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An Interview with NPR's Neal Conan on First Person: Seeing America

Ensemble Galilei with guests Neal Conan and Lily Knight
Ensemble Galilei with guests Neal Conan and Lily Knight

Imagine a live show that combines dramatic performances, iconic photography, and traditional Scottish and Irish music performed by Ensemble Galilei.

First Person: Seeing America, narrated by NPR Host Neal Conan, is that show.

Conan stopped by the WHQR studios in downtown Wilmington to talk with Michelle Bliss about last Friday's innovative performance at UNCW. For the show, Conan and actress Lily Knight perform the literary works of figures like Frederick Douglass and Lucille Clifton.

“Lily Knight and I read poetry and stories and diaries—first-person stories that put you in the place of people who have played roles throughout our lives. You hear Abraham Lincoln reading the Gettysburg Address. You hear Frederick Douglass describing his escape from slavery.”

Conan says the show is a reminder of our nation’s history.

“That’s really what I hope people take away from this program—the idea that this is a place where the only thing that’s constant is change. And we are changing again, and our changes are not finished, yet we cannot change in a positive direction without remembering where we’ve been.”

The show chronicles major historical events like the Civil War and the Great Depression.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.

After growing up in Woodbridge, Virginia, Michelle attended Virginia Tech before moving to Wilmington to complete her Master in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Her reporting and nonfiction writing have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, within the pages of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, and in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter. Before moving to Wilmington, Michelle served as the general manager for WUVT, a community radio station in Blacksburg, Virginia. She lives with her husband Scott and their pups, Katie, Cooper, and Mosey.