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STRANGERS

From Lea Thau, Peabody award-winning producer and former Director of The Moth, comes her new storytelling baby, Strangers, part of KCRW’s Independent Producer Project and of PRX’s Radiotopia collective.

Strangers LogoEach episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were. Subscribe in iTunes join us on Facebook or SoundCloud. All episodes below.

Musical supervisor Paul Smith. Strangers is supported by The Leon Lowenstein Foundation, the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, the Annenberg Foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation and the Roth Family Foundation.

Latest Episode:

Elizabeth and Mary, Part 2

This is the second installment in our series about Elizabeth and Mary. On this episode, we play some of the strong reactions we received from listeners to the first installment, and dive deeper into why Elizabeth decided to give a kidney to a stranger, and who she really is…

Elizabeth and Troy after running their first marathon.

Elizabeth and Troy after running their first marathon.

Elizabeth and Troy on a motorcycle trip.

Elizabeth and Troy on a motorcycle trip.

Mary and Acey

Mary and Acey




 

Featured Episodes:

The Long Shadow


Murder, music, mystery. A controversial event in 1997 changed the fate of two band mates.

 

Liz Fletcher: Little Orphan Edie, a Valentine's Story


A tale of true love spanning four decades, two countries, and classic racial divides...

 

Matjames and Tyler: Flee, Flood, Float


A story about the places we go and the people we find. (Sorry we don't want to give it away, just listen, please.)

 

Henry and Jane


A 40-year-old stroke victim demonstrates that a sense of humor can be the last thing to go.

 

Terry's Treasure


Producer Lea Thau embarks on a strange online dating adventure.

 

Recent Episodes:

Elizabeth and Mary, Part 1

Would you give a kidney to a stranger? Inspired by a previous episode of Strangers, Elizabeth decided to do just that. This is Part 1 of the story that ensued.

Produced by Lea Thau and Paul Dreux Smith.
Elizabeth, ever the adventurer, smiles for the camera while rappelling.

Elizabeth, ever the adventurer, smiles for the camera while rappelling.

Elizabeth and her fiancee Troy enjoying a rare drink.

Elizabeth and her fiancee Troy enjoying a rare drink.

 

Mary and Acie on vacation, before Mary was forced to start dialysis.

Mary and Acie on vacation, before Mary was forced to start dialysis.

 

Mary, young at heart!

Mary, young at heart!




 

The Waxing Virgin — Then and Now


Four years ago, we met Becca, a virgin in her 30s who waxed genitals for a living. On this episode we play her original story, along with an update about what Becca has been up to since then…




 

A Special Broadcast From Strangers


Henry and Jane
Henry Evans was a healthy 40 year­-old father of four when he suffered a stem-­brain stroke, caused by an unknown congenital defect, and woke up with “locked­-in” syndrome, only able to blink, otherwise completely paralyzed and mute. These days, still mute but able to move his head and one finger, he can communicate and accomplish remarkable things, thanks in part to some creative inventions of his own, and to his wife Jane. Together they demonstrate that a sense of humor may be the last thing to go when much else is lost.

Check out Henry’s Robots for Humanity project.

The Evanses: Henry and Jane with their four children, still laughing even as the family is visiting the oldest son, Stephen, who was injured as a medic in Iraq (no joke, but thankfully he is fully recovered).

The Evanses: Henry and Jane with their four children,
still laughing even as the family is visiting the oldest son,
Stephen, who was injured as a medic in Iraq
(no joke, but thankfully he is fully recovered).

Henry and Jane on their wedding day

Henry and Jane on their wedding day.


One of Henry’s tech collaborations with the company, Fighting Walrus, has resulted in his flying a drone with his head so he can survey the beautiful landscape outside his house.


Wanna see Jane who’s 5’2” transfer Henry who is 6’4” from his bed to his wheelchair?


Henry and Jane use a plexiglass letter-board to communicate, and they’ve gotten so good they can read from the letter-board even when they put down the actual board and do “virtual board.”

 

Falling Slowly
Strangers, at its core, is about the beauty and the struggle of human connection and what happens in those moments when we get closer to someone else, or further removed from ourselves. Often that change is subtle and slow, but sometimes it is sudden and monumental. Here is Lyena Strelkoff. Check out Lyena’s blog.

Dean and Lyena. Photo by Julia Sherburne

Dean and Lyena. -Photo by Julia Sherburne.

Dean and Lyena at their wedding.

Dean and Lyena at their wedding.

Dean and Lyena at their wedding.

Dean and Lyena at their wedding.

Lyena and her son, Aidan.

Lyena and her son, Aidan.

Lyena, Dean and Aidan.

Lyena, Dean and Aidan.

Lyena performs her one-woman show, Caterpillar Soup, which was supposed to run for three weeks and was extended to six months. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Lyena performs her one-woman show, Caterpillar Soup, which was supposed to run for three weeks and was extended to six months.  – Photo by Ed Krieger.

Lyena performs her one-woman show, Caterpillar Soup. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Lyena performs her one-woman show, Caterpillar Soup.  -Photo by Ed Krieger.




 

Left Right Black White

A stereotypical, Whole-Foods-shopping, NPR-listening liberal finds herself in an alliance of Republicans.

While under attack, "Fortress" sees the blue streaks that indicate a massive outpouring of support from her network of other players. How could she not put differences aside?

While under attack, “Fortress” sees the blue streaks that indicate a massive outpouring of support from her network of other players. How could she not put differences aside?




 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman


Sometimes you get in a rut as a creative professional, wondering if you’ll ever be a professional, creatively, or if you’ll be forever stuck in some dead-end day job that’s designed to pay the bills but barely does. And then you might fantasize that some big change, or chance encounter, or fabulous coincidence is going to turn it around FOREVAH. Sometimes, though, we should be careful what we wish for…Suzanne Clores tells this story.

And speaking of artists trying to be creative professionals, please support our Radiotopia Fall Campaign to raise money for 2016 and keep this show and 12 other stellar shows in production. It’s ON right now at www.radiotopia.fm. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

You can find Suzanne Clores at suzanneclores.com, and check out her cool new project, The Extraordinary Project, at theextraordinaryproject.org

Banner image: Suzanne on her graduation day from her Master’s program in Tucson.

Suzanne_NY

Suzanne, the young art girl in all black

Suzanne_beach

Suzanne, the tank-top girl after the big move

Suzanne_Chi

Suzanne, the Chicago mom.

 




 

My Father's Bones

One day when Susan was five, her father came home and nailed her bunk bed shut. That was the beginning of a long strange journey.

Susan Sheu with her father in Chicago in 1970

Susan Sheu with her father in Chicago in 1970

A 1973 Christmas card photo of Susan with her father, mother and baby brother.

A 1973 Christmas card photo of Susan with her father, mother and baby brother.

Susan at Vassar, 1990.

Susan at Vassar, 1990.

Susan and her father having Thanksgiving dinner near Vassar at her cousin's house in Fishkill, New York, 1989

Susan and her father having Thanksgiving dinner near Vassar at her cousin’s house in Fishkill, New York, 1989

Susan with her husband Brian and her aunts and uncles during her trip to Taipei, Taiwan, in December 2000 to attend her father's funeral.

Susan with her husband Brian and her aunts and uncles during her trip to Taipei, Taiwan, in December 2000 to attend her father’s funeral.

Susan’s father’s funeral, his family crypt, in Taipei, Taiwan, December 2000.

Susan’s father’s funeral, his family crypt, in Taipei, Taiwan, December 2000.




 

Jenni, Remembered

In the Strangers community, we’ve lost one of our own: Jenni Rowell, 33, has passed away. In this episode, with the help of her family and friends, we rejoice in her life and everything she gave us, and we mourn what we have lost. We also reveal some happy news that she got to enjoy in the last six months of her life…

Jenni in Spring, 2015

Jenni in Spring, 2015

Jenni with a friend

Jenni as a little girl.

Jenni as a little girl.

Lynn, Troy and Jenni

Lynn, Troy and Jenni

 

Here’s the Spotify playlist created by Jenni’s friend Abie with many of Jenni’s favorite songs, which were suggested by her family and her friends far and wide.

Support Jenni’s family here as they pay for Jenni’s remaining medical bills (note: the fundraiser for Jenni’s memorial that was mentioned on the show was a success and reached its $3,500 goal! Thanks to all who donated and allowed for such a beautiful celebration of life memorial service for Jenni.)

 




 

Sexistential

What exactly does a sex surrogate do? Meet Kendra Holliday to find out.

Kendra Holliday

Kendra Holliday!

To learn more about Kendra and her work, you can also visit her website thebeautifulkind.com.

 

Track List

1. The Sensual Woman by The Herbaliser, album “The Best of Herbal Tonic”
2. Canal by Paul Dreux Smith, written for the episode
3. Ghost Writer by RJD2, album “Deadringer” 2002
4. Curious Cabaret by Larry S. Tuttle, album “Circus Freaks Gothic Shrieks” 2009
5. One Thing by Paul Dreux Smith, written for the episode
6. John Tomes by Tosca, album “Suzuki” 2000
7. Sheherazade by Esquivel, album “Strings Aflame” 1959
8. Loving Moment by Paul Dreux Smith, written for the episode
9. Alienated by Paul Dreux Smith, written for the episode
10. Midnight Feast by Mr. Scruff, album “Keep it Unreal” 1999
11. Breathing by Paul Dreux Smith, written for the episode
12. Petrified Blues by J-Walk, album “A Night on the Rocks” 2002
13. Center of Attraction (Instrumental) by Ghostface Killa/Adrian Younge, album “12 Reasons to Die”
14. Outerlude by Dieselhed, album “Chico and the Flute” 2001




 

Love Hurts - One Year Later


One year ago today, July 31st, Lea went to interview Robert, a guy she’d dated, about why he’d turned her down. That became the first of a series of episodes called “Love Hurts,” where Lea investigated why she was having trouble finding love again in the four years since she found herself pregnant and alone when her fiancé left. In this episode she returns to the genre of highly intimate and personal interviews with a follow-up about her quest for love this past year.

(yup, that’s Lea in the second row on the roller coaster)




 

The Teacher Who Couldn't Read

John Corcoran graduated from high school and college and then spent 17 years as a high school teacher without knowing how to read or write. How on earth did he pull that off? And why? This is his story.

A different version of this story was originally presented on Strangers in early 2012.

All music in this episode by Paul Dreux Smith.




 

American Mormon — International Mr. Leather


A new - and improved! - version of an old Strangers story: A Mormon boy grows up to become "International Mr. Leather," which is the “Miss Universe” equivalent of the leather fetish world, and he’s forced to acknowledge some surprising parallels between his childhood church and the kinky gay, male leather world…

 

Like a Pizza: Two Men and a Baby - the Follow-Up

In 2014 Patrick and Steve received a surprise delivery…and it was a newborn, whaa! A story ensued, which became the episode Two Men and a Baby. Now, a year later we check in to see how things are going.

Photo by Fernando Rodríguez




 

Adrian's Race 2


This is the second installment in our series about Adrian Wagner, who at 25 is losing his eyesight, and who is in a race to try to locate his birth parents in time to qualify for upcoming clinical trials, which might cure his condition but require genetic testing of both parents. And that is just one of several challenges and questions facing Adrian, as he looks to the future and ponders the balance between humility and pride in his attitude towards his disease, while also diving deeper into his past. We recommend listening to this series in order. If you haven’t heard the first installment of Adrian’s Race, you can find it here,  where you can also find more pictures of Adrian.

Thanks to Freya Bennett for submitting her music for the show. We used her track “Nostalgia” on this episode. You can find her at www.freyabennett.com. For a complete music list, visit www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/strangers/adrians-race-2




 

Unconditional


This is a story of mothers, love, regrets and redemption, and of secrets from many years passed that cast long shadows in our lives. It’s about how Deborah Jiang-Stein came to be pulled over by two highway patrolmen at 19 years-old, with a trunk load of dope, a .38 revolver and a 10” switch blade…and that’s only the beginning.

Deborah Jiang-Stein is the founder of The unPrison Project, empowering women and girls in prison: www.unprisonproject.org and she is the author of PRISON BABY: A Memoir. Her web site is www.deborahstein.com.




 

The Cruellest Month?

 

April is the cruellest month. At least it can be. If you are depressed or heartbroken, there is nothing worse than the thaw and the blossoms and the girls in short dresses and the lovers on park benches licking melting ice cream off each other’s faces and fingers. It makes your heart ache more because you remember the times when you felt like that, when spring made your heart sing as your rode your bike through the woods with the wind in your hair to meet friends on the shore, and the sun shone through the leaves in playful patterns. And there was a slight chill in the air down there in the shade of the trees, which might have warned you that age and experience would bring darker times in springs ahead, if you hadn’t been too innocent or just happy to notice. But you don’t understand the true cruelty of April until you are freshly heartbroken or terribly depressed, just like you don’t understand the true beauty of April until you’ve experienced a magical spring, and what’s more magical than being in love?

On this episode we’re honoring spring with a couple of very small stories about the quest for love, and the way it sometimes works out and sometimes does not. The first story, Copenhagen Laundry, was recorded and edited by Danish radio producer Christine Runøe. The second story, Looking for Love in El Paso, features Dave Kessler and first appeared on Strangers in February 2012.




 

Adrian's Race


Adrian is 25 and losing his eyesight. He's in a race against time. He’s also in a battle between humility and pride. When is it stubborn, perhaps even foolhardy, not to make concessions to one’s disability? When is it the only way out? And where do you find wisdom to know the difference?

 

Jenni, Now


We revisit Jenni Rowell from the episode “Life, Interrupted” to see where things stand, and learn some sh*t about life.

 

And Justice for All?


A booker for TV court shows shares highs and lows from the merry-go-round of daytime justice...

 

Love - Good and Bad


For Valentine’s Day we return to the theme of love, with a story about someone else’s heartbreak for a change. As for Lea's heart, well, you’ll see….

 

A Father’s Story - Then and Now


To mark the three-year anniversary of Strangers we share with you the very first story ever featured on the show, about Stephen Rochelle and his son Matthew, and we return to Stephen to see how they're doing now, three years later. In July 2011, Matthew Rochelle stood trial for murder. This is the story of what happened from the point of view of his father. How did his sweet little boy end up in this place? How do you cope when your own child becomes a stranger? Can you make a difference if you do everything in your power to get him back?

 

Love Hurts — The Follow-Up


Lea received hundreds of messages in response to her raw, personal four-part series, "Love Hurts." In this follow-up episode, she strings together the funny, poignant and moving voice mails she received from listeners in response to the series and tries to make sense of this thing called love, finally. She also gives an update on her most recent dating adventure…

 

The Mind Shaft


Greg O'Brien was in his late 50s when strange things started happening…

 

Alaska Bingo


Sam Feirstein takes a broken heart to Alaska and finds surprising kindness in “enemy territory.” Also, producer Lea Thau takes a broken heart to India and has a “stranger” experience that inspires her to create this show.




 

Screaming with Professionals


For Halloween, we give you a ghost story of sorts. Not in the traditional sense, but we think you’ll know what we mean when you hear it. As a little boy, Bill Ratner experienced a series of tragedies. Then he learned to scream….




 

Falling Slowly


Strangers, at its core, is about the beauty and the struggle of human connection and what happens in those moments when we get closer to someone else, or, say, further removed from ourselves. Often that change is subtle and slow, but sometimes it is sudden and monumental. Here is Lyena Strelkoff. Check out Lyena’s blog.

A version of this story was previously featured on Season 1 of Strangers.




 

Big Jim and Smokey Joe


A waitress, a former bomber pilot and a retired railroad engineer embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Story told by Jennefer Ludwigsen.

A version of this story was previously featured on Season 1 of Strangers.




 

Love Hurts 4


In this final installment of Love Hurts, Lea talks to a guy SHE turned down.

 

Love Hurts 3


In this third installment of Love Hurts, Lea seeks dating advice from two experts and lets it all hang out. Love Hurts is a series in which Lea investigates why she is single. We recommend listening to the episodes in order.

 

Love Hurts 2


Lea Thau tells more stories from her love life and interviews yet another guy who turned her down.

 

Love Hurts


While doing a story about online dating, Lea gets her heart broken (yet again).

 

Kenna Fisher: Renaissance Woman


Kenna, formerly known as Ken, came out 5 years ago. This is her story.

 

Two Men and a Baby


Two young men receive a surprise delivery. And it's a newborn. Whaaa!

 

Cora Leighton: The Gift


A stripper and a tattoo artist have a fateful encounter.

 

Jenni Rowell: Life, Interrupted


Jenni Rowell had surgery last year that altered her appearance forever. She wrote to us and said " I have a story about seeing a stranger every time I look in the mirror." As we worked on her story, things took a turn for the worse...

 

Born Rich (or Poor): Moby, Jamie Johnson & others


Just how fabulous is it to be fabulously rich? 4 stories of wealth--inherited and earned.

 

Anniversary Episode: Strangers Revisited


An online dater finds love after 16 years, and an exonerated prisoner goes to see the former District Attorney.

 

Alfredo Corchado: Midnight in Mexico


An immigrant boy receives an offer he can't refuse.

 

Andrew and Akina Cox: Meet the Moonies


A hip young artist couple find themselves in an arranged marriage.

 

Andrea Askowitz: Be My Baby


A woman finds her way to the all-american, suburban, lesbian life.

 

Altruism


Does true altruism exist? Here are three stories that say yea, nay, and just maybe...

 

Gay Talese: Committed Voyeur


Legendary non-fiction writer, Gay Talese, discusses his marriage, his work, and the scandals that have made waves in both.

 

Franky Carrillo: Life


A man spends 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, but comes out ahead...

 

Alec Ledd, Moby: A.K.A.


Moby shares moments with strangers, Alec Ledd goes Jewish for Barbara Streisand.

 

Lauren Whaley, Jake de Grazia, VS. Dobbs: Love


Three stories of heart break and true love.

 

David Terry: Jesus


The son of missionaries is taken to Greece at age 5 and returns to the U.S. in the 8th grade with a mullet and a Jesus shirt. And that's just the beginning...

 

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