July 29, 2009

More Podcasts for Theater Lovers

Almost two years have gone by since I last posted a list of my favorite theater podcasts but I’ve noticed that people are still reading that entry and so it struck me that it’s time for an update. Some of the ones I recommended back then (BroadwayLiving.com) are no longer adding new episodes. Which is understandable. Putting a podcast together is a lot of hard work (my buddy Bill and I have talked about doing one for years and look how far that’s gotten) and it’s not easy to keep them going. Even Playbill Radio News has suspended its daily updates. iTunes is littered with ghost shows—podcasts that produced a few episodes and then dwindled away—but it also has newcomers that are worth tuning in. Here are five to consider for your playlist:

Broadway Bullet. Beating the odds, Michael Gilboe, a writer, composer and sound engineer, has kept this interview show going for three years. His guests include Broadway names like composers Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer and there are regular performances of “Broadway Abridged” but the show, which originated as the official podcast of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, may be most valuable for the attention it gives to off-Broadway and off-off Broadway (or, as they prefer to be called indie) productions. The podcast is on summer hiatus until Sept. 10 but you can subscribe to it on iTunes now.

Broadway Radio. If Bill and I had ever gotten our act together, this is the kind of show that we might have done. Every week, James Marino, a columnist for Broadwaystars.com; Matthew Murray, the chief critic for TalkinBroadway.com, and Peter Filichia, the longtime theater critic for the Newark Star Ledger and columnist for Theatermania, gab about the week’s theater news. They’re highly opinionated and, for the most part, knowledgeable (especially Filichia who seems to have seen—and remembered in full detail—every show since Rodgers met Hammerstein). It’s like eavesdropping on a bar conversation at the Broadway watering hole Angus McIndoe.

Everything Acting: So many Broadway critics, reporters and even bloggers are white guys that it’s really refreshing to find gal actor pals Roz Coleman and Darbi Worley giving the lowdown on what it’s really like to be a working actor in New York. Coleman and Worley tap their friends to share advice on everything from what kind of monologues make good audition pieces to how to find an affordable place to live in the city. Worley has a recurring role as a reporter on the CBS soap “As the World Turns” and seems to have taken a method acting approach to the role because she has a knack for asking questions that elicit good answers. Coleman, who starred in the recent Signature Theatre Company production of Zooman and the Sign, is African-American and adds friends and guests who are ethnically diverse. Their weekly podcast is aimed at young people who are considering getting into the business but anyone who loves theater can learn from it.

New Yorker Conversations with John Lahr: For folks, who like to watch their iPods as well as listen to them, the New Yorker magazine offers a series of video interviews hosted by its erudite theater critic. Because Lahr obviously loves theater so much, knows his material so well and, as the son of the legendary comic actor Bert Lahr, has a real empathy for artists, his conversations are definitely worth listening to. I’ve only been able to find four of them—with the Tony-winning actors Angela Lansbury and Geoffrey Rush, Lincoln Center’s artistic director Andre Bishop and the director Michael Blakemore—but maybe if more people download them, then the magazine will do more of them.

Playwrights Horizons: As papers and magazines cut back on their cultural coverage, theaters have been looking for other ways to publicize their work. Playwrights Horizons has come up with a strong contender: interviews with people involved with the company’s current productions. These podcast are unabashedly designed to hype the shows but the interviewers are smart, encouraging the actors and other members of the creative teams to share their feelings and insights about the theater world. Their passion for what they do is obvious and infectious.

Studio 360: Kurt Andersen, who I know slightly, has one of the best jobs in the world. Every week, he hosts a one-hour show on the arts for public radio. The topics range from major pop cultural events like the new “Star Trek” movie to also attention-worthy endeavors like the collection of short stories "The Thing Around Your Neck" by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. But what matters here is that Kurt regularly does segments about theater. Over the past few months, Alice Ripley has sung numbers from Next to Normal and Lynn Nottage has talked about the genesis of her Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined. And the show’s report on Lincoln Center Theater’s decision to have the white director Bart Sher head up the recent Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone was hands down the best examination of that controversy.

Finally, as I was writing this post, news came that after a seven-month hiatus, the American Theatre Wing’s terrific Downstage Center interviews with Broadway theater makers will resume on Aug. 6. As I said last year, these in-depth conversations are totally addictive and I'm totally psyched about the show's return.

Happy listening.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently talking about the ubiquitousness of technology in our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory decreases, the possibility of uploading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.

(Posted using BlogServ for R4i Nintendo DS.)