Untold Stories Untold Stories is a captivating live oral storytelling series that offers a platform for Northeast Florida residents to share their unique and inspiring experiences with the world. From artists and tradespeople to shopkeepers and professors, everyone has a story to tell, and Untold Stories provides a space for these narratives to be heard. Join us as we explore the vibrant tapestry of life in Northeast Florida, one story at a time.Untold Stories is produced live on stage by the Florida Theatre, and the radio show and podcast is produced by WJCT Public Media and the Florida Theatre. Barbara Colaciello is the artistic director. The 2022-2023 season of Untold Stories at the Florida Theatre is made possible in part through the generous support of the Wolfburg family.
Untold Stories

Untold Stories

From WJCT News

Untold Stories is a captivating live oral storytelling series that offers a platform for Northeast Florida residents to share their unique and inspiring experiences with the world. From artists and tradespeople to shopkeepers and professors, everyone has a story to tell, and Untold Stories provides a space for these narratives to be heard. Join us as we explore the vibrant tapestry of life in Northeast Florida, one story at a time.Untold Stories is produced live on stage by the Florida Theatre, and the radio show and podcast is produced by WJCT Public Media and the Florida Theatre. Barbara Colaciello is the artistic director. The 2022-2023 season of Untold Stories at the Florida Theatre is made possible in part through the generous support of the Wolfburg family.

Most Recent Episodes

Out of the Swamp, Part 2

Story Tellers: True Poet, Erica Saffer, David Girard Musical Guest: Brent Byrd The fourth episode of Untold Stories was recorded live on stage at the Florida Theater in downtown Jacksonville on Sunday, February 12, 2022. Brent Byrd kicked off the episode with his bluesy song Wrong Way Road which urges listeners to let go of negative emotions and thoughts, and get on the right path towards peace and unity. The lyrics emphasize the importance of leaving behind loneliness, clearing away confusion, and moving forward together towards a better future. The first storyteller of the episode, True Poet, shares the traumatic experiences of being sexually abused by his uncle from the age of eight to thirteen. He had been holding his breath for years, until he finally found the courage to speak up and confront his uncle. However, even after his uncle moved away, the trauma and shame remained with him, and he struggled to find a way to move on with his life. True eventually decided to start a new life for himself, moving to a new city and finding solace in Memorial Park. He was inspired by a sculpture of an angel floating above turbulent waters, which represented a beacon of strength to him. He began to use his voice to speak up for other survivors, eventually sharing his story with his parents and finding a sense of healing and closure. True's story explores the complex emotional and psychological aftermath of sexual abuse, and the importance of finding a sense of strength and empowerment in the face of trauma. His journey serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and the power of self-discovery and healing. The next story, by Erica Saffer, follows her personal journey growing up in Florida, with her grandparents' summer love story as a backdrop. The Weeki Wachee Springs, named after the Seminole tribe meaning "winding rivers," became the place where her grandparents fell deeply in love while working as a mermaid and a maintenance worker. Erica's upbringing was along the banks of the Julington Creek River in Mandarin, Florida, where she met Nordell, a man who embodied the wildness of Florida. They fell in love and had a son, Rivers, when Erica was only 19. Despite their struggles, Erica worked hard to provide for her family, getting her teaching degree and MFA, becoming an author, and giving back to her community. Now, as her son Rivers is on the cusp of adulthood, Erica reflects on their shifting relationship and worries if she has equipped him enough for success. She realizes that their relationship is changing, and she may need to be a little more bold and strong-willed, like Rivers, to relax and enjoy where their winding river will take them. David Girard, the final storyteller of the evening, shares a compelling and humorous tale about his experience with a free house that was gifted to him by his "evil" grandmother. The house was in Callahan, a town that was notorious for being a sundown town, where black people were expected to leave before the sun went down. David's girlfriend, now wife, saw the potential in the house, despite its flaws, and they moved in. The house had its fair share of issues, from uneven studs to a malfunctioning well pump and septic tank that overflowed every year. Despite all the challenges, David and his family cherished the memories they made in the house, from throwing parties to taking care of his father-in-law until he passed away. It was also the place where David's "good" grandmother, who had worked in white people's kitchens before, was called "Ma" and "Grandma" by his friends during his wedding reception. The love and respect shown to her by David's diverse group of friends meant the world to her and represented a powerful moment of recognition and acceptance after a lifetime of hard work and discrimination. Now building a new house in a drier area, David reflects on his time in the old house with a sense of nostalgia. He acknowledges that the new house will have its own set of problems, but the swamp house has left an indelible mark on him and his family. Through David's witty and engaging storytelling, we are reminded that sometimes the challenges we face can lead us to unexpected places and create lasting memories. Brent Byrd's closing song, Shine a Light, is a heartfelt plea for guidance and direction in difficult times. The lyrics speak of feeling lost and alone in the midst of a cold, dark night, and the desire for a guiding light to show the way. Byrd's soulful vocals and driving acoustic guitar create an uplifting and hopeful atmosphere, encouraging listeners to keep moving forward despite the challenges they face.

Out of the Swamp, Part 1

Episode 3 - Out of the Swamp, Part 1 Story Tellers: Johnny Masiulewicz, Naga Davi Wasserman, Ebony Payne-English Musical Guest: Brent Byrd The third episode of Untold Stories was recorded live on stage at the Florida Theater in downtown Jacksonville on Sunday, February 12, 2022. The episode begins with Artistic Director Barbara Colaciello, introducing the theme of the evening's stories, "Out of the Swamp," which explores stories of strength, resilience, and rebirth. Brent Byrd's music is characterized by his soulful vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and diverse range of musical influences. Brent Byrd performs his song, "Coming Down to Me," a soulful and bluesy track with lyrics that speak to self-discovery and personal growth. The first storyteller is Johnny Masiulewicz, a Chicago native who recounts his fear of alligators and how it intensified after moving to Florida with his failing marriage. In an attempt to push away his nightmares, he begins to buy and dump white gravel into the water around his dock to create a clear space where no gators could come to sneak up on him. He tells the story of his obsession with collecting and dumping rocks and how it led him to nearly getting caught by the local forest ranger. After many trips, he finally creates the haven he was looking for, but when he goes to tell his wife, he discovers that she has left him. Then hurricane season came, and the rains and storm surge covered up all his hard work. Johnny realized that he can push away his fears for a while, but they'll always come back. The next storyteller of the evening, Naga Wasserman, is a woman of many talents — a swing dancer and a black belt in martial arts. Born and raised in an ashram in Florida, she was surrounded by a diverse group of people who were all considered family. Growing up, Naga was taught the importance of kindness and that acts of service were paramount. And as a child, Naga was aware of how she felt and how others made her feel, and she never wanted to make anyone feel left out. Naga's love for dancing began at the young age of four when she started ballet. She enjoyed performing on stage and continued to dance until she was introduced to swing dancing and Lindy Hop at the age of ten. Her brother and his friends were the reason for her discovery, and they spent many Saturday nights dancing away at the studio and refueling at Denny's. However, Naga's passion for dancing was cut off when she met Josh, her boyfriend during her senior year of high school. He made it clear that he was not comfortable with her having male friends or going swing dancing because of the physical contact involved. Naga made sacrifices and did what she felt she had to do to make their relationship work. She made as many girlfriends as she could and stopped dancing, which was heartbreaking for her. This went on for a few years until they eventually broke up after Naga graduated from college. Years later, Naga decided to take back her life and rediscover herself. She started swing dancing again and found a sense of community with other swing dancers who understood her love for the dance. Naga began teaching Lindy Hop lessons at a local club called the Volstead and built a safe haven for herself and her fellow dancers. Throughout her journey, Naga learned that her comfort and well-being are essential, and she learned to use her voice to set boundaries and stand up for herself. She redefined what kindness means to her, understanding that it is not always comfortable and that it includes being kind to oneself. The final speaker of the episode is Ebony Payne-English, a multifaceted artist who has overcome immense challenges to become a successful actress, playwright, filmmaker, and educator. Growing up in poverty in Jacksonville, Florida, Ebony struggled with depression, multiple suicide attempts, and sexual assault from a young age. Despite these obstacles, she held onto her dream of becoming one of the greatest entertainers of all time. After a chance encounter with a woman named Sharita Santa Cruz, who became her brand manager, Ebony learned to swim and left a dead-end relationship to start her own nonprofit. She facilitated weekly workshops for teenagers at the main library teen center for eight years, which grew from 20 to 200 participants. When Ebony was diagnosed with HIV, one of her high schoolers reminded her that she already had children in the form of the youth she mentored. Ebony eventually met a wonderful man and gave birth to her daughter, Mahogany Rose. Unfortunately, addiction prevented Mahogany's father from being present in their lives, and Ebony struggled with how to respond when her daughter began throwing tantrums and crying out for her father. One day, after Mahogany Rose asked to go to the beach to return her stuffed animal baby Orca to his family, Ebony and her best friend took Mahogany to the beach to dip her locks in the ocean for the first time. When Mahogany began crying and disoriented after being submerged in the ocean, Ebony's friend reminded her that they had each other's backs. Ebony released her tears into the ocean and when she emerged from the water was surprised to see five dolphins swimming in a crescent moon formation right in front of her. The experience reminded Ebony of her childhood dream of swimming with dolphins and the power of faith, gratitude, and togetherness.

Ebbs and Flows, Part 2

Story Tellers: Angela TenBroeck, Willie Evans Jr, Anna Jacobson Musical Guest: Meredith Mason The second episode of Untold Stories was recorded live on stage at the Florida Theater in downtown Jacksonville on November 27, 2021. Untold Stories kicks off its second episode, Ebbs and Flows, Part 2, with a soulful performance by Meredith Mason. With her guitar in hand, Meredith takes center stage and pours her heart out through two powerful songs that hold significant meaning to her. The first song speaks to the internal battle of the mind, while the second recounts the most transformative experience of her life, second only to becoming a mother. The first storyteller of the episode was Angela TenBroeck, CEO of Worldwide Aquaponics and co-founder of Foodery Farms. Angela shared her story about her Cherokee roots and how she moves through the world as a modern-day farmer. Raised on a river that her family had lived on for generations, Angela was told by her aunt that she was the family's White Buffalo, responsible for bringing balance, harmony, and hope. But in 2018, Angela's life changed forever when a near-fatal allergic reaction made her realize that she needed to focus on her own insecurities and personal growth. Over the next 18 months, Angela evolved and changed, recognizing that she had been seeking validation from the outside world and needed to give balance and hope to herself. During this time, she also helped bring 2 million pounds of produce to those in need, proving that even during personal struggles, one can still make a positive impact in the world. As Angela learned to accept and receive personal love, she felt elemental love like never before and finally found the balance and abundance she had been searching for. The next storyteller of the evening was Willie Evans Jr., a talented beat maker and hip hop artist from Jacksonville, Florida. With a career spanning over 25 years, he has toured the world with his hip hop group, Asamov, and has received critical acclaim for his solo albums. In a heartwarming and comical segment, Willie Evans Jr. shares his experience of learning to swim as a child. Despite being terrified of the water, Willie's mother pushed him into the pool and forced him to swim to the other side. In the midst of his panic and tears, Willie managed to make it to the other end of the pool, surprising himself. This event left a lasting impression on Willie, teaching him that with determination and focus, he could achieve anything. Willie recounts a nerve-wracking encounter with Pharoahe Monch, one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time. After landing a critical success with his solo album, Willie had the opportunity to open for Pharoahe at a festival. His label owner, knowing Willie's tendency to get nervous and falter in high-pressure situations, accompanied him and introduced him to Pharoahe. As the two introduced themselves, Pharoahe surprisingly told Willie how much he loved his album. The label owner shot Willie a look, but Willie was too excited to notice as he awkwardly reacted to Pharoahe's praise. Later that night, on the way to dinner with Pharoahe, the label owner trying to make a connection happen shoved Willie into the backseat of Pharoahe's car. While he drove, Pharoahe discussed a concept for a new album with another and another legendary artist in the passenger seat, and at one point, Pharoahe asked Willie for his thoughts. Willie embarrassingly turned his head to look behind him, assuming that Pharoahe was talking to someone else. Willie also shares about his profound friendship with Peyton Lock, who was not only his long-time collaborator, but also his best friend. Their conversations went beyond hip hop theory and into matters of parenting and relationships. When Peyton was diagnosed with stage four inoperable cancer, their conversations shifted to taking stock of their lives and the decisions they had made as artists. Peyton's passing left a deep hole in Willie's life, and he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his friend and collaborator. Anna Jacobsen delivered the final story of the evening that takes us on a journey through Hurricane Irma, a disaster that destroyed her home and forced her family to evacuate. As they paddle away from their flooded house with their koi fish posse in tow, Anna reflects on how the disaster has affected her family's life. She describes how she and her husband responded differently to the crisis, with him donning protective gear and her wearing running shorts and holding a baby squirrel. As they shuttle people to safety, Anna's disaster brain kicks in, and she feels a sense of belonging amidst the chaos. She admits to grieving the loss of her fish after they made a sassy escape to the St. Johns River. Anna finds herself and her family staying with her parents for seven months, where she watches them struggle with aging and their own relationship. Throughout her story, Anna contemplates the idea of a "new normal" and how it doesn't exist. She reflects on the cycle of crisis and response and how every change brings its own set of losses and resignations. Anna finds comfort in a stained glass window that she and her husband had purchased before they had their house. It depicts a pelican with text from Psalms that speaks to Anna's sense of exile and loneliness. Through it all, Anna finds solace in the idea that life is a cycle of crisis and response and that we must hold tight to what and who we love. Meredith Mason's final song of the evening, "Wild Heart", speaks to the yearning for a free and untamed spirit, to break free from the confines of societal expectations and the fear of the unknown. It reminds us that sometimes we must let go of our fears and embrace the unknown in order to truly find our wild heart.

Ebbs and Flows, Part 1

Story Tellers: Zonnetta Marie, Kedgar Volta, Johnathan Ross Musical Guest: Meredith Mason The first episode of Untold Stories was recorded live on stage at the Florida Theater in downtown Jacksonville on November 27, 2021. ( Florida Theatre) After a brief introduction by WJCT Public Media CEO, David McGowan and artistic director Barbara Colaciello, the first episode of Untold Stories starts with a performance by singer-songwriter Meredith Mason. Mason's song, "I Will Love You When You're Wrong", expresses the singer's unwavering commitment to love and support her loved one, even when they make mistakes or experience struggles. The lyrics describe the ebb and flow of life's ups and downs, and how the singer's love will remain constant throughout it all. Zonnetta Marie performing in Untold Stories( Florida Theatre) The first storyteller of the evening is Zonnetta Marie, who shares a deeply personal story about her adoption and the identity crisis that followed. Growing up, Zonnetta lived a privileged life as the queen of her household, known as "Miss G" and spoiled by her family. But a phone call from her mother one day revealed the truth: she was adopted. Zonnetta was angry and felt unwanted, but ultimately decided to seek out her birth mother. As she asked questions and received vague answers, Zonnetta realized that the identity she had created for herself was not dependent on blood, but on the love of her family who raised her. In the end, Zonnetta learned to replace her anger with gratitude and realized that she was chosen by her parents, who loved and wanted her. Kedgar Volta performing in Untold Stories( Florida Theatre) The second storyteller of the evening was Kedgar Volta, a Cuban-born artist who was approached by the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville to create a site-specific installation for the museum's atrium. Kedgar felt overwhelmed with emotion when he visited the atrium space, and it wasn't because he was intimidated by the size of the space. Rather, he felt grateful for the opportunities he had been given and the people who had helped him get to that point. Kedgar spent two months creating his installation, which was made up of over 1,000 LED lights arranged in a circular pattern and distributed over seven levels. Each light was directed to point at the viewer, representing the people who had helped Kedgar in different ways throughout his life. The installation was titled "The Fragility of the Promise," and it opened to the public in November 2019 after six months of work. Johnathan Ross performing in Untold Stories( Florida Theatre) The final story of the evening by Johnathan Ross is a personal reflection on his experience performing in a community theater production of the musical "The Full Monty". Johnathan shares his background as a Navy brat, frequently moving to new places every few years, which led to social anxiety and a feeling of being an outsider. He talks about how doing theater, especially a musical where he had to sing, dance, and eventually take off his clothes on stage, helped him confront his fears and insecurities. The culmination of the experience was a moment when he was alone on stage after the final performance, hearing the sound of the broom sweeping the stage, and feeling like he had finally found a sense of stillness and belonging within himself. Johnathan encourages the audience to take risks and step out of their comfort zones to find new experiences and growth. In the final moments of the podcast episode, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Untold Stories, a live storytelling series at the Florida Theater. David McGowan, CEO of WJCT Public Media, speaks with Numa Saisselin, CEO of the Florida Theater and Barbara Colaciello, the artistic director of Untold Stories, about the process of creating and shaping this unique and intimate event. We learn how the series was inspired by other storytelling festivals and series around the country, and how Saisselin and Colaciello worked to create a localized, community-driven event that would showcase the diversity of human experience in Jacksonville, Florida. Colaciello shares her process of drawing out the stories from each performer, and how she helps them shape their narratives into compelling and emotional tales. As the hosts reflect on the impact of Untold Stories, they highlight the unique power of live storytelling to bring people together, build empathy and celebrate the beauty of human connection. They encourage everyone to share their own stories and to listen with an open heart to the stories of others. The episode ends with an invitation to join the live series at the Florida Theater or to listen to the podcast version from anywhere in the world.

Untold Stories: Trailer

Discover the fascinating and transformative narratives of Northeast Florida residents with Untold Stories, the live oral storytelling series now available as a podcast, brought to you by WJCT Public Media and the Florida Theatre. Join us for an immersive experience as we explore the unique lives and experiences of individuals from all walks of life. Each episode offers a captivating story that paints a vivid picture of the rich cultural landscape of Northeast Florida. Recorded live on stage at the historic Florida Theatre, Untold Stories is a must-listen for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the diverse community that calls Northeast Florida home. Tune in to the first season of Untold Stories wherever you get your podcasts. Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear inspiring and thought-provoking stories from some of the most interesting individuals in Northeast Florida.