BWW Roundup: Top-20 Podcasts for Theatre Fans
Is network news appointment television for you? I didn't think so. Are you constantly angered that ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT only talks about theatre when a Hollywood star joins a cast or someone falls 30 feet to the stage floor? Me too. Well, I have an alternative that just might satisfy your news and theatre cravings; podcasting. Isn't that just what hipsters do between their shift at Starbucks and another trip to the thrift shop? Well, yes and no. I'm sure there is a barista in Portland who is currently recording a missive bemoaning mass media's attempt to co-opt the indie subculture, but most people who do podcasts well are incredibly informed and passionate about their specific topics.
As a compulsive consumer of many different types of podcasts (theatre, TV, news, sports), I wanted to introduce the BroadwayWorld readers to the best theatre-centric podcasts the internet has to offer. I have divided the podcasts up into six three-show categories (New York, Educational, Organizations, Honorable Mention, Podcasts that Need Resurrection, and Non-Theatre Podcasts for Theatre Fans), and then threw in two more to round things out. The selections are listed in no particular order (can you figure out which are my favorites though?).
While I feel confident in the shows I've chosen, if I have missed your favorite theatre podcast, please share the details in the comments below. And think outside the box, we won't judge you.
Official Description: "A series of discussions about Broadway and theater around the world."
My Take: This weekly show is in the "Full Discretion" category, because "This Week on Broadway" has been a part of BroadwayWorld Radio for years. That being said, Peter, James, and Michael provide a thoughtful and thorough look at everything going on in the New York theatre community. In terms of theatre podcasts, this is the Granddaddy of them all!
Recent Topics: REALISTIC JONSES, HEATHERS, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, ALADDIN, LES MISERABLES, and an interview with Alison Fraser.
NEW YORK THEATRE NEWS, REVIEWS, and INTERVIEWS
Theater People Podcast
Host: Patrick Hinds
Average Length: about 45 min | New Episode Frequency: Every other Sunday
Official Description: "Patrick Hinds interviews stars from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and New York City's downtown theater scene, as well as the writers, directors, and other creative types that make the magic happen on stage."
My Take: The infectious passion and enthusiasm that Patrick brings to each interview (and theatre in general) allows fans to feel as if they themselves are in the room with some of Broadway's biggest stars. However, Patrick is able to keep his fanboying in check long enough to ask great questions that tell us more about these artists than we've learned in traditional interviews. Sometimes I like to play the podcast at 11:30pm and pretend it is Broadway's very own late-night talk show.
Maxamoo's New York City Theater Podcast
Host: Lindsay Barenz and friends
Average Length: Varies from 20 min to an hour-plus | New Episode Frequency: Generally multiple episodes per week.
Official Description: "Conversations about New York City theater, mostly beyond Broadway, hosted by Maxamoo's founder, Lindsay Barenz, about what's amazing, what's awful, and what we recommend on stage right now."
My Take: This is the podcast you and your theatre friends would make if you were all super smart, super funny, a little vulgar, and could afford to go see every show in New York. The Maxamoo crew is full of opinions and stories, and they aren't afraid to share them; which is great for all of us that listen. With a focus primarily away from Broadway, they tell you about the shows and news that perhaps otherwise might slip through the cracks.
Recent Topics: THE LIBRARY, Steven Soderbergh, Encore's MOST HAPPY FELLA (which was the subject of a contentious and hilarious debate), and an interview with Brian Lobel.
Go See a Show
Host: Robert A. K. Gonyo
Average Length: 5-15 min | New Episode Frequency: Every one or two weeks
Official Description: "The 'Go See a Show!' podcast is (as far as I can tell) the only podcast dedicated to the off-off-Broadway scene in New York City. Every week, I interview an artist making theatre in NYC, discussing the ideas and process behind their work."
My Take: What qualifies as Off-Off-Broadway theatre is very open to interpretation, and Robby covers it all. From steampunk musicals to plays in undisclosed locations to shows that he is actually in, Robby takes you behind the scenes of the shows that don't get a whole lot of publicity. I love this podcast not only because it is clear that Robby loves theatre (which is pretty much a prerequisite if you are going to do a theatre podcast), but that he loves it no matter what size or shape it takes. If you are a fan of the underdog, this just might be the podcast for you.
Recent Topics: DARK WATER, TAKE ME BACK, MY HIGH-HEELED LIFE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO KEEP WORRYING AND LOVE MY STILLETOS, and Cristina Lundy of NY Shakespeare Exchange.
EDUCATION and INFORMATION
Official Description: "The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you're an experienced theatre professional or just a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of Broadway."
My Take: While I look at the "Theater People Podcast" as the late-night talk show of the group, "The Ensemblist" is the "This American Life" of the genre. Being Broadway vets themselves, Nikka and Mo are able to answer the questions that even the most well-informed fan doesn't know to ask. With three-ish Broadway "ensemblists" per episode, the stories and insight in each proves why these individuals truly are the "unsung heroes of Broadway." The two hosts open each show with a silly bit of banter, before giving way to their guests; through each episode, it's gratifying to learn that, despite the rigors and stresses of the profession, the people working on Broadway love it just as much as we fans do.
Recent Episodes: "Spotligh On: Stage Managers", "Broadway Debuts", "Original Cast Recordings", "Audition Stories", and "Married Ensemblist Couples".
Official Description: "Join award-winning musical theatre writer Joel B. New as he interviews the savviest singers he knows! Each guest brings multiple talents to the theatre industry, from photography to teaching to massage therapy, and their careers as performers have only been enriched by them. This biweekly podcast dissects what it means to be a working, multifaceted artist in America and always concludes with a song premiere from one of Joel B. New's latest musical project."
My Take: In all of my podcast listening experience, and the additional research I did for this column, I didn't find anything else like this show. Joel is a very talented composer, and being able to listen to him chat with equally talented performers before they sing his songs is a really cool way into the world of the next generation of musical theatre writers.
Hosts: Marcia Fulmer, Dave Dufour, and John Shoup
Average Length: About 25 min | New Episode Frequency: Every one or two weeks
Official Description: "Fun conversation about community theatre and the performing arts from three people who have been there and done that. The hosts provide their insights on everything from auditions to design to directing to tech."
My Take: All too often, "community theatre" is turned into a pejorative term used to describe any cheesy or talentless performance. Marcia, Dave, and John use their years of eclectic experiences to provide the millions of community theatre enthusiasts across the country with useful insight into every aspect of the process. Don't worry, they aren't spending each episode breaking down local productions of STEEL MAGNOLIAS, instead, they expertly dive head first into the minutia that is the complex world of community theatre.
Recent Episodes: "Can there be too much tech in theatre?", "Leave that stuff at home: Dealing with bad behavior in the theatre," "Is it Actor or Actress?", and "Awards Nights for Community Theatre: the pros and cons."
Official Description: "Join us 'In the Room' every other week for new episodes featuring writers as well as the original casts and creative teams behind the most important shows in theatre history."
My Take: If you want an inside look into the minds of the greatest theatre writers of the 20th and 21st Centuries, there simply is no better place to turn than this podcast. While the episodes have been recorded over decades, every two weeks you get a masterclass delivered to your iTunes. For those of us who aspire to be theatre writers, there is no easier way to learn the craft from the greats.
Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast
Hosts: Austin Tichenor and other RSC members
Average Length: About 20 min | New Episode Frequency: Every Monday
Official Description: "A bright, breezy, and entertaining affair, well stocked with interviews, features, and excerpts from the shows!" So said The Telegraph (UK) when it named RSC Podcast one of its Top Podcasts. Backstage drama. Touring trauma. Famous Guests. Infamous quests. Literary analysis. No urinalysis. All this and less - on the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast.
My Take: I mean seriously. Did you read their official description? Do you know the Reduced Shakespeare Company? If you answered yest to either question, you have no need for me to describe the hilarity and brilliance of which they are capable. With their shows, including "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" and "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)," touring the world nearly nonstop, they are never in short supply of interesting guests and topics.
Recent Episodes: "Sacrificing RSC Virgins," "Playing the Fool," "(Not) Banned in Newtownabbey," and "A Comedian's Prayer"
Official Description: "From award-winning investigative theater company The Civilians, is a weekly podcast series of performances crafted from interviews with real people about current and controversial topics, including Occupy Wall Street, Atlantic Yards, the adult entertainment industry, Evangelical Christianity, and more. Each episode illuminates surprising, unusual, funny, and thought-provoking stories collected from interviews with a wide range of different people. The series, taken from live performances, includes songs and scenes from past plays and current projects, plus sneak peaks (sic) at works in development."
My Take: If you are familiar with the Civilians' work (including THE GREAT IMMENSITY, currently playing Off-Broadway), you know that they have a wonderful sensibility that is all their own. Their mission statement says that the group is "investigative theater, boldly exploring the intersections of theater and society," and each podcast episode is taken from one of their live cabaret performances combining monologues, scenes, and original songs focusing on a central social or political theme. If you like your social commentary presented via showtunes, you've gotta subscribe to this one.
Recent Episodes: "Sex Variants 1941," "Holy Matrimony!", "Be the Death of Me," and "LGBT All Out!"
Off Off Pod
Host: Stephen Bittrich
Average Length: About 60 min | New Episode Frequency: Every Friday
Official Description: "In this often humorous, comedic, sometimes touching podcast, Stephen Bittrich interviews artists from all disciplines- actors, writers, directors, designers, filmmakers, fine artists, musicians, and storytellers - to find out how they create 'story.' Off Off Pod is a podcast for people who NEVER give up on their dreams, and Stephen talks to artists working at all levels from the indie (or 'Off Off') world to those working within the commercial studio system."
My Take: This isn't a theatre podcast specifically, but Bittrich is a long time member of the The Drilling CompaNY on the Upper West Side and has quite a few theatre-specific episodes. Also, any podcast that can claim the phenomenal Emmy-winner and Tony-nominee Margo Martindale, as its first guest, is worth a listen. The show includes lots of different types of episodes; interviews, original short plays, and "Off Off" Topic discussions (from cobbler to time in jail).
The Actor's Diet
Host: Lynn Chen
Average Length: About 30 min | New Episode Frequency: About every other week
Official Description: "The Actor's Diet Podcast is hosted by Lynn Chen who runs a popular food blog by the same name. Join her as she interviews fellow artists and culinary creatives about food, body image, and life."
My Take: While this is not really a theatre podcast, and Lynn is an L.A. based actress, I wanted to include it because she discusses so many challenging issues in the life of an actor with such openness and honesty, that I think it is an important topic to promote. Now, don't think that "The Actor's Diet" is all about the depressing issue of working in an appearance obsessed industry, because Lynn and her guests have fun conversations about all types of food-related topics, but like grocery shopping, I don't recommend doing it on an empty stomach.
The National Theatre Podcast
Host: The National Theatre
Average Length: length varies widely | New Episode Frequency: As programming dictates
Official Description: "Welcome to our podcast collection featuring live recordings from National Theatre events including performances, discussions and interviews with people such as Danny Boyle, James Corden, Peter Hall and Julie Walters. This collection is updated regularly with content on current productions and events, as well as some treasures from our archives."
My Take: There are many podcasts done through the National Theatre, but this one is the collection of the best interviews, performances, and educational discussions. There is something on this pod for every type of theatre fan; not to mention that it kind of feels like you are listening to a lecture at Hogwarts.
PODCASTS IN NEED OF RESURRECTION
The first podcast that I ever subscribed to was The Wing's "Downstage Center," hosted by former director Howard Sherman. First introduced to it as a show on XM, I became a voracious binge-listener (and fan of Howard), and was incredibly sad when Sherman left the Wing and the show quietly faded away. The ATW has had other audio and video podcasts throughout the years that also seem to have fallen by the waste side since Sherman's departure. Hopefully someone there will realize the incredible marketing and educational power of new media resources and start the series up again soon.
One of the greatest things that social media has done for theatre (beyond the stagedoor selfie) is the hashtag #2AMT. Standing for "2:00am Theatre", this anagram (because 2am is when "the ideas flow") has gone from an online discussion to a website, and, at times, to a movement. David J. Lohr et al. always provide incredibly thoughtful views on the most important and progressive issues in theatre. While the podcasts (they've actually had two) haven't had a new episode in about a year and a half, if enough people bother David (@dloehr), perhaps we will get another chance to listen in on the discussion.
Steppenwolf Theatre Podcast
Even though they haven't published a new episode in eight months, their archive is a treasure-trove of theatrical awesomeness. With conversations with William Petersen, Donald Margulies, Lauren Metcalf, Bruce Norris, Tracy Letts, and countless more, you get an insight into one of the most important theatre companies in the country. Here's hoping they get back in the producing swing soon.
NON-THEATRE PODCASTS THAT THEATRE FANS WILL LOVE
NPR's News Quiz is required weekly listening for me. Peter Sagal guides hilarious discussions of the week's news with three comedians and a special guest. Outside THE DAILY SHOW and COLBERT, there is no funnier way to get your news.
I love pretty much love all things Grantland, and they have many great entertainment podcasts ("Do You Like Prince Movies?", "The Right Reasons"), but this is my favorite. Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald talk all things TV, movies, and music with incredible passion, intelligence, and humor.
Like Grantland, The Nerdist is more than just podcasts, but that is what keep me coming back. "Making It" with MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING actress Riki Lindhome and "Mike and Tom Eat Snacks" with former ED costars Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, are fantastic, but if you fancy yourself a bit of a writer (as I do), there is no better place to learn about the trade than Writers Panel.
AND ONE MORE MAKES 20
Official Description: "Broken Legs is a free podcast about life in the New York entertainment industry. Austin sits down each week with successful actors, writers, directors, and other creative professionals to trade stories, resources, insights, and advice."
My Take: Not only the most profane entry on the list, Austin has the most eclectic mix of guests of any of our Top-20. A New York based actor himself, he has had actors, directors, writers, singer-songwriters, voice-over artists, casting directors, and one former high school castmate of mine. I really like the show, but I only stumbled across it while in the middle of writing this very column, therefore, it just barely cracked the list. However, maybe now that we both know about it, we can discover it together.
So, what do you think? Did I miss any great theatre podcasts? Any others in or outside of the theatrical world that we need to check out? Let me know in the comments below. Happy listening!