Usually when attending Wolf Trap it is to partake in either a concert or an opera, or a musical. Ira Glass’ unique show shook things up a bit, as he shared Americans’ personal stories and his life lessons mainly through listening and not seeing. This well thought-out show held everyone’s attention with its emotional depth and well-paced thought-provoking stories. It is a must see, especially for any This American Life fans.
efore the show started, various images of the number seven flashed upon a screen above the stage. Glass broke up his show into seven parts that illustrated each point. Glass is the host and creator of the extremely popular NPR show, This American Life. He started at NPR at 19 years of age and never looked back.
Glass came out on stage left, looking fit and trim in a tailored grey suit with a white shirt and his signature glasses. He immediately joked, “I’ve never been at a venue that offers you a towel before you go on stage. It’s so hot!”
Scene One: How to Tell a Story.
Glass launched into a story told by mom of a 13 year-old girl who loved watching Saturday Night Live, which inspired her to want to dress up like Hillary Clinton and put on make-up and her red blazer. The audience listened to this story without any images.
Her mom exclaimed unfiltered after seeing her daughter in make-up, “Wow you look so much better!”
Her daughter replied, “I don’t think that’s what you’re supposed to be saying to me.”
Glass followed up with the teenage daughter to see if she was traumatized by her mom’s words. The teen shared that she would not consider it a big deal, but would definitely use it against her mother as leverage! [The audience roared!]
The show then recreated the Hillary Clinton story with cartoon images by cartoonist Chris Ware of The New Yorker. Glass had the audience then vote by clapping for which story performance they preferred, a story with images or a story with voices only. The vote was evenly split.
Scene Two: It’s Normal to be Bad before You’re Good.
Glass’ self-deprecating humor was on full-display here. A Baltimore boy, he grew up listening to the radio show Chicken Man. He loves dead-pan humor and so he tried to recreate that on his own radio show at Northwestern University, or as he said, “I ripped off Chicken Man.”
He played a segment of Chicken Man and then a segment from his college show; he shared, “I was pretty terrible!” Glass never gave up even when he started at NPR as a 19-year old intern doing every job imaginable and was awful at pretty much all of it. He shared a segment eight years into his tenure at NPR doing a story on Nabisco and the making of Oreos. He enjoyed poking fun at his reporting. Even his dad, who was in the audience, pleaded for him to go to medical school, but Glass didn’t give up. Through his persistence, he transformed into the host of his own award-winning show This American Life.
It was fascinating to learn the rest of the seven things he learned. From having Johnny Depp voicing the words for a man who can only type; his thoughts to Lin Manuel Miranda acting out a story Broadway style; the life Glass leads is inspiring!
During the Q&A – the passion people have for the show was evident with one guy asking for an internship – to a gal asking for a selfie – to another sharing how the show changed her life. Glass held the audience’s attention with his unique style of sharing stories, insights of what he learned hosting the show, and then answering the audience’s questions. It was a great night!
Ira Glass: Seven Things I’ve Learned was performed on August 20, 2016 8:00 PM at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future Wolf Trap events, go to their calendar of events.