Brad Paisley is the Proudest West Virginian — Country Star Shares State, Small Town Roots With Lady Gaga — Putting WV On Everything: “Pitt Fans Aren’t Happy”

Lady Gaga isn’t the only celebrity with roots in the Moundsville, WV area, subject of our documentary about a classic American town, which you can still rent for $3.99 here. Amazingly, with a population of only 1.8 million, West Virginia can claim the roots of two of the biggest musical superstars on the planet. DrivingContinue reading “Brad Paisley is the Proudest West Virginian — Country Star Shares State, Small Town Roots With Lady Gaga — Putting WV On Everything: “Pitt Fans Aren’t Happy””

Rise of a Christian Ghost Hunter: The Amazing Story of West Virginia’s Steve Hummel, Star of Paranormal Quest

Steve Hummel, 36, is a West Virginia artist, museum director, paranormal investigator and archivist, filmmaker and tour guide. His museum Archives of the Afterlife is one of Moundsville, WV’s top tourist attractions, with 292 reviews and 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Steve’s also one of the stars of the Youtube channel Paranormal Quest which investigates theContinue reading “Rise of a Christian Ghost Hunter: The Amazing Story of West Virginia’s Steve Hummel, Star of Paranormal Quest”

“Good Journalism Is Loving Because It Cares About People” — A Speech on Journalism to High School Students

Screening Moundsville this year has taken us to magazines, schools, libraries, old-age homes, theaters, small towns, and art galleries. My impulse in making the film was journalistic: I wanted to report an American story that everybody agreed was true. In post-film talks, I found myself having to explain, and thinking a lot about, what IContinue reading ““Good Journalism Is Loving Because It Cares About People” — A Speech on Journalism to High School Students”

The Badass Life of the ‘Mother of the Civil War’ Whose Children Fought on Both Sides: A Teenage Bride, She Got a Divorce, Outlived Husbands, and Loved to Smoke.

Now a salute to Sarah Brandon, a Moundsville woman whose 1914 obituary described her as the “Mother of the Civil War”. According to a story in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gazette, she died at 113, and had 23 children, including 16 boys who fought in the Civil War. (14 for the Union, two for theContinue reading “The Badass Life of the ‘Mother of the Civil War’ Whose Children Fought on Both Sides: A Teenage Bride, She Got a Divorce, Outlived Husbands, and Loved to Smoke.”

Race and the American Dream in Appalachia: The Patriotism and Pain of Gene Saunders, the Only Black Mayor in the History of a Small West Virginia Town

Viewers’ favorite character in Moundsville is almost always Eugene “Gene” Saunders, a retired coal miner and the first and only African-American mayor in the history of the Ohio river town of 8,000. Gene is an earnest, engaging and energetic presence on the screen, and his life illuminates contradictions about America, and challenges mass-media narratives aboutContinue reading “Race and the American Dream in Appalachia: The Patriotism and Pain of Gene Saunders, the Only Black Mayor in the History of a Small West Virginia Town”

“They carried earth in baskets” — Virginia Tech Researcher Jordan Laney Wins Moundsville Film Poetry Contest

Jordan Laney, a postdoc researcher at the Virginia Tech Dept. of Religion and Culture, has won the Moundsville poetry contest. Poet Crystal Good says she was inspired by the documentary film (which you can rent for $3.99 here) to run the competition for national poetry month in April because of the film’s treatment of race, theContinue reading ““They carried earth in baskets” — Virginia Tech Researcher Jordan Laney Wins Moundsville Film Poetry Contest”

Review: King Lear as Allegory for U.S. Industrial Decline

      I saw a preview last night of Quantum Theatre’s new Pittsburgh production of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Carrie Furnace. (It runs May 10-June 2; tickets here.) Lear is the story of a king gone mad in the sunset of life. Immediately, this stylish production by the Pittsburgh experimental theatre troupe hitsContinue reading “Review: King Lear as Allegory for U.S. Industrial Decline”

Before The Star Was Born: The Legend of Lady Gaga’s Singing West Virginia Grandpa

Our story of how Lady Gaga was inspired by her West Virginia grandmother to “pick yourself up” during a difficult time is the most-read post on this site — with over 30,000 views. People in West Virginia are proud of the family, even if Gaga’s mother Cynthia Bissett left the region for New York CityContinue reading “Before The Star Was Born: The Legend of Lady Gaga’s Singing West Virginia Grandpa”

Meet Marc Harshman, Proud Poet Laureate of West Virginia, Star of Moundsville

One of the most eloquent, defining voices in Moundsville (which you can rent for $3.99 here) is Marc Harshman, a former Moundsville resident, grade school teacher, storyteller, children’s book author– and the ninth poet laureate of West Virginia. Since earning that title from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in 2012 — after the death of Irene McKinney — MarcContinue reading “Meet Marc Harshman, Proud Poet Laureate of West Virginia, Star of Moundsville”

What Charles Dickens Wrote When He Saw the Mound, and Present-day Moundsville, West Virginia, in 1842

In 1842, Charles Dickens, already a literary superstar at age 29, traveled to America, a journey he recounted in his travel book, American Notes for General Circulation. Dickens’ travels to Washington, Boston and Pittsburgh are familiar to 19th century literature lovers. Less know is his impression of what is today Moundsville, West Virginia, the subjectContinue reading “What Charles Dickens Wrote When He Saw the Mound, and Present-day Moundsville, West Virginia, in 1842”