Being There: Resonate Podcast Festival

In 1966, Salvador Dali proposed a monument of Confederate Capt. Sally Tompkins as an addition to Richmond’s Monument Avenue. On Saturday, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor took a baseball bat to a nearly 9-foot-tall papier-mache replica of it.

The destruction of the faux-Confederate monument served as the finale of the first ever Resonate Podcast Festival. Organized by Chioke l’Anson, assistant professor of African American studies at VCU, director of the VPM + ICA Community Media Center and national NPR radio announcer, Resonate was a sold out event that included podcast clinics, a pitch event for a $10,000 production contract with sponsor VPM*, and special performances by Sharon Mashihi of “Appearances” and Nick van der Kolk of “Love + Radio.”

The latter closed the event with a live presentation of the 2018 Richmond-focused episode “Such is the Way to the Stars*,” where Tawnya “Dr. T” Pettiford-Wates beat the sculpture with a baseball bat. Directed by van der Kolk with Nicki Stein serving as a live producer and a script by Andrew Blossom, the performance was a wild ride through Richmond’s past that included the Atlantic sturgeon, the Richmond Vampire, the Mary Tyler Moore movie “Finnegan Begin Again” and the licentious William Byrd II. The latter is credited with founding Richmond and was portrayed by yours truly.

The “Love + Radio” performance closed with the bizarre true story of how Salvador Dali once pitched a monument to Capt. Sally Tompkins, a Virginia-born woman who ran the hospital with the lowest death rate in the Confederacy. A contemporary spokesperson for Dali told reporters in 1966 that “Dali sees [Tompkins] as a kind of modern St. George and the dragon. The facial likeness would be as near as possible to Captain Sally, but the form of the actual body would depend on whether she wore the uniform or not. And she would probably carry a shield inscribed with the Confederate flag.” The dragon was to be “an enlarged microbe of some kind, not the standard dragon of medieval times.”

Sculptor Max Moore realized Dali’s vision in pink papier-mache for the Love + Radio event. Revealed at the end of the performance, the sculpture was promptly destroyed by Pettiford-Wates, a VCU professor of graduate pedagogy in acting and directing whose credits include the Broadway production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf,” and the original run of “Twin Peaks.” The professor smashed the sculpture as Dirtwoman and Mark Holmberg’s “Richmond” song played over the loudspeakers and the crowd cheered.

* Full disclosures: VPM owns Style Weekly. Griset was a producer of the original podcast episode.


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