This morning we tackled a recent controversy out of John Jay High School in Cross River, New York. Three girls performed a poem from Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" at an open mic night and got suspended for saying the word vagina at a school function open to the public. The girls and their parents confronted the decision-makers and the story has quickly picked up national buzz.
While the segment you saw at home was five guests at the sofa area speaking with Meredith Vieira, the controversial nature of the segment created a virtual circus of activity behind-the-scenes. Let's start with our staff yesterday afternoon: two of our talented associate producers were assigned to the story. Nick Palladino tackled a tape spot setting up the story and Ryan Osborn was put in charge of the live interview. Before they signed on we had two of our bookers working on getting the guests for the show. It was exciting to realize we had all of the key players available to come on live at one time - the girls, president of the board of education Peter Breslin and Eve Ensler. WATCH VIDEO
This morning I was in the greenroom when the girls arrived. Breathless, brushing off the cold and giggling, the girls shook our hands as their parents stood to the side, smiling and taking pictures. Ryan met them and told them how the segment would run. All of a sudden we hear squeals and cheers and I look up to see Eve Ensler walking in and hugging the three young women as if greeting old friends. They are all immediately sharing stories and talking over each other as they head into hair and makeup chairs.
Along with the girls, their parents, our hair, makeup and wardrobe staff and producers for all of the above segments, there are also two different camera crews in the greenroom following the girls as they get ready. One is a crew led by our online web correspondent Lynn Berry who will interview the girls after their segment airs (WATCH VIDEO). The other is an independent film crew shooting a documentary on censorship. The censorship crew gets sound bytes from the girls' parents as Lynn's crew takes shots of the girls getting their hair and makeup done. Our normally spacious greenroom is filling up quickly - the band Augustana has just arrived as well for a live performance later in the show!
During the segment I watched from the control room; the logistics of having five live guests creates more activity there as well: our director Joe Michaels is rapidly switching camera shots to show a close-up on the three girls, a shot of Breslin, a shot of Eve Ensler, a close-up on Meredith and a wide group shot. Joe has to support the story in pictures, and that includes people's reactions along with seeing the person who is speaking.
The segment goes smoothly, Breslin voices support for the girls and all of the guests have a chance to speak their part. No one is rushed for time, and the control room keeps a running "vagina" tally throughout the segment. Props to Nick and Ryan for getting us going with lots of vagina-talk early on a Friday morning!