Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Curious Louis question-asker Rachel Duncan, left, and St. Louis Public Radio reporter Shahla Farzan, center, speak with Bill Houston of the Saint Louis Zoo.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Duncan doesn’t remember the first time she visted the St. Louis Zoo, but she’s pretty sure she was an infant.

“There’s not a summer in my life that I have not come to visit the St. Louis Zoo and enjoyed what it has to offer,” said Duncan. “It’s a part of my entire life.”

Like many St. Louisans, she feels personally connected to the animals at the zoo. That prompted her to ask our Curious Louis reporting series: What happens when an animal passes away at the zoo? Do they have a funeral? And how does it impact the workers?


File photo: Esther, played by Jacqueline Thompson, and Mr. Marks, played by Jim Butz, examine a bolt of fine fabric in a scene that simmers with largely unspoken feelings.
Eric Woolsey

The emphasis is on the “new” for incoming New Jewish Theatre artistic director Edward Coffield.

In July, Coffield will take the reins from founder Kathleen Sitzer who launched the company 22 years ago.

Coffield plans to shake things up by including a family show every year, collaborating with other companies and working with themes that encompass issues well beyond the realm of Judaism.

After serving as Sitzer’s assistant for 16 years, Coffield acknowledges he’s building on the work of a St. Louis theater icon.

The Minner Arena fan cave is in the basement of O'Fallon photographer Dennis Minner.
Dennis Minner

An O’Fallon, Missouri, resident might have the coolest basement around — especially if you are a hockey fan. Dennis Minner has converted the space into a mini-Scottrade Center, with much of it devoted to his love of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

Sterling Moody re-arranges shelves at Neighbors' Market, his new East St. Louis grocery store. April 6, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Neighbors’ Market, which promises to focus on healthy food options, is expected to open its doors in East St. Louis this month.

The market will be a full-service grocery store with a dairy and frozen food section, a robust produce aisle, and a butcher’s area for cutting fresh meats daily. The store has already employed its own chef, who will prepare soups, salads and sandwiches. 

Scores of reporters look on as House Speaker Todd Richardson addresses the media on April 11, 2018. The release of House report on Gov. Eric Greitens' conduct is opening the door to impeachment proceedings.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

State Rep. Kathie Conway was one of the first Republican lawmakers to suggest that Gov. Eric Greitens resign.

It was a move that set her apart from most of her Republican and Democratic colleagues, many of whom wanted to wait for more information to come out about a 2015 extramarital affair.

Now, high-ranking members of both parties have joined Conway in calling for Greitens to leave after a startling House committee report. But Conway isn’t saying ‘I told you so.’ Instead, she’s lamenting how his refusal to step down may affect the business of state government.

Omega Jones plays Jesus in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This rendition is set in a dystopian world and portrays Jesus as a complicated human.
Stray Dog Theatre

Growing up in and out of foster care, St. Louis singer and actor Omega Jones managed to find a silver lining: self-reliance.

It’s a trait that helps him confront racism as a young black man — and handle  the ups and downs of musical theater.

“I know at the end of the day, I’m taking care of me; no one else is,” he said.

Caitlyn Kalmer, 7, works on her model of the brain during the Little Medical School after-school program at Stanton Elementary School in Fenton.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Splinters and paper cuts? No. Broken bones? Yes, that’s more worthy of a trip to the hospital. So goes a first-aid lesson for a first-grader.

Treating bumps and scrapes is the first lesson of Little Medical School, a St. Louis County-based company that introduces young learners to health and science.

A Triceratops skull at the Saint Louis Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a late morning at the St. Louis Science Center, ecology educator Brian Thomas showed two elementary school students a fossil that looked like a very old, mangled piece of rock. It was a partial skull of a young Triceratops. 

"Inside here is where the brain would sit," Thomas told the boys. "And it's not a very big brain." 

The science center has two juvenile Triceratops skulls, dug up from northeast Montana, that a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine is studying to understand how the species developed in its lifetime.

In "Islandborn," Junot Diaz writes for immigrant children.
Illustration by Leo Espinosa

For more than 20 years, novelist Junot Diaz has explored the immigrant experience.

From his debut 1996 novel, “Drown,” a semi-autobiographical work on the life of a young Dominican transplant to the United States, to “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, Diaz has found inspiration in the culture that surrounds him. 

His work has won him more than just accolades. He is a MacArthur “genius grant” winner and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his books and in person, his use of language is very much for an adult audience. But for years, his two goddaughters and other children have asked him to craft stories with them in mind. Diaz has done so with his latest book, “Islandborn,” which tackles the dilemma of an island girl in the United States: How do I remember where I come from?

Tickets to the touring version of "Hamilton," coming to the Fox Theatre, sold out in less than five hours.
Joan Marcus

After standing in line, waiting in online queues and forking out big bucks, St. Louisans will be able see “Hamilton” in their hometown.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blend of musical theater, hip-hop, blues, jazz and rap begins Tuesday night and runs through April 22 at The Fox Theatre. The musical turns traditional casting on its head, with actors of color playing the men who shaped the nation, including the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr.

Basketball players huddle for a prayer at the Monsanto Family YMCA.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

For Marcus Wilson, basketball is more than just a game — and he has the career to prove it. Before becoming the executive director of the Monsanto Family YMCA, Wilson learned that basketball could take him far in life and away from the rough neighborhood he came from.

Now he wants to make sure others have that same opportunity.

Every Saturday morning, Wilson opens the court of his YMCA off of Page Blvd., free of charge for anyone wanting to play basketball.

Sister An Mei, left, and Sister Mary Lea Hill wave to a group of high school students who recently visited the Pauline Books and Media store in Crestwood.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Daughters of St. Paul have operated Pauline Books and Media, a small bookstore adjoining their convent in Crestwood, since the 1980s. But these days, the Roman Catholic sisters are reaching people far beyond St. Louis with their posts and videos on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

Using the hashtag #MediaNuns, they tweet friendly messages of inspiration:

“If you do nothing else today, remember that God loves you.”

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In Emeara Burns’ north St. Louis neighborhood, gun violence is a way of life.

Shelley Richmond, a transgender woman, and her wife live in the same house in this Cahokia neighborhood where Richmond grew up.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Eighty-year-old Wisper Lowe, a transgender woman from Belleville, grew up during World War II, a period that demanded patriotism and strict gender roles.

Lowe was assigned male gender at birth. When she was 5, her mother caught her putting on lipstick.

“And her response was to smear the lipstick all over my mouth and then push me onto the front porch where all the neighborhood kids were playing in the street — and lock the door,” Lowe said.

St. Louis Public Radio and other local news outlets took a guided tour of the Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse, in March 2018.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis public safety officials want city residents to know people jailed at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution are treated humanely despite allegations to the contrary.

In March, the mayor’s spokesman invited reporters to tour the jail — commonly known as the Workhouse — after weeks of requests for access from local press. A pending lawsuit against the jail by ArchCity Defenders alleges inhumane conditions, including poor ventilation, rodent and insect infestation and problems with black mold.

Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass fended off the claims in the lawsuit.

College students in the Living Lands & Waters Alternative Spring Break program hauled roughly 35,000 pounds of garbage from the Mississippi River this year near Grafton, IL.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

 

A rowdy group of college students slathers on sunscreen, getting ready for a day on the river.

Instead of bathing suits, these spring breakers are decked out in knee-high rubber boots and faded life jackets. They’re part of the Living Lands & Waters river cleanup crew and for a week, they’ll spend their days pulling trash from the Mississippi River near Grafton, Illinois.

 


Wash U medical resident Pawina Jiramongkolchai presents Joe Weissmann with a smell test.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Two years ago, Joe Weissmann lost something many take for granted: his sense of smell.

“I still eat, but I don’t enjoy it near as much, because I can’t taste any food or have any sensation of smell,” said Weissmann, a lifelong St. Louis resident and retired sheet metal worker.

Still, Weissmann hasn’t lost hope. He is now a participant in a Washington University research study designed to understand how the brain changes after a person loses their sense of smell. The goal is to eventually develop a treatment for long-term smell loss.

 


Gov. Eric Greitens, at top, faces a state House committee investigation. The panel members are shown in clockwise order: Rep. Jay Barnes, Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr., Rep. Jeanie Lauer, Rep. Shawn Rhoads, Rep. Don Phillips, Rep. Kevin Austin, Rep. Gina Mitten
Office of Missouri House of Representatives, and File photos | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and his lawyers have repeatedly attacked St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s investigation into the governor’s personal and political activities, and the related grand jury indictment.

But the governor and his team are notably silent about the state House panel that could decide his future.

An ancient Egyptian mummy named Pet Menekh is placed in a CT scanner at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Washington University School of Medicine

In a dark room on the third floor of the Saint Louis Art Museum, nearly a dozen grade school boys encircled a tour guide, who was dispensing facts about Egyptian mummies. But instead of crowding around three mummies lying nearby in glass cases, they stood in front of a recently added feature to the exhibit: a touchscreen that displays images of what the mummies look like inside.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is in political limbo after being indicted for felony invasion of privacy charges.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann round up this week’s legal and political news surrounding Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.

This week’s episodes focuses on how the governor’s allies and adversaries are trying to alter public opinion in the run up to his felony invasion of privacy trial on May 14.

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