Anita Rao

Producer, "The State of Things"

Anita Rao is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina. She fell in love with interviewing and storytelling as a Women's Studies and International Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began her radio career at WUNC as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. From 2011 - 2014, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps Production department, where she pitched, edited and produced conversations from across the nation--from Chicago, IL to Pineville, North Carolina.  

Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest. She loves excessively-long dinner parties and hopes to one day live up to her mom's nickname, "Sheila, The Chocolate Eater."

Ways to Connect

Image of Youth improv team 'Get The Hook'
Courtesy of the artist

When the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival began 16 years ago, it was a small gathering of three college improv groups and two local teachers. Today the festival spans two weeks, features acts from around the country, and is considered by many in the comedy world to be one of the premiere festivals in the nation.

Composer Joelle Wallach is this year's artist in residence at Meredith College. She has been composing for more than three decades and also gives pre-concert lecutres at the New York Philharmonic.
Joelle Wallach

Joelle Wallach is the kind of composer who knows what her work will sound like long before her composition actually makes it onto the page.

She does not use composition technology or software, but instead relies on her ear and her instinct. She has been composing for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo voices and choruses for more than three decades and is an artist in residence at Meredith College in Raleigh this weekend.

Image of 'Noah's Wife' galleys
Lindsay Starck

The story of Noah’s ark has a life that extends far beyond the pages of the Bible.

Images of animals walking two by two are ubiquitous in pop culture; the baby gift industry is filled with Noah’s ark-themed toys and decorative items. But one North Carolina author was perplexed by the fact that many of these popular images seemed to indicate that Noah’s story is cheerful and optimistic.

DNA Sierra Leoneans, including actor Isaiah Washington, gather in Charleston to honor their enslaved ancestors.
Alondra Nelson

Everyone has that one family member everyone else turns to for family stories and gossip. In social science this person is called the ‘kin-keeper.’ For many years, the work of the kin-keeper relied on sorting through old photo albums and boxes of paperwork sitting in the back corner of the attic.

But now, more and more Americans are turning to advanced technology like DNA testing to trace their genealogy. More than one million Americans have taken a DNA test in an attempt to trace their ancestry.

Image of special agent Rosalynde Fenner
Rosalynde Fenner

Rosalynde Fenner has always been fearless. As a young kid growing up in Durham, she called cabs for herself and took them alone wherever she wanted to go. In high school, she spent a week doing ride-alongs with an officer in the Durham Police Department. And at the age of 22, she embarked on a 25 year career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, including stints in Guatemala, Bolivia, New York City, and Puerto Rico. 

Image of Ken Dodge, professor of public policy at Duke
Duke University

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

There is a common metaphor in the scientific community that uses flowers to describe children’s sensitivity to their environments. A child like a dandelion will turn out fine despite the circumstances she is raised in, while a child like an orchid will flounder without a nourishing environment, but blossom with care and support. 

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

Image of Chang and Eng Bunker
Wikimedia Commons

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.  

Conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker toured the world in the mid 1800s, putting their bodies on exhibit for a wide array of audiences. They eventually settled in rural North Carolina, became slave owners, and fathered 21 children, but they were never able to escape the public eye. 


The American South has a long history of compelling, lyrical, and diverse storytelling. But many of the nationally-known portrayals of the region—like “Duck Dynasty,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” or “Swamp People”—still rely heavily on stereotypes.

Don Taylor is a professor of public policy at Duke University.
Duke University

Eighty percent of people who die in the United States are on Medicare, making end-of-life policies a crucial component of the Medicare system.

This month marks a number of significant changes to Medicare’s policies including the once-controversial funding for physicians to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients as well as updates to the hospice payment system. 

The image of Martin Luther King Jr. has become a symbol of the civil rights movement. Durham-based printmaker Bill Fick is making prints of this image to spur conversation about what iconography means in the digital age.
Bill Fick

Martin Luther King Jr. has become a symbol of the civil rights movement. His portrait is often displayed alongside those of presidents and religious figures.

For many, his image evokes the ongoing fight for racial equality, but his image also spurs controversy. Not everyone agrees about how to use it, and more broadly, whether he should be considered the central civil rights icon.

In the experimental film 'From Here' dancers represent indigenous people taken away from their homeland. It's one of many films exploring the concept of freedom featured in the 'Let's All Be Free NC' film festival this Saturday.
Unusuality Productions

Tariq Nasir grew up in an environment where he thought often about the meaning of freedom. He was born in New York, spent his early years in Palestine, and fled to Jordan with his family during the 1967 war. 

Image of US Capitol
ttarasiuk / Flickr Creative Commons

President Obama gave his final State of the Union address last night. He outlined his vision for the coming year and detailed what he sees as the biggest challenges for the nation moving forward.

Host Frank Stasio gets a recap and analysis from Geoff Bennett, Washington reporter for Time Warner Cable News, and Political Junkie Ken Rudin.

Toby was one of many 'learned pigs' that spelled words and solved math problems onstage in England and America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Basic Books

Pigs are a beloved part of North Carolina culture and vital to the state’s economy, but internationally their reputation is more divisive.

Starting from the middle-top and moving clockwise, Thomasi McDonald as Dad, Amy White as Kimber, TJ Swann as Flip, Tosin Olufolabi as Cheryl, Marcus Zollicoffer as Kent and Moriah Williams as Taylor.
Curtis Brown Photography

When the LeVay family gathers at its Martha’s Vineyard home for the weekend, brothers Kent and Flip are excited to introduce their new partners to their parents. But like many planned family vacations, things quickly go awry—tensions rise and secrets are revealed.

This is the premise for Lydia Diamond’s play “Stick Fly,” that examines race, privilege, and the lesser-known history of affluent African-American culture on Martha’s Vineyard.

Maureen, her dad and their dog Rusty in 1968.
Maureen Sherbondy

In this first week of 2016, many people are reflecting on the good and bad moments of the past year and what resolutions they have for the coming months. For poet Maureen Sherbondy this meditation on change is an important and ongoing process that served as the inspiration for her latest collection of poetry, “The Art of Departure.”

In the first half of the collection, she explores the many ways one deals with losses like death, divorce, and children leaving the home. And in the second half, she looks at how people come to terms with their new lives after drastic change.

Headshot Photo of Terri Phoenix, the director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

This is a rebroadcast of a program that aired last year.

Terri Phoenix (T) grew up always feeling like an outsider. As a young child in a poor, fragmented family, Terri moved around more than 10 times before starting high school and was always the "new kid."

Sociologist Kathy Giuffre studies creativity and social networks. Her debut novel 'The Drunken Spelunker's Guide to Plato' blends a look at dive bar culture with ancient philosophy.
Kathy Giuffre

This is a rebroadcast of a show that aired earlier this year.

Sociologist Kathy Giuffre has spent much of her career as an objective outsider who writes about cultures that are not her own.

Image of Host Frank Stasio, Avett Brothers' Cellist Joe Kwon, and SOT Producer Anita Rao
Charlie SHelton / WUNC

The year is coming to an end, and “The State of Things” staff is taking a moment to reflect on some of the year’s most memorable conversations. Producer Anita Rao’s favorite segments include a conversation commemorating Yusor Abu-Salha, one of the three Muslim students shot and killed in Chapel Hill in February.

(L-R) Gabe Fox-Peck, Annie Bennett and Philip Norris. 'Lady and the Tramps' after winning the 2014 NCCU Jazz competition.
Lady and the Tramps


The jazz scene in the Triangle has been steadily gaining ground in the past few decades. The region’s musical talents include Grammy-nominated acts like Branford Marsalis and Nnenna Freelon as well as budding young musicians who are hoping to become the next generation of jazz stars.

Sara Foster is the owner of Foster's Market and has written a cookbook of the favorites from the gourmet restaurant.
Christopher Baker / Story Farm

Sara Foster was in many ways destined to open Foster’s Market, a gourmet restaurant and store in Durham, N.C.

As a young kid she spent a lot of her time at her grandfather’s small country store in Tennessee, watching old men playing checkers and scouring the buckets of penny candy. She later went to culinary school in New York, juggled multiple gigs at restaurants and catering companies, and serendipitously landed a gig as a chef in Martha Stewart’s growing business.

Killo, Raleigh, NC, 2015
Caitlin Cary

Caitlin Cary is best known as a violinist, singer and songwriter who broke out with the band Whiskeytown. She later joined Tres Chicas, the NC Music Love Army, and other groups, but she says that while she was out on the road with her music, she always had to keep her hands busy working on a craft project.

Rob Jansen stars in the one-man play, 'The Tramp's New World,' which envisions a post-apocalytic world for Charlie Chaplin's character, 'Tramp.'
Manbites Dog Theater

Charlie Chaplin’s most well-known on-screen character was the “Tramp,” a bumbling man whose humor and playfulness guided audiences through some of the darkest periods of the early 20th century. After the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, renowned journalist and film critic James Agee urged Chaplin to bring back the Tramp. He wrote a screenplay and sent it to Chaplin, insisting that the Tramp’s humor and grace were essential to help the world heal from this tragedy. Chaplin declined, and the play faded mostly into oblivion.

Pile of zines from the Bingham Center’s zine collections
Mark Zupan

We hear constantly that “pens and paper are dead,” and “screens are taking over our lives.” But there is one small corner of the world where pens, paper, scissors and glue are alive and well: the world of zines.

Zines are handmade, self-published magazines that are about almost anything, from politics to music, arts and raw personal experience.

'Day and Night,' 1938, woodcut in black and gray, printed from two blocks, 15 3/8 x 26 5/8 in.
The M.C. Escher Company

Dutch-born printmaker M.C. Escher was a meticulous artist who drew inspiration from landscapes and the natural world. Although he had no formal scientific training, his work features complex mathematical objects and scenarios.

The exhibit “The Worlds of M.C. Escher: Nature, Science, and Imagination” on view at the North Carolina Museum of Art through January is the most comprehensive Escher exhibition ever presented in the U.S.