Who's Who: Molly Bennet '11
Last spring, on a sunny Friday, you may have wandered out to the quad and found a group of students dancing and wearing eccentric clothes or body paint. I don't know how you felt, but it made me happy.
This was the brainchild of Molly Bennett. With the help of her friends she choreographed and recorded a dance to a remix of Erie Canal, a song played on the popular radio show "This American Life." The video was made without solicitation or motive. She made it simply because she loves the show, loves Ira Glass and is an exuberant and creative person.
Molly ended up sending that video to the producers of "This American Life." They loved it and featured it on their website and blog. On the topic of the video Molly said, "I love situations where people can dance and be dressed up because I think it gets depressing to be a sheep getting herded from class to class, from activity to activity."
When asked if it's difficult to stand out and be different on such a small and homogenous campus she said, "If you're doing something that stands out but is essentially joyful and inclusive, then people like that.
"I'm not sure I am a non-conformist," she added. "I actually feel like I've conformed some here. And I think part of that is growing up and becoming more self-aware of things that are truly inappropriate, if there is such a thing as inappropriate."
In recent years, Molly has focused her creative pursuits on her independent work with radio as a storytelling medium.
Hailing from Sacramento, California, Molly describes herself as a "lifelong radio listener." Instead of watching television as a child, she listened to the radio. In high school she became interested in radio as a medium for disseminating information and providing entertainment beyond popular songs.
Beginning her sophomore year, Molly had a radio show on WMHB that incorporated her interests in spoken word forms of radio broadcasting. The summer after her sophomore year Molly attended the Northwest Institute for Social Change in Portland, Oregon where she learned the ropes of radio and video documentary making. This program helped Molly to realize what she loved so much about radio.
"I like to write but I found it difficult to sit down and do. But when I went out and interviewed people, I could sit and edit for 10 hours and didn't want to leave. I wanted to get everything perfect."
She completed independent projects over JanPlan during which she made documentaries featuring storytelling and interviews. She documented the lives and the stories of some residents of Slab City, a squatter community in Southern California. Molly describes Slab City as, "components of anti-establishment politics [with] a recycled art scene, and a fair amount of homelessness and transience. [Residents attempt] ways to live that don't require normal ways to be [incorporated] in economies."
She also rode a train from Sacramento, California to Portland, Maine last JanPlan and recorded the stories of people she met along the way. She admitted being scared at first of approaching complete strangers and asking them to tell her about themselves, but she said it was a generally social and positive experience.
She wandered around the train wearing a sign that said "Tell me a story" and had a microphone in hand, and was met with great results. The people she met included a Scottish cowboy and a man who was making dream catchers for all the children on the train.
"When you have a microphone you have an ability to ask people questions you wouldn't ask a stranger," she said. "I didn't feel too weird asking this guy about his drug addiction and he was perfectly willing to tell me about it. That ability to have connections with people is exciting."
Of the stories she has recorded, Molly said, "I really like talking to people who see themselves living outside society or in the periphery. I love to hear people describe why they see themselves as different, and their struggles to be whole and not conform and feel like that is an acceptable way to be a person. I find stuff that is interesting." As long as she meets a "fabulous storyteller," her work can be about anything.
Molly hopes to be an independent radio producer after Colby. "I'm really captivated by the entertainment based but definitely informative programs that disseminate information that is not just news," adding mischievously, "what is news anyway?"