Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hey Stuart here. If you haven't heard me mention it at least a dozen times, one of our other original shows at Casto is three clips. We're currently between seasons right now, but from time to time, and by that I mean pretty frequently, we like to pull an episode from our archives and share it here. So we're doing that now. This time around, we go back to February of 2021 for an episode featuring Lizzie Peabody and her series Side Door. It was hosted by Jia Kuzo and was produced and edited by Andrea Moskin. Of course, you can always check out three clips podcast.com or anywhere you get your podcasts for more episodes.
Speaker 1 00:00:42 Welcome to three clips where podcasters take us inside their best work. I'm Jay Azo and I believe that creativity is all about the tiny techniques, the micro moments, and the refreshing wrinkles. So every episode we ask a podcaster that we admire to dissect something. They created a few little pieces at a time because that's where the magic happens. That's where the work unfolds. Today we're gonna talk to host Lizzie Peabody of Side Door. Side Door is the podcast from Smithsonian, the collection of museums and other stuff too. Yes, museums plural and other stuff too. <laugh>. It's not just the Smithsonian. As I learned, Lizzie has been a producer on Side Doors since October, 2018, and the host since May, 2019, she still produces the show alongside senior producer Justin O'Neill and a part-time associate producer. Along with her background in audio production, Lizzie is a storyteller who has performed at the Moth Grand Slam as one example.
Speaker 1 00:01:40 She teaches storytelling at Story District, an acclaimed DC based organization. Before she became the host at Side Door, she produced the podcast Story District presents kind of an audio backstage pass to live storytelling events around the DC area. As for the show, the Smithsonian is famous for its museums, but as I said, there's so much more going on that the public doesn't have access to. Archives of Art and Observatory, environmental and biology based research centers, research libraries, et cetera, et cetera. So the premise of Side Door, very important to the show, very important to Lizzie taking something that maybe we've heard of or lots of others have told stories about from history, science, and culture. But making it uniquely side doors because the premise is like we have access to the behind the scenes, to the archives, to the stuff the public does not have access to. We're going through this side door with Lizzie. So how does that change her storytelling? How does that change her editorial planning together with her team? And we'll also go into, of course, the art of the narrative show, all of that. And as I'm obligated to say, as a public performer and host, I suppose all that and a lot more, I, I, I don't know why we have to say that part, that that wasn't what I just told you enough. I don't know. Let's go to my conversation with the great Lizzie Peabody.
Speaker 1 00:03:02 Do you remember the first ever podcast episode you hosted?
Speaker 2 00:03:06 Oh, yes, I do. <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:03:08 <laugh>. Tell me about that.
Speaker 2 00:03:09 Well, it wasn't Upside Door. So do I, is that okay? Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:03:13 That's great. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Speaker 2 00:03:14 So I, um, well, my, my journey into audio was not exactly a straight one, which I think probably most people share. Um, so I, I had been a classroom teacher and I had given up teaching. I decided to stop teaching. I'd sort of thrown all the cards in the air at the same time. Um, I had left, my boyfriend was nearly eight years and I stopped teaching. And I had decided that I really wanted to try to make audio, but I didn't know how. So I made a New Year's resolution to do an interview every single day no matter what. And I couldn't bank 'em, and I couldn't like, you know, do three in one day and then take three days off. So I wound up approaching a lot. Oh, and the other thing is I didn't wanna buy any special equipment, cuz I didn't wanna be like that guy who buys like the best camera and uses it once on vacation and then it collects dust.
Speaker 2 00:04:04 So I just, I went around with my iPhone with the built-in Voice memos app and I just interviewed a ton of people and that became my first podcast, <laugh>, which was called Your Story Here. And the idea was, I mean, I was having these conversations with all these different people, um, who ha would never meet each other. And I felt like I was sort of the link connecting all these threads. And I wanted to sort of bring these voices into juxtaposition. So I'd come up with a theme and then I would play these interviews, which were basically un it, I mean, they were highly edited, but there was no narration. So it was a lot of just like, throw the listener in and see what happens. So I'd like record a little thing at the top. And the little thing at the end, I was up in my attic with like a blanket over my head and I was like whispering into the, I mean, I, I just, it was, I was feeling it out <laugh>. But it was fun. It was a fun project, but it was not polished. I mean, I listened back now and it's, it's proof of the fact that you've grown, that you can hear things that you just did not hear before.
Speaker 1 00:05:08 Right. And it's like in the moment you're, you're incapable of even picking up on that stuff. Um, yeah. Like I go back to, so my first ever show, I was still working for an, the, the venture capital firm. I, I'd mentioned to you, um, before eventually I launched their branded show. But before that, a friend of mine was, uh, running a nonprofit here in Boston. And the whole goal of the nonprofit was to provide local nonprofits with resources, knowledge, and, and tools from tech companies. So they kind of bridged the gap between nonprofits and the tech community. And so we, he was like talking to me about their content and their editorial and, cause I'd run writer teams and designers and, you know, I was, I'm in content and content production and marketing and he was just picking my brain and we were having a coffee and I said to him, cuz I'd been thinking like you, like I wanna try this.
Speaker 1 00:05:52 So I was, but I was looking for an excuse to do it. And he's like, well, what are the things that we should be be launching? And he was probably thinking a blogger, a newsletter. And I'm like, you should launch a podcast <laugh>. I should host it <laugh>. He's like, that sounds cool. Have you ever like hosted a podcast before? And I was like, here's the thing, no <laugh> <laugh>, but I did like, I can't, right? Right. Like, I did three episodes with him and then he left the nonprofit and we, we parted ways me in that nonprofit. But like listening back, I thought I sounded like a performer, or at least a pseudo professional interviewer and journalist, I sounded like bored. I had not found my voice at all. And, and so like, one of the things I learned was especially when you're not, when you don't have the muscle memory as a host, you have to play it a little bit larger in your brain than you think you need to sound. And when you listen back, you're in the sweet spot, there's like this gap. So you kind of have to overdo it in the moment, cuz later you'll actually sound okay. Yes. So I dunno if you have a version of that, it doesn't have to be about your voice, but that thing that, like you learned the hard way in the moment you thought you nailed it, but afterwards you realized, ooh, maybe not.
Speaker 2 00:06:57 I mean, for me it was this, it was mostly just that I couldn't hear. I listened back to those early episodes and the, the, the ambi, you know, the background noises. There's all this mismatch. So it's like you go from one recording and the background is like, and then there's like a hard cut, and then there's like empty space. And then there's my narration and I now it's like the only thing I can hear. But at the time I didn't hear it at all. I thought like, nope, all silence to me, <laugh>. So it really, I mean, you know, you say it's a muscle, but it's, it really is like a faculty. I don't think I had, I was incapable of actually hearing it.
Speaker 1 00:07:38 All right. So now that you've met our guest today, it's time to dissect her show side door, a few little pieces at a time. But before we can get there, let's pay the bills really quick with a word from our sponsor. This episode is sponsored by wia. I'm thinking of a podcaster. And this guy is good on the mic, but he's not good for the mic. That's because he talks way too loud. That's kind of like his thing. Actually, that guy, that podcaster is Chris Savage. He's the co-founder and c e o of wia. And he is a great podcast called Talking Too Loud with Chris Savage. I wonder where they got the name. Anyways, Chris talks way too loud about how entrepreneurs from bakeries to big brands and everything in between are focusing more than ever on building human centered companies. That's Swiss's mission too. Make business more human. They offer tools to help businesses find, engage, and grow their audiences through video and through making and marketing original series. So check out Chris's great show where he's great on the mic, but not for the mic because he talks too loud. Turn your volume down a bit and then tune in to Talking Too Loud with Chris Savage. Check that out at whisia.com/series. And while you're there, explore their other original shows about building human brands wia.com/series.
Speaker 1 00:09:03 So, so Lizzy, I don't know if you knew this, uh, I'm fairly certain you do, given how Amazing Side Door is. But when you make a show, the point is not to make some content, like some stuff fun fact, it's actually to make a difference is to say something that matters in the show. Um, if, if you had to put a number to it, of all the podcasts that exist, what percent do you think actually do that
Speaker 2 00:09:25 <laugh> actually make a difference
Speaker 1 00:09:27 Actually, like say something that people should pay attention to. Oh my gosh. Or that is worth hearing.
Speaker 2 00:09:32 That's an unfair question. I don't know. I mean, because how do you know what makes a difference to any particular person? Right.
Speaker 1 00:09:40 Interesting. Okay, we're gonna get into that. Yeah, we're gonna get into this. So I think for a podcaster, when you have a premise that you care about, it allows you to make better choices inside the show because it's like a filter system for your choices. For big stuff like the arc of a season, the theme you're exploring to support that premise to the small stuff. Like what questions do I want to ask my guests? And when, because it's not on another show that we're talking to Lizzie, it's on this show, and this show has this specific premise. So the premise is like the superpower that helps you make choices as a creator. And then I think also for the Listener, it provides this like irresistible urge to subscribe when you hear the premise or see it mm-hmm. <affirmative> because it's like, wow. Yes, that is so for me.
Speaker 1 00:10:21 So I, I love having this premise be the way you say to the world something that matters. And it doesn't matter to all, it matters to the right crowd. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so what we try to do is pick a clip to start us off that evokes the premise of Side Door and can share something about it. And so the episode that we're gonna break down all three clips today is it's titled Lena Richard, America's Unknown Celebrity Chef. Loved, loved, love this story. Uh, and the clip we're about to play is essentially the setup. It's early in the episode and it kind of answers the question of why I should care about Lena Richard. So it comes around 2 24. Um, there are two people speaking you and then Jessica B. Harris. And just for those who haven't heard the episode, can you just tell us who Jessica is?
Speaker 2 00:11:07 Yeah, Jessica B. Harris is a culinary historian and author. Um, she has written, I think, I think when we spoke 18, but now 19 books. Um, she's very well
Speaker 1 00:11:17 Published. Wow. She should really do more with her career <laugh>. So, alright, let's go to the clip.
Speaker 4 00:11:26 When Lena Richard was alive, just about everyone in New Orleans knew her cooking, she called herself a caterers, but
Speaker 5 00:11:35 She was so many things that it's hard to, um, really determine what to call her.
Speaker 4 00:11:43 This is culinary historian Jessica B. Harris.
Speaker 5 00:11:47 I mean she was such a trailblazer, but an unknown trailblazer,
Speaker 4 00:11:54 A woman of color in the Jim Crow South Lena Richard defied the place assigned to her based on her race and gender to become a celebrity chef. She had her own televised cooking show more than a decade before Julia Child. She faced down barriers we still grapple with as a nation today to claim her place as a culinary icon.
Speaker 1 00:12:20 So Lizzy, what I saw you do was something I see a lot of our guests do, which is at some moment during the clip you, your eyes gazed upward and there was something going on back there. Really? Yeah. What were you thinking about when you heard that clip?
Speaker 2 00:12:34 I was thinking it's kind of a, it's kind of a dense tease. I mean, usually we try to peak interest but not really give away too much. And that one, that tease, I think is a little heavier than what we usually do. Okay. So that's what I was noticing,
Speaker 1 00:12:52 Just a number of details involved, or the stakes being so high, cuz there is, you know, all the, the moment we're living through maps very tightly to this. Like, when you say it's dense, um, what do you mean?
Speaker 2 00:13:01 Yeah, I mean, I think it, I mean, it provides maybe a little more context than, um, than at least lately I've been writing into scripts. I guess lately maybe I'm leaning more on the, the power of the unknown to draw you further into the episode. Um, you know, this one reads a little more text booky to me when you hear stuff like, you know, she faced down barriers that we, I I I think the danger is some people are like, oh, I get it. This is gonna be a history lesson. I would rather listen to why Fantasy Football podcast.
Speaker 1 00:13:34 Interesting. Okay. That's fair. I I, I mean, I I am very biased. I've heard the show before I make this show, so I'm not like the quote unquote the listenership that you're trying to reach necessarily. Yeah, yeah. But I, but still, I was like, wow, these are all, these details are raising the stakes for me and, and bringing up that intrigue. Um,
Speaker 2 00:13:51 Good. Okay, good. And, and I do think, one thing I noticed was the clip that we chose of Jessica B. Harris alludes to, she's a trailblazer, she did so many things, how do you even name what she did? So it's clear that you're going to learn a lot of remarkable things about this person, but you don't know exactly what they are. Yeah. Yeah. And so I feel like that was, that was a strategic choice.
Speaker 1 00:14:16 What made this story like a side door story? Is it something inherent about the story itself that matches the premise of your show? Is it the way you chose to tell this story that makes it a side door story? Or is it kind of a messy smattering of bit of, bit of column, a bit of column B?
Speaker 2 00:14:32 It's always a messy smattering. Sure. Jay? Yes, <laugh>, um, you know, it was a side door story for a couple reasons. Um, one was just the Smithsonian connection. I mean, the story really was carried by Ashley Rose Young, who's a historian, um, at the National Museum of American History. She had spent so much time in archives doing this research herself. And Lena Richard's story was part of an exhibition at the National Museum of American History called The Only One in the Room about female Entrepreneurs. So it was, it was part of an exhibition, and we had the expertise of several Smithsonian, um, experts. And it was a story that touched many different elements of American history. You know, segregation, culinary history. It touches a lot of other themes that I think people will find interesting. But it's a story you probably haven't heard yet before. So there's familiar aspects, it fits into a broader narrative that you might be more familiar with, but the specifics maybe are unknown to you. So there's the idea side door kind of sneaks you in the side door of the Smithsonian and, and shares stories that might escape the public on a trip to a museum. And we can share stories from museums and research centers, um, that visitors might not have access to.
Speaker 1 00:15:58 How'd you get involved in a, in a show like this? Because I think there's, there's a couple things at play here. So one is just, you know, the interestingness, but ultimately the breadth of what you could explore and that could intrigue some or that could be too daunting. So that's sort of just put a pin in that really quick. The second thing is you're also dealing with this other variable, which, you know, we've had hosts on the show that in some ways deal with this, but most hosts that we talk to, they're either representing the organization that they work for. So like, I'm a marketer at a software startup and I host the Startups podcast, or I work for this media company and here's, you know, this podcast from them. Or it's just their show. So like, the brand is also them. You are carrying the flag now of Smithsonian.
Speaker 1 00:16:41 So in some ways it's sort of like a quote unquote branded show. I know obviously they're not selling soda, but it, there's a third party here involved that you're representing publicly through your voice. How do you navigate all this, all these variables that you're dealing with? Let, let's start with the brand thing. Like how do you represent the Smithsonian, but also you and the trust flows to you, but you want the trust also to spill over to the brand. Like there's a little bit of a dance here. So how do you, how do you dance?
Speaker 2 00:17:07 Um, Jay, I feel so seen right now. I mean, how did you, how did you know that this is the, the tricky part? Oh,
Speaker 1 00:17:13 Because I've been there several times over <laugh>
Speaker 2 00:17:16 The joy of speaking with fellow audio creators. So I think of it as, um, I am the voice representing the Smithsonian. So it's, it's not about me. Um, and it's really not about what I think or feel. And it's certainly not really, it, it, yeah, it's, it's not about me. But in order to make an effective show, you have to let something of yourself into it because as the host, you're the proxy for the audience. So I am the proxy visitor. I'm sort of the one learning in most shows. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, and so in order to get people excited about what you have to share, but also in order to make people feel like you're a voice that they can trust and, and wanna listen to, you kind of have to let something of your personality comes through. So it's a balancing act for sure. Yeah. I don't know if I answered your question or not.
Speaker 1 00:18:13 Well, I, I think what I heard there is true to form. I mean like the, maybe the theme here is emerging about the, the messiness that we all have to deal with as creative people all the time. There's, there's conflicting, um, variables that we have to balance. So for example, like I'm creating three clips for me. I want it to exist. I'm also creating three clips for the audience. And so like you are doing things that you feel proud of, you are a part of them, your personality comes through. I think tipping too far to one extreme would mean trying to like whitewash over it and be an avatar for the Smithsonian. And that's doing nobody any service the listener, you or Smithsonian. Um, but yeah, on the other extreme, you can never consider them whatsoever. Um, and then this becomes a show about a historical figure that could be on any public radio station or in any other podcast about history or science or nature or whatever mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But it somehow has to be a uniquely Smithsonian influenced or tinged story. Yeah. So I guess as a follow up, what is that story like, I guess if the Lena Richards story existed on another type of generic history show versus this show and the way it came through, well, what's different?
Speaker 2 00:19:32 Well, that's, you've kind of put your finger on a lot of the conversations we have in the editorial room. You know, what makes this a side door story? And part of it is, is really thinking about what particular resources or access do we that can we share? We uniquely share
Speaker 1 00:19:47 Access. That's a key word there. Wow. Yeah. Cuz you have that benefit. You have that advantage.
Speaker 2 00:19:52 Yeah. I mean, a little harder in covid times. I don't get to like go sneaking around the collections anymore. But, um, it's, it really is about what's, what access to, you know, oral histories or information or expertise or objects. Um, seeing something up close. You know, this Smithsonian is such a huge organization with so many resources that it's really about sharing that access. But I will say, I mean, there's kind of two ways to approach a story when we're thinking of stories. And I'm just be totally frank. I mean, sometimes we come at it from the perspective of there's this incredible exhibition opening that's been eight years in the making and there's been a hundred people working on it and they're really excited about it and we need to turn it into a podcast episode. Um, so that's one way. And then it's, it's finding the thing in the exhibition that we can turn into an audio story as a way to help, you know, publicize it and, and broadcast the work that's already already being done to a broader audience.
Speaker 2 00:20:49 Then there's the kind of story that, you know, this senior producer, Justin O'Neill and I are the two who work full-time in this podcast and, you know, we're all, we're sending each other articles all the time of like, do you hear this story, this crazy ghost ship? Or, you know, we're this linguist that no one's ever heard of, you know, and it's finding a zany story of, you know, this Arctic Explorer, who was it? It's finding those stories that you're like, can you believe this? And then finding a Smithsonian connection. So it's a little reverse engineered. The good news is that there's a Smithsonian connection to almost everything. So it's a little bit like cheating <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:21:24 Well, how do you make sense of that? That's daunting. Cuz it could be literally anything that lights you up in some ways. Like obviously there's some things that have nothing to do with the Smithsonian, but like very few. So like how do you not just feel paralyzed all the time by the, the sheer number of threads you could pull?
Speaker 2 00:21:38 It is so daunting. And, and that's actually why my favorite, my favorite kind of story to tell is the one that someone hands me and is like, make this a thing. Because then it eliminates half of the questions in my mind about like, is this story worth telling? Was this a good choice? Is this, has this already been done? So when someone's like, we need a story about this, make it, then you go into full crafting mode of like, all right, what's the most interesting angle? Who can I talk to? What can I draw out of it? It becomes sort of a puzzle. And, and the bigger picture questions that you alluded to at the top about like the purpose and the meaning of it, you can kind of eliminate, you can kind of push those to the side a little bit because the meaning is already there.
Speaker 1 00:22:23 So side door has a great premise, but a great premise is just a great start. It's a lot of work to scope a show and get to the point where the ideas developed enough to support a show. And now you're like, great, we did all this work. Oh my God, we have so much work left to do. <laugh>, like, you have to make the show. So a great premise is a great start, A great premise might provide the listener motivation to subscribe, but you also need to provide motivation to stay. It's like this paranoia, I don't know if you feel this, Lizzie, I am constantly paranoid of the stop button. Like you hit play, whoever's listening right now, you the listener, I'm speaking to you, you hit play on this.
Speaker 2 00:22:58 You just did it. Oh my gosh, we know
Speaker 1 00:23:00 <laugh>, what a gift. Right? They hit play on something I made or we're making and now I'm like, oh, oh, oh no. What
Speaker 2 00:23:07 If they
Speaker 1 00:23:08 Stop? What if they heads up at any moment? So I, I have that paranoid. Does that creep into your work at all?
Speaker 2 00:23:14 You know, it doesn't, which surprises me cuz I have all kinds of paranoia, <laugh>. So this is probably the only one I don't have. Um, I think I can only really function. I feel like if I'm not thinking about how people are receiving what I, I mean when I'm crafting it, yes, I'm always thinking about how to keep people engaged, the pacing and, and doling out information in the right order at the right pace. But I feel like if I try to to get in the head of the listener, I just get so in my own. It, it's, it's too much. I
Speaker 1 00:23:49 Can't say. Well said, well said. I think about this, there's a John Elaney, uh, John Elaney joke that he talks about walking down the street with his wife. He's, he admires his wife so much. He's like, I admire my wife so much. She doesn't care what anyone else thinks about her. I want everyone to like me so badly that my wife said, it's like walking down the street with a person running for the mayor of nothing.
Speaker 7 00:24:09 <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:24:10 I am that guy. So Lizzie, let's not deal with my neurosis. Let's deal with the amazing stuff that you and your team have crafted. <laugh>. Let's move from talking about the premise to talking about the experience of your show. And so we have a clip to bring forth that experience. Um, throughout the episode, you're weaving in these little scenes, these little moments you've captured in your own kitchen where you're actually attempting to cook a Lena Richard recipe that her gumbo. And while you're doing that, uh, you actually have Lena Richard's granddaughter on the phone and she's reading her recipe. So you're kind of splicing together those two moments. And in this following clip, uh, you're somewhere in the middle of cooking that recipe. So let's have a listen.
Speaker 2 00:24:53 Okay.
Speaker 4 00:24:58 Meanwhile, I'll be checking on my gumbo cause I think it's time to add the shrimp.
Speaker 9 00:25:06 Uh, and she says add that in the stock too, all at the same time. Okay.
Speaker 7 00:25:12 I'm
Speaker 2 00:25:13 Gonna add the stock.
Speaker 7 00:25:23 Holy
Speaker 2 00:25:23 <unk> Oh no. Now there's chicken stock all
Speaker 4 00:25:26 Over my, I just spilled chicken stock all over my kitchen floor. <laugh> in an attempt to make gumbo one of the 333 recipes in Lena Richards 1939 cookbook.
Speaker 1 00:25:37 Yeah. Thoughts on that piece? What do you notice?
Speaker 2 00:25:39 <laugh>? Oh man, that spill was real. I had this big pot of chicken stock, it was really hot, so I had pot holders and then the pot slipped out of the potholders into the gumbo pot and it spilled the stock like all over the floor. <laugh>,
Speaker 1 00:25:55 I feel like a calling card of a narrative style show, like side door is the ability to establish such vivid details, you know, sense of place, uh, the warmth of the person speaking. You know, you have these, uh, I I would say it is, and we've talked about this with other hosts we've had on this production work We do, especially when it's layered like a narrative show. It is in some ways manipulative, it's coercive. Like you're implanting a visual and a feeling and you are intentional about that, but you're doing it with a good intent. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so when you're thinking about those things, a whole lot of options just got removed from your life, I imagine because of the pandemic. This is one of those things where at home you're forced to kind of do that. Are, are there other little things you've tried? Like how have you added back the stuff that's been lost? Because you can't really be a documentarian so much out in the, the world.
Speaker 2 00:26:44 Hmm. It's been tough. It's been tough to not be in real places with people, but it's a good challenge, I think to do for yourself what you're already doing for the audience, which is to create a virtual space and it's possible to do that. Auditor Auditorially. Um, I mean I'm just, I end up leaning more on straight storytelling actually, like creating, um, sort of little vignettes within a story. It's like stepping into different rooms within this house. Ah, that is the broader episode.
Speaker 1 00:27:23 Yeah. You have like anchor moments almost, right? Like, I think that some of those rooms are more important almost. If, if that's fair to say where you, you're like coming back routinely to you cooking that's an anchor moment or a call, you know, in some ways it's a callback, although it's not just like bookending the episode at the beginning and the end. That's more of a traditional callback. This is more like you have this this spine or thread or you know, like, it's kind of like if the house analogy persists here, it's, it's like, it's the living room. You're gonna find yourself there a little bit more often or quite literally. It's the kitchen. The
Speaker 2 00:27:51 Kitchen. Yeah. No, I, it really is for this episode. You know, we, we couldn't go to the museum. We couldn't go anywhere. We, I mean, I made this episode 100% in my house actually. The structure was inspired by some programming at the National Museum of American History, where they sometimes do, um, like the culinary programs where they have a famous chef come and talk and then as I mean, come and cook and as they're cooking, they're also talking about like, oh, the history of this ingredient or, you know, where this recipe came from. So initially I was thinking it was gonna be more like a side by side. Like I thought the episode was going to be a cooking show about a chef, huh? Yeah, so my, I had, I was ambitious. I thought maybe I could do like a story on two rails and kind of have them go both going at the same time.
Speaker 2 00:28:37 It didn't end up working out. Um, cuz I felt like I was sort of yanking the listener out of the story for no good reason. So it ended up being more of sort of a bookend. But to your analogy, the goal was for it to feel like a room. You know, like in the kitchen, you're run by the kitchen, you pop your head in there, you see what people are up to, who's cooking what. It's a little like that, you know, we're telling this story, but over, over on the side, here I am in the kitchen, like working away on this gumbo, which if we do our job right, starts off as being like, well, interesting. She's cooking a thing and by the end that thing is like the closest thing you have to knowing the person you've just learned about. So that thing has taken on more emotional significance for the listener and then me tasting it as the proxy for the listener feels like a connection to this person. You've just come to know,
Speaker 1 00:29:27 I, I would describe three clips as a modular interview, like we do break it up, there's some transition sounds in music and you know, it's, there's a little bit of a wrinkle over the straight ahead interview and there's some editing as well. So not everything that you you've said to me today will make the final cut. Yeah. Um, but ultimately, um, there's only so many choices I can make to sort of live, produce this while I talk to you. Like while I'm saying these words, there's like a list of things I could do next mm-hmm. <affirmative> with a narrative show, you now go to post and you have all of these other options with your voiceover, with your music, your sound design, you can add in these little vignettes in your words. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, how do you make sure that that doesn't fly off the rails? Do you have like a documented rundown of the show where or rules about where you insert things like music or, uh, this little aside moment or bring in a secondary voice? How do you make sure this doesn't completely, you know, I've said the word several times, but like cripple or paralyze the process?
Speaker 2 00:30:24 There's a couple good rules of thumb. Um, mostly it has to do, I mean, a lot of it is intuitive In our process, what we do is we write a script, we map out, uh, who says what in what order, and then we pull together a rough cut, which I think is a pretty standard part of the practice. And then everybody listens and sometimes you're listening to the rough cut and this section that you thought was gonna be fantastic is just interminable and draggy. And sometimes it's because the person doesn't sound the way, you know, that it's not, not a very animated speaker or it needs music or it. So a lot of it is just going by feel like paying attention. Oh, this is an Ira glass quote. It's paying attention to your attention. Sure. You know, and, and so trusting your instincts that you're, what you're feeling is probably what most people are gonna feel when they're listening.
Speaker 2 00:31:12 So a lot of it is just instinctive. It's trial and error. It's listening and being like, Ugh, this doesn't, this doesn't actually work the way that I thought it would. And then plan B, plan C. It's just a lot of that. But then the other thing, I mean, there are certain rules of thumb with storytelling. You know, we talked about the Ts, you hook people, you tell 'em, give 'em a sense of where you're going, and then you have a little room to play with. You can go back in time, you can go back to the beginning of the story, you can sort of spin the yarn a bit. And in terms of, you know, structure, structure is something that we've tried to play with quite a lot and, and we do, um, you know, we have one voice stories that are, that are crafted out of a single interview, a single time in place.
Speaker 2 00:31:58 Um, and that is a very different experience than creating a story that has seven speakers and, you know, multiple scenes. And so there's, there's gonna be a lot of variation. I think the thing that keeps it consistent is in some ways, you know, a podcast like Side Door, which handles such a wide array of topics and comes episodes come in a couple different formats. The consistent thing is the host. So that kind of comes back to your question of what is my role? And in a way, allowing some of your personality as the host to come through, sort of establishes the podcast as a space, um, a familiar voice, a familiar place where you come. So you might not know what story you're getting, but you trust the person who's telling it. And that is the consistency over the course of the episodes.
Speaker 1 00:33:03 That, that is the perfect segue into our third and final clip actually, because the segment is about your role as host. So side Door I think has a great premise, has a great experience. People feel motivated to subscribe and to stay. And once people do that, now you get that relationship that forms. Um, if you have the Bingo card at home, I'm gonna say the word intimacy and you can put your little chip over intimacy podcast equal intimacy. I, I, the word that comes to mind is favorite. When you make a show that has a great premise and a great experience and you use your voice to develop that connection. Um, favorite things are like this irrational bias you have towards it. It's not number one in the category or like objectively great. Like your favorite t-shirt doesn't have to be the most applauded stitch work.
Speaker 1 00:33:48 It just needs to be somehow personal to you. Huh. And I, I think that that's how like, there's a self-expression and sense of self-identity to the things that you say are your favorite things. And I think about that with making shows. And I think that is largely on this, the host and the host's production decisions or voice or, or these subtle moves you can do inside the experience that creates that level of depth and connection that feels personal. So we picked out a clip where I think Lizzie, you're doing this incredibly well. Um, the third and final clip here is about Lena Richards decision to open a cooking school. So in this clip, first we're gonna hear you Lizzie, then an expert, then an actress reading an entry from Lena Richards diary, which is a really interesting production choice cuz to your point, there's no recording of Lena's voice. And then we hear another expert. So that flow again is first Lizzie expert actress as Lena expert again. All right, let's go to the clip.
Speaker 4 00:34:45 She could make anything from sculptural showstoppers to jambalaya and red beans and rice to dainty tea sandwiches. She had the range and reputation to build her business throughout the depression years. And in 1937 she opened her own cooking school.
Speaker 5 00:35:02 There was very much, uh, a racial component, if you will, to her desire to open that cooking school and to specifically open it for African Americans so that they could get better employment.
Speaker 4 00:35:17 So she really had an eye to elevating the community as a whole and, and making a path for other young professionals.
Speaker 5 00:35:24 Yeah, back there, there was a term, I don't know if it was in use in New Orleans, but it was certainly in use in the north of being a race man or a race woman. She was certainly that she was
Speaker 10 00:35:36 Out for the race. My purpose in opening a cooking school was to teach men and women the art of food preparation and serving in order that they would become capable of preparing and serving food for any occasion. And also that they might be in a position to demand higher wages.
Speaker 11 00:35:54 The cooking school is one of the most important aspects of her career to me because it really shows how Richard was so invested in her community
Speaker 4 00:36:07 And while she was teaching cooking classes, she was also teaching herself how to break down recipes into precise measurements and simple replicable steps.
Speaker 1 00:36:17 So why did you choose to stitch it together in that layered fashion? You know, we're talking in this section a little bit more about the depth of relationship and what you're, what you're doing in service to the listener's experience. And that was a very experiential way to put all that information together. Cuz there's another version that is very straight ahead and you just hear the expert describe this stuff. There's music, there's you, there's the expert, there's the actress. Why layer it and then kind of weave it like that.
Speaker 2 00:36:44 I wanted to create a a kind of a sense of arrival there at that moment because at that point in the episode, you're already well into sort of the TikTok chronology of Lena Richard's life. You've talked about her childhood and her training and then her developing a reputation. And then this is sort of the first thing that she does that she establishes on her own that begins to define her legacy. And I think that that, you know, the, the music helps to signal this is something new, this is important. Um, especially because, you know, we've been to a lot of different places since then. And at this point, you know, the ear fatigue can set in. So part of it is just a kind of a pragmatic choice to be like, okay, listen up people, this part is important. Um, but in terms of, uh, the layering of voices, it felt like, well, I mean, everyone we talked to spoke about this cooking school and spoke about how important it was.
Speaker 2 00:37:45 I mean, and, and Ashley Rose Young even says like, this is one of the most important parts of her legacy. So I think, um, I think layering those voices kind of created a sense of, I think it was a way of, to your point, creating a sense of depth that this isn't one person saying it was important. This is everyone who knows about Lena, Richard is explaining why and the different ways in which it was important. And so the music in that way, you know, I said it kind of creates a sense of arrival. It's almost like she opened the cooking school, then we get the beeps in the boobs, and that's almost like opening the door and inside are all these people explaining what's here at the cooking school. This is, this is why it was so amazing. So it's like opening the door and then you're in that space and you're hearing about it. Um, and one other thing I wanted to add is it's not actually an actress reading Lena's, um, words. That's a chef. So rather than find a voice actor, we wanted to find a New Orleans chef, somebody young in her own career. Somebody who, um, you know, had a connection to Leanne who actually knew about Lena Richard and, and was a really big fan of hers. And, uh, she, she read that for us. So
Speaker 1 00:39:00 That's incredible.
Speaker 2 00:39:01 STI Levine. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:39:09 So I, I wanna mix things up at this point. We're gonna leave the clips behind and we're gonna look ahead on your show. So your show runs in seasons, right? And seasons give you that excuse to kind of step back, rethink and plan. Not everyone has that ability or, or that flow to their show, regardless of whether it's seasonal or not. A more kind of consistent with no breaks. Every showrunner show hosts and show producer needs to think about reinvention because if you do the same thing the same way every time, even if you started strong, you are gonna start tuning out of the work. Your audience is gonna start to get bored. They're way too in on the joke, and then they don't care about it anymore. And so I'm wondering, you know, what are the things that you're trying to tr uh, to improve upon or new things you're trying new experiments to keep the show fresh over time?
Speaker 2 00:39:56 Hmm. Yeah, I mean, I, I would love, I mean, the perennial frustration of this job is that by the time you learn enough about a story to make, to responsibly make an episode about it, it's about three episodes worth a story <laugh>. And so it's just, it inevitably feels reductive and just like such a shadow of what it could be. And so we have talked about, um, experimenting with mini seasons or with a, with an episode that spans multiple, I mean, with a story that spans multiple episodes. That is something I'm really excited about the prospect of trying, because I think it will challenge us because we'll have to break with our form and it will open up a whole new level of depth that you can get into that you just can't do in a 25 minute story.
Speaker 1 00:40:49 So Lizzie, thank you so much for all of this. Um, some shows sent swag, some people write little handwritten notes to say thank you. The, the thing that we've chosen to do as a thank you to our guests, uh, especially due to the pandemic, but we're gonna continue this I think long after the pandemic, may it end soon, um, is we are gonna place a small donation in your Honor and your name to No Kid Hungry because there are way too many children in the US that are food insecure, way too many families. So as a small way of saying thank you and I can't thank you enough, we're gonna place that donation. So Lizzy Peabody, the show is Side Door. Thank you for coming on the show.