Ciara Curtin ’24 and Dolly Lebow ’24 met through a unique connection before starting their first semester at William & Mary.
Both of them worked on the drama podcast “Rockfish Gap” over the summer.
The serial is modeled on old-time radio shows and was conceived by recent high school graduates and students in Northern Virginia. They each worked on it from home.
The fictional narrative follows an investigative journalist and her partner revisiting the cold case of four students who disappeared in Shenandoah National Park during the 2020 pandemic while searching for the mysterious White House of the Woods.
“Rockfish Gap” rose to the top of the Apple charts after being featured in the New and Noteworthy section, according to Colter Adams, who is one of the show’s three writers. It was the No. 1 drama/fiction podcast in Canada and climbing in other countries including the U.S. in late July.
Curtin is a voice actor and Lebow the lead visual artist for the show. Lebow said she got involved because she was close friends with all three writers.
“What interested me about ‘Rockfish Gap’ was the fact that it is entirely written, produced and created by teenagers,” Lebow said. “I think it’s a good thing for people to listen to at this time, especially amidst a pandemic because it’s a break from reality. Listeners are able to immerse themselves in the story of a group of teens and maybe take a mental break from their stressful day-to-day lives.”
Lebow picked up digital art and graphic design as a hobby during quarantine after she bought an iPad and Apple Pencil for school. “Rockfish Gap” was her first project.
“I have done a few graphic design projects for the show, including the merchandise design, the album cover for the show that is on streaming platforms and a promotional poster, as well as the website background,” Lebow said. “The merchandise, as of right now, includes a T-shirt with a logo on the back and a small icon on the front. The website background was the first thing I made for them, and it’s of the campsite where the podcast takes place and a view of the forest.”
She also created the merchandise design for local band Indigo Boulevard.
“I hope to work on more projects soon, but I’m entirely self-taught and it takes me a little bit longer than the average artist so we’ll see if that happens in the foreseeable future,” Lebow said.
At W&M, Lebow will study history and anthropology, possibly on a pre-law track.
“I picked this because I have always had a love of history and a curiosity about the world and other cultures,” Lebow said. “If I do continue to be on the pre-law track, then I hope to be a lawyer, but otherwise I’m not sure. I am most looking forward to study-abroad at William & Mary.”
Lebow and Curtin did not go to the same high school and only found out they were both going to W&M very recently, and have connected since moving to campus. Curtin also got involved with “Rockfish Gap” through her friendship with Adams, she said.
“He had reached out to me about it, wanting my input and potentially my voiceover for one of the characters,” Curtin said. “I was super interested in it and wanted to be a part of it from the get-go. The character I ended up playing was Maria, a biker who goes missing in the woods.”
The project appealed to her for multiple reasons.
“I think ‘Rockfish Gap’ is such a neat concept because it mixes a bunch of really intriguing elements — mystery, nature, specifically nature that is super near where most of us working on the podcast grew up, the usage of original music and score,” Curtin said. “It’s a balanced blend of entertainment, being topical and even learning something new. Although the podcast is fictional, I’m pretty sure lots of inspiration was drawn from real missing-persons cases.
“In addition, I think it’s a good thing for people to listen to at this time because we are in the middle of a pandemic. This podcast focuses extensively on that reality, but does so in an enjoyable way. It’s a good pick for both types of people — people who feel like they’re running out of podcasts at this time after listening to so many in quarantine, as well as those that aren’t big into the podcast scene because the episodes are quick and like I said have a lot of stimulating elements that many other podcasts do not.”
Curtin was involved in musicals and other types of productions in middle and high school and plans to continue at W&M. She has worked in the voiceover industry and writes poetry and music during her free time. The summer before her senior year of high school, she attended the Summer Residential Governor’s School for Visual and Performing Arts for theatre and excelled at the Virginia High School League theatre competition in “Rush Lit” as a senior.
Curtin has not chosen an area of study at W&M and is looking to whittle down her numerous interests.
"Some of the things I’m interested in and considering are cognitive science/sociology, philosophy, theatre and public policy/government,” Curtin said.
She is relishing upcoming experiences at the university.
“I’m definitely excited to just meet, work with and get to know so many new, intelligent, creative, exciting people, students and faculty alike,” Curtin said. “Getting to be a part of organizations I am passionate about and take classes that spark my interests is really going to be so neat.
“William & Mary is known for having a welcoming spirit and strong sense of community, so amidst this tough and unprecedented transition, I think I’m really just looking forward to having a new place to call home.”