While the crowd gathered for a sold out event at The Roxy Theater turned their eyes towards the big screen, it was their ears that did the work. This was the first Missoula Podcast Festival, and those in attendance were partaking in the unique experience of group listening as a full theater absorbed Montana centric radio stories.

Jule Banivlle stands on stage at the festival and sets up the next group of stories.
Jule Banville introduces the next set of stories to the audience. Photo by Evan Frost.

The podcasts, which ranged in length and subject matter, were independently produced by authors with connections to Missoula and curated by Jule Banville, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism.

“I’m excited that we’re podcasting, and about where this is going,” Banville said to open the show. Many of the stories were produced by past and present students of Banville, who teaches audio reporting and feature writing. Banville said she first conceived the idea of the podcast festival as a showcase for student work, but later expanded it to include other producers.

“It’s about the stories,” she said. “There are too few places for people who are doing cool radio stories.” Banville also hosts a podcast of her own online called Last Best Stories, where she posts both her own work and others.

The stories she chose ran from the heartbreaking, like the story of an avid outdoorsman who lost the use of his legs, to the lighthearted, like a piece about a small town 80s cover band with very big dreams. The voices of every day and unique Montanans were well represented, as were issues of race, sexuality, and environmental change.

Creative visuals danced across a large screen, changing color and design with each story.
Creative visuals danced across a large screen, changing color and design with each story. Photo by Evan Frost.

In the theater on Thursday, an audio visualizer played on the big screen in ever changing colors. Between the story blocks producers talked about the art of creating podcasts. That was it for visuals however. The crowd mostly listened in silence, except when they gasped, laughed or sighed.

By Andrew Graham

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