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‘Globe Live’ brings storytelling from the page to the stage

Matthew Gilbert describes doing an interview with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Journalists — they’re just like us! They bomb important interviews, have work husbands, and dread getting calls at work from their elderly mother’s assisted-living facility.

They are human.

This was the takeaway from the stories shared by Globe journalists Friday and Saturday nights at the Paramount Center, where the second edition of “Globe Live” brought storytelling from the page to the stage in front of 850-plus people.

Taking cues from live storytelling events such as Pop-Up Magazine and The Moth, the weekend shows were the sequel to the first “Globe Live,” which took place in May and featured Globies such as Spotlight reporter Sacha Pfeiffer and deputy Washington bureau chief Matt Viser .


Scott Helman, who emceed “Globe Live” 2.0 with reporter Akilah Johnson and also served as the show’s editor and director, said the mission of the live shows is fourfold: To introduce people to Globe journalism in a new way, expand the Globe brand, serve as a community convener, and to bring true stories to life. The “Globe Live” group had staging help from Daniela Varon, a longtime member of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, who coached participants to prepare them for the stage.

“Globe Live” hosts Akilah Johnson and Scott Helman onstage.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Business reporter Janelle Nanos kicked things off on Friday and Saturday by relaying — with help from visuals by designer Ryan Huddle — the hodgepodge of bizarre questions and requests fielded by 311, Boston’s de facto complaint hot line. One complaint had a resident wondering how to properly dispose of half of a kayak (no word on what happened to the other half).

TV critic Matthew Gilbert got laughs by playing audio from his 1991 interview with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. The huge Joni fan “broke every rule of professional interviewing,” bringing a whole new meaning to awkward silence in the process. At one point he tells Mitchell, “You have great teeth, though.”


Several journalists told intimate and often touching stories from their own lives. Janice Page, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for arts and newsroom innovation, recreated her favorite day from childhood. Interactive designer Michael Workman talked about becoming part of the news when his home was engulfed by flames last December in the massive East Cambridge fire that left 120-plus people homeless. Reporter Jonathan Saltzman recalled what it is like being part of “the sandwich generation,” juggling raising his two school-age children while caring for his elderly mother, who got kicked out of her assisted-living facility for swatting at fellow residents. Boston University student and Globe intern Natasha Mascarenhas shared how an unlikely figure — her stern, stubborn grandfather in India — ended up being her biggest supporter when she decided to pursue journalism, not the illustrious career path many of her Indian relatives and others in her community had hoped she would follow.

Other performers included metro columnist Yvonne Abraham and deputy city editor Mike Bello, who paired up to read bad (and often hilarious) Yelp reviews of Boston landmarks and attractions. (A Somerville writer wasn’t impressed with the Freedom Trail: “Old graveyards. Old buildings. Whoopee.”)

Yvonne Abraham and Mike Bello reading Yelp reviews of Boston landmarks.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Taylor de Lench and Scott LaPierre shared the short documentary “Heart Over Height,” about Johnny Ortiz, who helped lead the Brighton Bengals to a Division 2 basketball state championship in March. Ortiz is only 5 foot 3, playing with and against players who are often up to a foot taller; he was in the audience Friday night and got a standing ovation from the crowd after the documentary was screened.


The other video of the evening, produced by Emily Zendt, featured Love Letters columnist Meredith Goldstein and her work husband/Names co-byliner Mark Shanahan. The two had a frank and funny discussion about the fact that Shanahan has never read Goldstein’s advice column.

From left: Steven Wilmsen, Mark Erelli, Roy Greene, Scott Helman, and Rebecca Ostriker performing.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

“Globe Live” featured musical performances by rootsy singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, who also joined Helman, arts editor Rebecca Ostriker, assistant metro editor Roy Greene, and narrative editor Steven Wilmsen onstage to tell the story of “living newspapers,” Federal Theatre Project shows that — with themes ranging from agriculture to syphilis and sugar beets — helped shape social policy during the New Deal era.

Columnist Kevin Cullen closed the show with a touching story about the late Globe foreign correspondent Elizabeth Neuffer, who died in a car accident while covering the Iraq War in 2003, and what she taught him about journalism and humanity.