Lakefill Mag Spring Show fosters digital connections during difficult times


The title card for Lakefill Mag’s Spring Show. The show was hosted via a video on the publication’s website, which was watched 387 times.

Megan Munce, Reporter

Lakefill Mag launched its Spring Show far from the shores of Lake Michigan — unless someone streamed it there from their phone. The publication’s stories, though, found ways to bridge physical distance and form personal connections between the authors and audience.

Formerly a “live storytelling event,” the student publication released a video link on its website, which remained live between June 12 and 14 and consisted of the show’s six stories. According to Medill senior Paola de Varona, Lakefill Mag executive editor, the video was watched 387 times.

“I honestly think, at least for this moment, it was a better experience than the live show might have been in theater,” de Varona said. “It helped us feel pretty connected, even though everybody’s kind of far.”

Some of the stories were personal essays and poems, while others incorporated audio and video interviews. Medill junior Skye Li, who grew up in Shanghai, interviewed Wuhan residents about moments of kindness they experienced during the lockdown.

Skye Li said her inspiration for the story came from the lack of human interest in the coverage of Wuhan’s outbreak and a desire to tell stories that would give a “slight sense of joy” to people who, like her, were worried about their family during the pandemic.

“(The news coverage) was really disheartening because it was either statistics about how many people had died, how many new cases there are, or it was really negative op-eds about the Chinese government,” Skye Li said. “If I’m able to let them talk about their side of the story, maybe people will understand that it’s a struggle that we went through.”

Skye Li found contacts in the city through friends and family. A doctor and nurse told her about the heroism of health care workers during the outbreak, while a college student discussed the tireless efforts of sanitation workers to keep the city streets clean.

Rikki Li, a Medill graduate student, taught the audience how to peel various fruits, which was a metaphor for her evolving relationship with her parents. She explored the symbolism of different fruits in Chinese culture and cautioned viewers not to squeeze a mangosteen too hard while navigating her parent’s reaction to her relationship with another woman.

Lakefill Mag’s creative team animated and edited the piece. Watching the full piece put together, Rikki Li said, was an “out of body experience.”

“To see this project and to see for the first time these beautiful animations and this music, I truly felt like I was experiencing the piece anew, and that was a very empowering experience,” she said. “It felt like a sense of community in an otherwise very solitary process.”

At the end of the show, the video included two QR codes: one to a Venmo account collecting donations for Students Organizing for Labor Rights and another to a list of black organizations to support. De Varona said the editors wanted to use their platform as a means for support amid nationwide protests. The show raised over $1,600 for SOLR.

“I saw it as a moment of joy and celebration,” de Varona said. “Especially with the kinds of stories we were telling about the pandemic and the kind of points we were making, I felt like that was a service that we could provide to our community.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @meganmuncie

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