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Podcast series "Fruit" tackles personal story

Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 16:54:41-05

Sometimes a story’s greatness doesn’t come from a clever plot or interesting characters.

There are times where a story needs to have the perfect presentation to elevate it beyond its basic words and themes.

“Fruit”, a brand new Midroll podcast that launched on its Howl platform Feb. 3, invites listeners into the world of X, a professional American football player who shares his journey of self-discovery and sexual exploration both off and on the field through first person narration.

“Fruit” is a fictional narrative and chronicles X's relationship with his friends, teammates and family as they impose their own perceptions of his role in an alpha-male dominated industry of professional sports. During questioning for a larger league-related scandal, X must ultimately decide how he wants his story to be told, for himself, and for others like him.

Intimate story, intimate medium

“Fruit” writer and creator Issa Rae had a story she wanted to tell, but just could not find the best way to tell it until a colleague asked a simple question.

“I had been sitting on this idea for a couple of years, trying to find the right way to tell the story,” Rae remembered. “My business executive, Benoni Tagoe, was like, ‘What if ‘Fruit’ were a podcast?’ I really fell in love with the idea of creating an audio world and telling a story in its most basic form. Because the subject matter is so intimate, it also makes sense that our main character is using a medium that feels very one-on-one.”

Unlikely inspiration

The inspiration for “Fruit” came from an unexpected source, according to Rae.

“I was inspired to create ‘Fruit’ after a conversation with my girlfriends about the fragility of black men's masculinity,” Rae explained. “If a woman is attracted to/kisses/dates another woman, she can continue her life as straight, feminine woman with no question. A man cannot do the same, and a black man especially. I had questions about that and thought it would be interesting to have my main character explore his sexuality in a hyper-masculine environment: professional football.”

One story, many voices

Podcast listeners should expect a nice blend of storytelling methods in “Fruit”, episode one. In just less than 11 minutes, X engages the listener directly by starting his story with simple, earnest narration. As his story unfolds, though, the audience transports to specific events in almost an as-it-happens style: an audio flashback where other characters (and new voices) enter the story. The presentation offers a nice change from the usual “telling” aspect of podcasts and allows the listener to be drawn into the story’s universe and get a clearer picture of what happens.

Breaking boundaries through storytelling

Listeners have nine more episodes to look forward to after “Fruit” debuts. Rae hopes the goal of the project carries through the entire storyline.

“I want to open minds while entertaining. I want to help open the limited bounds of masculinity,” she said. “At the end of the day though, I just really want to tell a good, compelling, relatable story.”

“Fruit” is available via the Howl podcast subscription service, which can be accessed by the iOS and Android app, as well as howl.fm. Howl is offering a free one-month trial with the promo code FRUIT; sign up at howl.fm.

Editor's Note: Midroll is owned by The E.W. Scripps Company.