Swamp Radio Summer 2015

Spinning Yarns: Swamp Radio Tells Tales of North Florida

Event: Swamp Radio: How’s Your Summer?
Date/Time: Friday June 12th, 8pm
Location: Florida Theatre, 128 E Forsyth St
Tickets: $25.50 or $50 with Olio dinner
Contact: Florida Theatre Box Office 355-2787 or floridatheatre.com

There is little doubt that Florida is a melting pot where all eccentricities proudly strut about with their freak flags flying high. There is also a brilliant undercurrent of culture and history that help weave the fabric of the region. That diversity offers a deep well of thought-provoking material and hilarious gems floating generously close to the surface. Swamp Radio, a live radio show experience created and directed by Ian Mairs, celebrates the music, art, and stories of North Florida through a mixture of stories, sketches, and music. The summer show Swamp Radio: How’s Your Summer? is presented at 8pm, Friday, June 12th, at the Florida Theatre. Special musical guests include The Willow Wacks, Herd of Watts, and Mama Blue.

Swamp Radio: How’s Your Summer? offers a sunny take on the summer season in Jacksonville, with everything from the annual invasion of “townies” to the favorite beach spot of Neptune Beach resident Hurley Winkler to the latest tips on swimwear, tan lines, and twerking courtesy of audience favorite “Ask Swamp Lady.” The evening also features a charming remembrance of Tillie Fowler written by Florida Times Union columnist Mark Wood, historian Wayne Wood spinning a riveting account of the start of the Great Fire of 1901, and storyteller Derek Coghlan recalling a particularly hysterical family funeral in the heat of July.

Derek CoghlanCoghlan is a gifted actor and storyteller. It’s part of who he is and where he comes from. In Ireland, he says, everyone can tell a good story. “If you couldn’t tell a good story, there’s something wrong with you,” he says. “The piece is sort of about funerals in general. Funerals are such a huge part of our culture. In Ireland, we look forward to funerals. Funerals are great fun, but we are much more in touch with the dead. Here, in America, its almost like nobody ever dies. When I grew up, people died and you went into the house and the dead body was in the coffin with the top half open and the bottom half would be like a table with tea and rock-hard scones and half sandwiches. That was kind of normal.”

Coghlan will also offer details into his older brother’s wishes for his own funeral, which he says is “a pretty interesting take” on planning one’s own memorial service. And for someone who snacked on pastries as a child in the front parlor of a home containing a corpse, that speaks volumes. “I think so many times we look at death as a terribly bad thing. We’re all going to die and trying to ignore death and sort of put it as far away from ourselves as possible, when in fact it’s right there beside us,” he says. “In Ireland, we’re much more okay with embracing it with madness and silliness than anything else.”

Growing up, Coghlan says he was always interested in storytelling as a form of expression. After moving to Jacksonville, he found a renewed interest about 15 years ago when he saw Al Letson perform one of his one-man shows. He remembers thinking to himself, “I think I’d like to have a go at that.”  Coghlan has performed in theatre and later in one-man shows of his own, but when Ian Mairs asked him to join Swamp Radio, “it was kind of a no brainer,” he says. “It was like ‘ok, how do I get involved?’”

“Audiences will respond because they will see themselves. If you’re telling a story about eating at a Waffle House, people know that. People will recognize themselves in stories or they know someone that will fit into that story. Most of the stories in Swamp Radio are set in Northeast Florida so we connect to the location. We connect to some of the stereotypes but we also connect to the people in the stories. We’ve all had a mad aunt or an alcoholic somewhere in the family or the one that only eats the one food. These are the things we connect with,” explains Coghlan. This month, Coghlan celebrates 25 years stateside, and he continues to marvel at the oddities that make up the Sunshine State. “Florida is the melting pot of melting pots. That’s what I love about it. Florida is still growing in such a wonderfully odd bloody way. It’s like ‘if you’re crazy, c’mon in. This is the spot for you’,” he says. “We need more people we to get out to see Swamp Radio and really appreciate what we have. We have an amazingly talented group of people from the brilliant poets to the incredible musicians. I think there is an awful lot more going here on than most people realize.”

Tickets for the show only are $25.50. A special dinner package including a three-course menu at Olio and priority show seating are $50. Tickets are on sale now and are available at the Florida Theatre Box Office at 355-2787 or at floridatheatre.com.


About Liza Mitchell