BWW Exclusive: Theater People Podcast Host Patrick Hinds Discusses Booking Dream-Guest Karen Olivo
At the beginning of this year, a new theatre-centric podcast debuted, and has been supplying extremely insightful and heartfelt stories ever since. One of the show's charms is the amount of love and appreciation that host Patrick Hinds shows each guest.
For their most recent episode, Hinds interviewed Tony-winner Karen Olivo, and what resulted was a moving hour of conversation. Olivo has been one of Broadway's most talented stars for over a decade, but in 2013, she decide to "retire" and leave New York City.
This surprising decision disappointed many fans, but it was extremely interesting to Hinds. So, he sought to book her on the show. Now, he is sharing the story of getting Olivo to guest on the "Theater People Podcast" exclusively with BroadwayWorld. You can hear this fantastic episode on www.theaterppl.com or on iTunes. Take it away Patrick...
The Theater People Podcast was created to fill a gap. Producers Vonian Araslanian, Mike Jensen, and I wanted there to be a show where well known theater professionals-actors, directors, choreographers, designers, etc-could come to talk about not only their work, but also their passions and pursuits outside of the theater world. Sort of a "Tonight Show" meets "Live with Kelly and Michael" for theater nerds. The story of how, with absolutely no technological knowledge and with few to no connections to successful people in the theater world, we were able to get the podcast off the ground, is another piece for another time. But one thing has been clear from the start, when it comes to booking guests, we have Champagne taste. Karen Olivo was always at the top of our list, but one of the main reasons I thought she'd make a terrific guest for the show was precisely the reason I thought we'd never get her-she' she'd quit the business and moved to Madison, Wisconsin.
I'm crazy about Karen Olivo. She has one of those incredible success stories where she was cast in her first Broadway show ("Rent") through an open call while still in college and then three shows later she won a Tony Award. Along the way she originated roles in "Brooklyn" (I saw it six times, don't listen to the haters, it's amazing) and "In the Heights" (for my money, the best and most original musical of my generation), before taking on the daunting role of Anita in the 2009 Arthur Laurents helmed revival of "West Side Story"-the role for which she got the statue. Those of us paying attention were watching a star being born before our very eyes, but then came her announcement and poof she was gone.
I'll admit it, I became fascinated with Karen's decision to get out of town. It seemed so unusual to me that an actress in her prime, one who'd risen so quickly through the Broadway ranks and had successfully made the (we have to assume) lucrative transition to TV and film, would just walk away from it all. She wrote about her decision on her blog-you can still read the post-and I found to be very powerful, though vague. Someday, I thought, maybe I'd get a chance to ask her about it.
In June, I got a flyer in the mail from New York City Center announcing their Encores production of Jonathan Larson's "Tick Tick Boom" starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and, wait for it, Karen Olivo. She was coming back. By that point, we were 13 or 14 episodes into the podcast and we were finding our stride-the technical issues were working themselves out, we'd begun to build a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and some of Broadway's most respected actors and directors were sitting down for interviews with us. Right about that time, Matt Tamanini interviewed me for BroadwayWorld.com and asked who my dream guests were. I said Karen's name without hesitation, I thought, "Let me just put that out there and see what happens."
It was my old college pal, the composer Scott Allen, who passed along Karen's email address to me. He'd seen the BroadwayWorld interview and wanted to help. I stared at her email address. I had to laugh at just how (and maybe this sounds ridiculous) unworthy I felt to have been given a direct line of communication with her; no matter how many big Broadway stars I meet and interview, there will always be a part of me that will see them as immortal, all-knowing Gods. But I pulled myself together, wrote a probably inappropriately gushy fan letter that stopped just shy of begging her to be on the podcast, and hit 'send.' And then I waited and checked my email every fifteen minutes. When I didn't get a response the first day, I figured I'd blown it, she wasn't interested (I mean doesn't everybody check their email every 15 minutes and respond immediately to new messages? No? Just me?).
But the next morning, there it was, right at the top of my inbox: "New Message from Karen Olivo." I gay gasped so loud, I woke my sleeping three month old. The message read "Sure! I'm just getting back into the country, let me contact you tomorrow." What followed over the next few weeks was a very pleasant exchange of emails, which included this gem from Karen: "I just finished listening to your episode with Eden. Adorable. You totally fanboyed out! It was entertaining."
You guys, Karen Olivo was making fun of me, so we were basically best friends.
I should point out here that Karen had extremely limited time while she was in town to do "Tick Tick Boom" and still made it to an 8:45 am in person interview before a full day of rehearsal. Yeah, she's badass. When the appointed time came, I was, what I call, "Laura Osnes Nervous." It's an expression I coined the day, very early on in the podcast, that I interviewed the glorious/luminous/absurdly talented Laura Osnes for the show. I was nervous to the point of being nauseous, terrified, completely hating every decision I'd made in my life that led me to a point where I thought I was qualified to interview her, and just wanted to quit. But, like Laura, Karen put me at ease from the moment she stepped off the elevator. She strode (Karen Olivo does not walk, you guys, she strides gloriously) right over to me and producer Mike and gave us both hugs.
The interview we did with Karen that morning I think is our best so far. It was the first time that I commanded myself to be totally present. I remember actually thinking to myself over the course of our conversation, "You just asked Karen Olivo a question, and she's answering it, listen to her! Appreciate that she is here and this is happening!"
The day after the interview aired, I got another email from my new best friend Karen. It said, "My fiancé gave you a huge compliment. He listened to the podcast and commented on how endearing I sounded...I chalk that up to the vibe you set in the room." That was very kind of her, but I have to say, I don't think she needed any help from me.
Come back to NYC anytime, Karen. But sooner rather than later, please.
Find this and all previous episodes at www.theaterppl.com. You can follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, and "Like" it on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and get the each new episode a day early. If you are looking for more theatre-podcasts, check out BWW's Top-20 Podcasts for Theatre Fans.