“Listening to good narrative storytelling helps me in my work. It’s important to listen to other people being effective storytellers to find what I like. The silly stuff is to relax.”