Returning for their second appearance at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" host Neal Conan and the group Ensemble Galilei will present their latest project, "First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World," on Friday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Presented by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts as part of its current multidisciplinary project, "Lines in the Earth: Maps, Power and the Imagination," Conan and Ensemble Galilei combine their talents to present a multimedia tribute to the spirit of exploration through world-class music, National Geographic photographs and authentic world explorer stories.
"Ensemble Galilei and I have been working together for five years," Conan said. "This project came together because we wanted to do something important, and we looked around to tell stories that were inspiring and interesting."
Conan will narrate several stories based on the thoughts of past and current world explorers, such as the writings of Ibn Battutua, a 14th-century Iraqi traveler, letters from George Mallory to his wife, Ruth, before his attempt to summit Mount Everest and doubts expressed by Charles Darwin aboard a Cape Horn windjammer.
"We focus on a couple of people who are out there today, such as Gretel Ehrlich," Conan said. "She tells the story of the amazing ice hunters and how they are the last of their kind and what it is like to travel across Greenland on a dogsled in the changing ecosystem."
In addition there will be stories from Jacques Cousteau's and William Beebe's exploration and the technological advances made in their discoveries of the world's oceans, and of Robert Ballard's finding new life forms in the Galapagos Rift.
"We got to go loot the archives of National Geographic in Washington, D.C.," Conan said. "It's astonishing, and our director went through millions of images. We worked hard to make this show personal and a challenge to the audience."
Narrating and depicting voices in front of a live audience is a departure from Conan's regular work as host to one the country's most popular news/talk call-in shows on NPR News, which reaches three million listeners a week on over 280 NPR member stations. Conan said it's very different to perform in front of a live audience.
"When I speak on the radio, you don't know if people get the jokes, and that is an incredible challenge," Conan said. "It's hard to keep things fresh. I have been doing Talk of the Nation for six years or so, and we live inside the bubble of Washington, D.C., and inside the bubble of NPR. There are other parts to people's lives and their souls and that's what keeps it fresh and why you do the job you do."
Tickets are $25 for Sun Valley Center for the Arts members, $30 for non-members and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling 726-9491, online at sunvalleycenter.org or visit The Center in Ketchum. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.