Jessica Blank - Stories That Change Things

Today we dive into storytelling with a master. Jessica Blank is a playwright, actor and director. But she thinks of herself first as storyteller — that is, a storyteller with a purpose. With her husband and writing partner, Erik Jensen, she wrote the documentary play The Exonerated, which told the true stories of people wrongly convicted on death row. The script came from interviews with former death row inmates telling their own stories. Their other documentary plays include Aftermath and How to Be a Rock Critic, about the legendary Lester Bangs. Jessica has also published three young adult novels, and co-directed a film of her first one, Almost Home.  

Jessica has deep insight into how telling the right stories can humanize the faceless, abstract victims of decisions that we make almost unconsciously as a society — and shift our perspective in a way that leads to real change. As she says in our discussion, storytelling create avenues to empathize with people who otherwise seem vastly different from us. 

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Theme music is “Measure by Measure,” courtesy of DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller (@djspooky), from his album The Secret Song, and interstitial music are tracks by The Human Experience: "Sunu" from the album Soul Visions with Rising Appalachia, and Here for a Moment on the album Gone Gone Beyond.