Speak Easy: The Alexandria Times Podcast

Speak Easy: The Alexandria Times Podcast
(Graphic by Lyvian Sieg)

Welcome to Speak Easy, the Alexandria Times’ first podcast. Each month, our reporters will sit down with noteworthy residents, business owners, artists and community leaders to chat about all things Alexandria. Don’t worry about missing an episode; Speak Easy is available on the Apple Podcast app, Google Play and Spotify, and all episodes will be archived on the Times website.

Episode 26: Marion Brunken, Volunteer Alexandria

Marion Brunken sits down with Alexandria Times reporter Olivia Anderson to discuss her work with Volunteer Alexandria, a community resource for volunteerism. A German native, Brunken also touched on her experience coming to the United States, as well as some of the differences she’s seen working in the volunteerism nonprofit sector versus corporate settings.

Episode 25: Char McCargo Bah, genealogist

Genealogist Char McCargo Bah arrived just in time for Black History Month to talk about her work in helping the city and families uncover their past. Bah chatted with Alexandria Times Editor Cody Mello-Klein about the impact her work has had on her own family tree and the value of knowing one’s past, as she shared heartwarming and emotional stories about how her work has reconnected African American families with their history.

Episode 24: Ben Fiore-Walker, town crier

Hear ye! Hear ye! Ben Fiore-Walker, the city’s town crier, stops by Speak Easy for the first episode of 2022. Fiore-Walker sits down with Alexandria Times Editor Cody Mello-Klein to talk about his 10 years in the role of Alexandria town crier, what inspired him to throw his hat in the ring for the role, the psychological experience of donning his Colonial garb and the power of a town crier in 2022.

Episode 23: Audrey Davis

Audrey Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, stops by Speak Easy this month. Davis discusses the origins of her deep love for museums, how the city is shedding light on Black history and the importance of remembrance. 

Episode 22: Patricia Washington

Patricia Washington, president and CEO of the city’s tourism bureau, Visit Alexandria, stops by Speak Easy to talk about the city’s identity as a tourist destination and how it has evolved over time. Washington also delves into the impacts of the pandemic on the city’s businesses and what Alexandria’s recovery is looking like.

Episode 21: David Ashton

Independent filmmaker David Ashton, writer and director behind “The Legacy Sessions,” which won the 2020 Audience Award at the Alexandria Film Festival, joins Speak Easy this month. Ashton talks the challenges and joys of independent filmmaking, the inspiration behind “The Legacy Sessions” and his approach to the filmmaking process.

Episode 20: Dan Lee

City historian Dan Lee stepped out of the archives and into the Speak Easy to talk about the ins and outs of Alexandria history and some of the lesser known chapters of the Port City’s story. Lee also talked about growing up in Germany, his work for the Department of Defense’s POW/MIA office and his interest in humanizing history.

Episode 19: Sarah Taylor

Alexandria’s Legislative Director Sarah Taylor took a break from the whirlwind of Virginia politics to talk about her experience working for the super minority Democratic caucus in the Oklahoma state senate, the challenges of working Virginia General Assembly sessions and the strategy behind state level politics.

Episode 18: Adriana Schellhaas

Alexandria Times reporter Olivia Anderson sits down with Adriana Schellhaas, the executive director of Casa Chirilagua, a faith-based nonprofit in Alexandria. Schellhaas talked about what drew her to the nonprofit sector, the impact of COVID-19 on the Chirilagua community and the power of resilience.

Episode 17: Joe Cerutti

Joe Cerutti, the artistic director of the world famous barbershop chorus The Alexandria Harmonizers, discusses the lasting appeal of a cappella music, performing for the Obamas, his musical upbringing and how his 100-person chorus has adapted during the pandemic.


Episode 16: Brandon Byrd

Brandon Byrd, owner of the renowned local frozen custard shop Goodies, stopped by this month to talk about how he went from studying kinesiology to selling custard, the lasting appeal of soul music and Goodies’ first brick and mortar location at the old Alexandria ice house.


Episode 15: Bryan Porter

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter stopped by Speak Easy to talk about the infamous Charles Severance case, the psychological hazards of his job, his formative experiences in the Alexandria Police Department and the changing culture of law enforcement in Northern Virginia.


Episode 14: Robin Hamilton

Emmy-award winning journalist and documentary filmmaker Robin Hamilton stopped by Speak Easy to chat about her latest film, “Our Alexandria,” which tells the story of two residents who have captured the city’s segregated past through their detailed dollhouses. Hamilton detailed the story behind the documentary, her filmmaking process, how memory and nostalgia played a role in the film and the value of local stories.


Episode 13: Jarreau Williams

Speak Easy kicks of 2021 with special guest Jarreau Williams, the singer and frontman for the Jarreau Williams Experience. Williams spoke about his musical influences, approach to songwriting, how he was affected and inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and what it’s been like as a musician during the pandemic.


Episode 12: 2020 Year in Review

The Times looks back on a year’s worth of conversations with the people who make Alexandria tick by connecting all those conversations in one special year-end episode.


Episode 11: Heather Rosner


George Mason Elementary School music teacher Heather Rosner has made it her life’s work to ensure all students have access to the world of music. Alexandria Times intern Lindsey Sullivan chats with Rosner about some of the challenges she has faced as a teacher in the age of virtual learning and how she is adapting and continuing to provide students access to music during the pandemic.


Episode 10: Wellington Watts

In honor of Halloween, Wellington Watts, president of Alexandria Colonial Tours, stopped by for a special episode of Speak Easy. Watts talks about how he got into the business of giving ghost tours and the lasting appeal of ghost stories. He even shares a few of the city’s most infamous spooky tales. 


Episode 9: Michael Pope

Journalist and author Michael Pope, whose work has appeared on Virginia Public Radio and in the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, stops by Speak Easy to talk about how he got into journalism, his stint leading ghost tours, reporting during the pandemic and the quirky side of Virginia politics and history.


Episode 8: Stephanie Landrum

As CEO and president of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Stephanie Landrum has been involved in some of Alexandria’s most significant developmental and economic efforts over the past few years. Landrum stops by the virtual Speak Easy studio to talk about securing Amazon’s HQ2 and AEDP’s work supporting the local economy during COVID-19.


Episode 7: John Chapman


Councilor John Chapman joins Speak Easy to talk about what inspired him to get involved in local politics, his work uncovering the city’s Black history for Manumission Tour Company and the current state of race relations in Alexandria.


Episode 6: Tom Gale

Virtue Feed & Grain’s bourbon expert Tom Gale talks with Times Editor Missy Schrott about his passion for spirits, Virginia’s storied bourbon past and what it’s been like working in the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Episode 5: James Ross

The music director for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, James Ross, stopped by the Times’ virtual studio to chat about music during the pandemic. Ross discusses his musical upbringing, playing music in East Germany at 22 years old, what actually goes into conducting an orchestra and how the ASO is adapting to the pandemic.


Episode 4: Dr. Stephen Haering


For the first episode of Speak Easy in the age of social distancing, it seemed appropriate to sit down (remotely) with Alexandria Health Department Director Dr. Stephen Haering. Times reporter Cody Mello-Klein and Haering discuss how Haering became head of the AHD, his work spearheading the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how he is personally coping in a socially distanced world.


Episode 3: Olalekan Jeyifous

Olalekan Jeyifous, a Brooklyn-based artist, stopped by the studio to talk about his waterfront public art installation for the city, “Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies.” Jeyifous sat down with Times reporter Cody Mello-Klein to talk about everything from African megacities and solar punk to the power of architecture and making art for Starbucks.


Episode Two: Teddy Kim

Local developer Teddy Kim is bringing change to a city he has called home his whole life. Alexandria Times reporter Cody Mello-Klein sits down with Kim to discuss his memories of Alexandria in the 80s, the changing face of the city, gentrification and balancing history and possibility in redevelopment.


Episode One: Pat Miller

Alexandria Times reporter Cody Mello-Klein welcomes Del Ray philanthropist, activist and all-around good neighbor Pat Miller to the first episode of Speak Easy. Pat talks about how she first got into building community in Del Ray, the origins of Art on the Avenue, her work with the Alexandria Domestic Violence Shelter and how her pickup truck became a Del Ray icon.


Episode Zero: What is Speak Easy?


Ahead of the launch of the Alexandria Times’ first podcast, Speak Easy, reporter Cody Mello-Klein and editor Missy Schrott sit down to answer your biggest question: What is Speak Easy? They also introduce themselves and reveal the podcast’s first guest.