National Public Radio fans got to watch one of the network’s most popular word-game shows, “Says You,” being recording live at the Chimacum High School auditorium June 23.
Not only did the taping feature a trio of locals as panelists, but its ticket sales also went to benefit the Jefferson Clemente Course, the regional college branch of the Clemente Course for the Humanities, a national outreach program providing free, accredited college coursework in the humanities to students who have been marginalized by hardship and adverse circumstances.
Port Townsend’s Lela Hilton serves as the national program director of the Clemente Course, and was one of the three panelists from the area to join “Says You” regulars Carolyn Faye Fox, Murray Horowitz, Barry Nolan and Greg Porter for an hour of bluffing, brain teasers, anagrams and trivia.
This year marked Hilton’s second stint on the show, which she last recalled taking part in on June 23, 2013, exactly four years ago.
“It’s really, really fun and very relaxed,” Hilton said at the cast party for the show, which was held at Finnriver Farm just prior to its taping. “Everyone involved is professional, and it doesn’t feel so much like a competition.”
Hilton sees “Says You” as an especially effective means of raising awareness about the humanities.
“It gets people engaged with the humanities by showing that literature and philosophy have practical applications,” Hilton said. “They’re not fossilized, but playful and creative.”
Indeed, aside from the microphones, Hilton deemed the “Says You” taping experience less like a game show and more like “bantering around a campfire with your friends.”
Patti Miles, co-artistic director of the Paradise Theatre School in Chimacum, has put her improvisational performance skills to the test on the “Says You” panel three times.
“It’s always exciting to see what happens, and you have to be sharp,” Miles said. “My favorite part of the experience is the people you get to work with. They’re so expansively intelligent and generous.”
Miles sees “Says You” as a novel means for audiences of all ages to broaden their base of knowledge, and agreed with fellow local panelist Brion Toss that East Jefferson County qualifies as “NPR Country.”
“You’ve got a lot of book-readers here,” Miles said. “We have curious people who want to learn.”
Rigger, author, and regular contributor of trivia and questions to the show, Toss suspects that local folks are more likely to pay for what they listen to, whether it’s podcasts or public radio.
“I can honestly say this is a culture unlike anywhere else I’ve been,” Toss said. “I was in Anaheim recently, at Disneyland. If you compare there to here, one is a place of childlike wonder, and the other is an amusement park,” he said sarcastically.
As he steeled himself for his second appearance on “Says You,” Toss deemed it “the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I’ve ridden a unicycle. These people do this for a living, and they make it look so easy.”
Toss applauded the show for supporting Clemente College, and praised Hilton for her work on behalf of the program.
“You cannot fulfill your full potential unless you learn, listen and communicate,” Toss said. “That’s why I’m doing this again.”
Fox and Horwitz echoed the assessment that Clemente College “echoes our values as a show” by championing the concept of “recreational thinking,” and even singled out Hilton for her energy and organization skills.
“It takes a lot to get us out here,” Horwitz said. “But we’ve probably been to the Puget Sound region more than any other place outside of Boston.”
Horwitz acknowledged that a familial sense of connection and community is not uncommon between media and their audiences, which he and Fox are reminded of when they get out of the studio.
“Radio often feels like putting messages in bottles that you hope will wash up on shore,” Horwitz said.
“At the same time, it’s very intimate,” Fox said. “Often, when people are listening, they’re alone, so they can feel like we’re speaking just to them.”
The two rushed to reassure their fans that they neither rehearse nor receive any of the answers prior to the show, while taking time to compliment the fans currently receiving them.
“I like the people here,” Fox said. “I love coming back here.”
“I’ve lived a lot of places that are not as exotic as this,” Horwitz said. “People pay a lot to live in places like this.”