BWW Interview: Patrick Hinds Talks Theater People Podcast, Why Laura Osnes Made Him Nauseous
For people like me who sit in front of a computer for a living, or have long commutes each day, podcasts are an entertaining and educational way to pass the time. Last month I introduced you to the Top-20 Podcasts for theatre fans, and chief among them was the Theater People Podcast, hosted by Patrick Hinds. Recently, I spoke to Patrick about his incredible Broadway friends, his research process, and why Laura Osnes made him sick to his stomach.
In addition to being a hotel concierge, Patrick is an author, who wrote "The Q Guide to New York City Pride" and co-wrote "The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard" with Shepard's best friend, Romaine Patterson. Also, Patrick and his husband Steven just became foster parents to an infant girl named Daisy. So I really appreciated him taking the time to talk to me.
The first thing I need to get to is by far the most important question I'm going to ask you; why is it "Theater People" with an "-er" and not "-re"?
Because that domain was available, and the other one wasn't.
That's the perfect answer. Ok, from what I can tell, you do not work in the theatre or entertainment industry, but you have all of these great theatre friends, like Ellyn Marsh, Daisy Eagan, Martha Plimpton. So, who are you?
Well, Ellyn and I went to college together. I went to Emerson College; this is so embarrassing, but it's true; I wanted to be a theatre major, but I didn't get accepted into the program, so I spent my whole freshman year trying to make myself known to the powers-that-be, to no avail. I was awful, I was no good at it. I had a really hard time accepting it, and Ellyn, of course, was like Queen Bee. She was in every show, and was everyone's favorite person, and so talented beyond measure, of course I knew who she was, but I never actually met her.
My sophomore or junior year, I thought, "I can't. I'm not going to do this anymore. I'm not going to put myself through the humiliation of trying to make this happen."
Then I started doing communications, and TV, and writing, and radio, and I just had my hands in a lot of pots. That's when I met Ellyn; just randomly through another friend that wasn't in the theatre department. They were really good friends. (Ellyn and I) both have really big personalities, and I don't think that we expected to like each other, then all of a sudden we were inseparable best friends, and she's been my best friend since my junior year of college. Most of the people in the theatre scene that I know, I've met through Ellyn.
Ellyn has another friend who lives in LA who became friends with Daisy Eagan, and through that other friend, I met Daisy, and we really hit it off. At one point, Daisy was working on a book, and I'm a writer too, so I was helping her with that, and then she and I became parents at exactly the same time. She had Monty a couple of months ago, and (baby) Daisy came into our lives a couple of months ago, so that's how Daisy and I bonded.
And I don't remember how I met Martha. Oh! Bridget Everett, I'm not sure if you know who she is, she's a cabaret performer.
Yea, I heard her on your podcast, and I heard the folks at Maxamoo talking about her on their podcast as well (Editor's note: Listen to the Maxamoo Podcast!).
Yea, she is this amazingly talented, bawdy, over-the-top, downtown cabaret performer. Twelve or 13 years ago, Bridget and I worked together at a restaurant on the Upper West Side, and we always kind of stayed in each other's lives here and there. And one of her best friends is a woman named Mary Catherine Garrison, she was Squeaky Fromme in the Broadway production of ASSASSINS, and she was in TOP GIRLS with Martha Plimpton.
You know, I grew up on Martha Plimpton movies and I was always obsessed with her. She was just a little weird and really cool. So, my husband Steven and I went to see Martha in PAL JOEY and Mary Catherine arranged it so that we would go backstage and meet her. She's going to do the podcast when she gets back from London. She's doing a play there now.
OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Yes, exactly. So, that's the short story of the fancy people I know.
It definitely seems like Ellyn Marsh is the Fairy Godmother of your podcast.
That couldn't be more true. Every week we thank her in the credits at the end, even if she had nothing to do with the episode, because Ellyn has always been so super supportive, and she really is connected in the theatre world. She helped us get Annaleigh Ashford, who did our third episode, and that was really big for us, because getting someone like Annaleigh made it easier for us to get other people. But it all comes down to Ellyn. She's been there for me personally, professionally, and this podcast never would have gotten off the ground without her.
When I decided I wanted to do this podcast, Ellyn was the first call I made. And we went and sat down with her, and she just started making calls.
Are you ever going to have her as a guest on the show?
You know, we were just talking about it today. Ellyn is so funny. She really wants the podcast to be as big as it can be, and I literally said to her today, "We need to figure out how to get you on the podcast."
Ellyn has been really successful, she's been in three Broadway shows, and she's understudied lead roles, and goes on all the time, and she was in the original cast of KINKY BOOTS, but she doesn't think she's big enough to be on the podcast, which is ridiculous. She doesn't want to take a slot that could go to someone who she thinks might get us more attention, or more listeners.
So another idea that we are going to do in the coming weeks, we are going to do a week of Broadway debuts; with people making their debuts in featured roles in major shows. So, I was saying to Ellyn today that, since she's a mom, we could do a Broadway Mom's episode, and she and another guest could come on and talk about being a working mom in the theatre. So, yes we will definitely, definitely, definitely have Ellyn on the show.
One of the things that I love about what you do, is that I feel like you are the surrogate for your listeners. You geek-out just a little bit at the fact that you are talking to these Broadway stars, but you also do this huge amount of research. So, what is your process like for each interview?
You know, it started out as just blind terror, and not feeling that I was ever going to be ready to interview anybody. I really wanted it to be well-researched, mainly because that's just my personality, I'm kind of a psycho like that, but I knew that anyone that was coming to do this podcast was going to be taking a chance that I wasn't going to be wasting their time. Especially at the beginning, when we had Cady Huffman and Annaleigh Ashford, and Laura Osnes, oh my god, when she said yes, I was sick for a week. I'm not kidding.
On the way to that interview I felt nauseous, and I wanted to quit, I didn't want to go. On the way to the subway, I kept saying, "I don't want to do it, I don't want to do it, I don't want to do it."
I was so prepared, but I was so terrified. So, that's it; I sit and I read. Basically I read everything I can find. BroadwayWorld is actually a great resource. I read all of the articles. All of the interviews, both video and print, are great. I like to get a sense for how they talk and what they're like. So, those videos give me a really good sense of what to expect.
You talked about being nervous interviewing Laura Osnes, so clearly she wasn't in your web of theatrical friends. So how did that interview come about?
That interview was so miraculous. A guy named Bradley Beahen, who wrote and recorded our theme music, knew her. On the podcast, you hear her talking about doing GREASE at a dinner theatre, and she did (that show) with this guy Bradley. And so when we were putting this together, he said, "Would you guys have any interest in interviewing Laura Osnes?"
And I said, "Yea, of course we would. She's never gonna do it, but of course we would." And then one email, and she wrote me right back, and said, "Sure, I'd love to."
And then not only did she say, "Yes," right away, but she showed up in a snow storm 15 minutes early. She said, "I left my house early, because I didn't want to be late. I didn't know how the trains were gonna be running."
She just put me at ease. And then she sang for us; outside of the room we did the interview in, you could hear a pin drop. You just knew everyone in the building had their ear pinned to the door. So, we were so grateful for her.
One of the great things about your show is that there are so few opportunities to hear theatre actors talk about their lives and their careers at length, so when you do get to hear them, and they turn out to be just as wonderful of a person as you hope they will be, it is really gratifying for the listeners.
One of the first things she said to us was, "I'm just a person." She doesn't want to be treated differently, she doesn't want to be treated like a celebrity.
Ok, we need to move on, because it could be very easy for me to go down a Laura Osnes rabbit hole. Do you have any stories that a guest has told you that have stuck with you?
You know, I do. I so appreciate all of the stories that everyone has shared with us, but I've gotta say Anika Larsen. She came in and did the podcast and told this story about how she had been with (BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL) for three workshops, and they did the final workshop before it went to Broadway, and they didn't cast her. Then, they had her come in and audition for when it was going to Broadway, and she said she thought it went great. She was supposed to hear by the end of the day, and she didn't, so she decided she was quitting the business (Editor's Note: Her quitting was not simply because she hadn't gotten the call yet, it was a much more emotional story than that. Just listen to the podcast to hear her tell it). And then the next day her agent called her and said she got the job. So, I was so happy for her, and proud of her that she got nominated for a Tony.
I would be lying if I said that one didn't bring a little tear to my eye when I heard it. I want to go in a slightly different direction. You've written books about it, and you occasionally bring it up on the show, but gay history is something that is very important to you. So, I was interested to hear your thoughts on the role that theatre and artists play in the fight for equality and in the gay community as a whole.
Obviously, one of the reasons I am drawn to theatre is because it is a community that is so open and loving and accepting. It's amazing to hear people tell these stories about Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS and how excited they get.
One time I was backstage at KINKY BOOTS with Ellyn and as we were leaving they were doing the daily announcements, and they announced, "Last night we raised X number of dollars for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS," it was a big amount of money, and the whole backstage area just erupted with cheering. And so, I think that the fact that the actors take the time to do that, and stand in the lobby, is so great.
I have to say, one of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast is that you don't hear a lot of people that sound like me on the radio, or on the internet. I have sort of a high-pitched squeally, queeny voice, especially if I get excited. And I was excited about the idea of having that out there, and not trying to deepen my voice, and not trying to sound more professional, but just to be squeally and excited and to say, "That's awesome."
When I get really nervous I just imagine I'm at this party, and I met this really cool person and I can ask them anything I want. If it was a real party, you'd have to pretend like they weren't this person that you really cared about. And if I was at this party and got to ask this person anything I wanted, I'd be excited and my voice would go up two octaves, and somewhere in the back Ellyn would be shouting at me to speak in my man voice, and I wouldn't be able to.
That is my long-winded way of saying that, to me, the gay community is so wrapped up in theatre, and as a gay person, I feel so at home in (the theatre) community, and I feel so at home with these people, and these are strangers, who are really successful, but they come in and sit down, and are wonderful.
You've already had so many great guests, who can we expect to hear in future episodes?
We have Eden Espinosa, Lesli Margherita; we just booked LaChanze; we just booked Jerry Mitchell, Martha Plimpton over the summer. (Editor's Note: Since we spoke, Patrick has recorded an interview with Anthony Rapp and is talking to Daphne Rubin-Vega the day this is posted)
You've got all these great people lined up, who is still on your dream-list?
Lin-Manuel Miranda is, of course, way up there. I've reached out to him on social media, and I interviewed him once before when they were workshopping IN THE HEIGHTS in the Drama Book Store. Karen Olivo, I'm so interested in her. I've been interested in her from the beginning. We interviewed a woman named Lisa Kron, I don't know if you've heard of her.
Yea, from FUN HOME.
Right, she wrote the book for FUN HOME. She's a solo performer in her own right. She wrote a play called WELL, she discovered Jayne Houdyshell; she was on my dream-list, so that was amazing. Michael Cerveris is on my dream-list, Joe Mantello is way at the top of my dream-list.
As we finish up, for people who have never listened to your show, what would you say is the message of the Theater People Podcast?
We're really trying to build a community, and that's what I've been saying from the beginning. It's not just about hearing the sound of my voice. We wanted people to tell us who they wanted to hear from, tell us what they wanted to know. I mean, I would be more than happy to go into an interview with none of my own questions. If there was someone that people were passionate about, and we got 300 great questions, I would just ask those straight down the list. I just want (the podcast) to be a resource for the people that don't live in New York and don't have the chance to meet these people.
The other thing that is really important to me is that I am just one person in this. Our two producers Vonia Arslanian and Mike Jensen are instrumental to this podcast. It absolutely could not happen without them; it would be impossible to do this without them. And of course my husband Steve, who supports me and does our website.
If you love Broadway as much as Patrick does, follow the Theater People Podcast on Twitter @Theaterppl, "Like" them on Facebook, and subscribe to them on iTunes. Subscribers get new episodes every other Sunday, and they are available on their website www.Theatreppl.com on Monday. Sunday, June 1st, you can hear Patrick's conversation with Eden Espinosa the star of WICKED, BROOKLYN, and RENT on Broadway.