I recently attended a talk with Starlee Kine at The Lighthouse. She was much smaller than I thought she'd be. I actually almost took her out, as I was passing her on my way to the bathroom because I didn't see her. Once settled in front of the room, she was outsized by her surroundings—propped up on a big bar stool, set on the raised stage in front of a huge armoire, made of dark wood. She didn't seem nervous, but she was certainly uneasy.
She kept fidgeting. Rubbing her finger on the mouse pad of her mac to keep it awake, adjusting the mic that kept slipping down, drinking out of a wrinkled plastic water bottle, and avoiding audience eye contact. Did she enjoy speaking in public or did it make her uncomfortable and that's why she chose radio as her medium?
She was wearing an uncomfortable-looking half-overall, shirt-panel thing. It was green and rigid. I imagined that it was something she bought on sale without trying it on. Then, when selecting her outfits for her trip, she threw it in her bag, only discovering, once in Colorado, away from the rest of her wardrobe, how odd the top was but she had no choice, she had to wear it to this event.
Despite the initial discomfort I observed, when she started talking, she immediately became more comfortable and took up more of the space. Pretty quickly, I realized that she wasn't Tig Notaro. "Oh, right. This is Starlee Kine," I thought. I know both Tig and Starlee from the radio. They are on many of the same shows and seem the same to me when I'm not paying attention. Sometimes I don't know how I manage. I end up in places and situations that are not what I originally thought or planned. I don't mind and I usually like the surprise. Maybe I subconsciously set myself up, just for the sake of the unexpected.
As I developed a clearer picture of Starlee—who she was, the shows I had heard her on—I began to enjoy myself more and her personality made more sense. She's incredibly funny.
She began each story by sharing her experience producing shows for This American Life and Mystery Show. In one instance she discussed the production of a show focused on a piece of art by Andy Warhol, called "Time Capsules". The piece is hundreds of boxes of objects that Warhol collected over decades and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh was responsible for going through it all. She thought that she might want the museum curator to be the primary character of the story, but it turned out that he was formal and hard to connect with. So, instead of chasing a potentially uninteresting character, she refocused her story on three women, who, under the curator's guidance were sorting and archiving the hundreds of boxes of Andy Warhol's objects. They were delighted and moved by their findings. The women were emotionally impacted by the work and their discoveries.
Notes to loved ones, pictures of friends and celebrities, trash, mementos, canned goods. Starlee played us a few minutes of the story she produced and the emotion of the women came through so clearly. Starlee laid out the story in such a way that I could picture the big room, with boxes and belongings everywhere and these three women, performing their excavation, thrilled by each new discovery.
Starlee spoke about how she's learned to be comfortable switching direction for the sake of the narrative. She encouraged the audience to be ready to switch focus or follow a new line of thought when writing and exploring a story.
It was fascinating to hear her share, aloud, her process for choosing and producing a show. What struck me about Starlee was how genuinely curious she is about the people in each of her projects. It was also clear that she knows herself and what she likes really well, which makes her better suited to select stories and directions that are going to interest her and bring out the passion that made it so enjoyable to listen to her talk about her work for two hours.