RCAH, English grads return to campus as WNL guests

Four MSU alumni returned to campus on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 as the first Wednesday Night Live guests of 2015-2016. Together, RCAH graduates Ben Thorp, Evan Mikalonis and Shira Kresch, and English graduate Phillip Russell are producers of The LoonCast, a podcast centered on stories and beliefs surrounding death.

“Often, you can’t really talk about death because no one really knows. And people will say, ‘Well, no one knows these answers, so what are you doing? Does it really matter?’ and I think all of us feel these things do matter, because even though these answers aren’t there, they manifest themselves in how we live our lives,” Thorp said. “I think for a podcast like this, we’re very heavily interested in big ideas, oftentimes the best ways to help those ideas come across is stories. Stories are the way to make those ideas resonate… make sense in general in a compelling way to get that information across.”

The LoonCast came about when Thorp and Russell decided to take a road trip to Colorado. They wanted to stop and sleep in a haunted house along the way, and from there, the project started to take shape. Someone came up with the idea of doing a podcast and then someone else suggested involving their friends who had experience with audio recording and design.

Kresch and Mikalonis were both working full time jobs at the time this all began. But, they were intrigued by the idea of a podcast, so they decided to come along.

“We wanted to put the brakes on that for a second and take some time to do something that was more fulfilling, try something different,” Kresch said. “There were so many opportunities to make this something larger than just a podcast. It turned into this grand adventure, and it was just really cool to watch that come to life.”

At the end of the trip, the group had traveled more than 8,000 miles in their trusty Loon-mobile, a silver Dodge Journey coated in LoonCast stickers. They slept on dingy motel floors, relatives’ couches and even the ground as they collected the stories of friends and total strangers – some of which involved a rainstorm while camping in Montana or a family with a shocking number of guns in Texas.

For their WNL performance, the Loons recorded an episode live in the RCAH Theater, giving RCAH students a glimpse of what kind of work goes into creating an original show.

RCAH and media and information sophomore Audrey Matusz works in the news department at IMPACT 89FM. She’s a fan of radio and podcasts, and she especially enjoyed the LoonCast’s visit.

“It was entertaining. I didn’t want to leave at all; I wanted to hear the whole story,” she said. “There are these, like, head-honcho podcasts that do all of their recordings live, and it was just really interesting to me to watch recent college grads do that. It was impressive.”

Matusz said she appreciates that Wednesday Night Live guests can help RCAH students think about opportunities after graduation.

“With RCAH, it’s always student existentialism. Like, what am I doing here, is this the right choice? Seeing (LoonCast) speak, it’s like oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing here. They took what they learned and shared it,” Matusz said. “It’s a great example of the things you can do with RCAH that are relevant."

Story and photos by RCAH student Kelsey Block.