BWW Interview: With the Exuberant Patrick Hinds, Creator of Theaterppl and Broadway Backstory Podcasts

BWW Interview: With the Exuberant Patrick Hinds, Creator of Theaterppl and Broadway Backstory Podcasts

The world is changing and let me tell you, not all of it is bad. In fact, there are some seismic shifts that have been taking place in the world of Broadway, that have been nothing but positive. As ticket revenues rise there are many explanations, from groundbreaking shows, to stories and music that speak to a younger and more diverse audience and podcasts. Podcast? Yes, those little shows that people can listen to on their phones, in their cars, offices, homes, on the subway or while working out. So why is this such a big deal for Broadway? If you have to ask, then this is the interview for you. If you don't have to ask, then this is the interview for you.

The mysterious, magical world of Broadway was for years limited to the well-healed sophisticated city-dwellers and the mid-western tourists coming to see that play about the cats and high school drama clubs that came during spring break and summer. Those days are gone with the pagers and pay phones of the past. Podcasts are everywhere and about everything. This is where Patrick Hinds comes in. His theatrical podcasts called Theaterppl and the newer Broadway Backstory have brought Broadway theatre into places it has never been before.

Big name stars of the stage along with up and comers are being discovered by people around the country and even the world. The amount of exposure that Patrick Hinds gives these talented people is nothing short of incredible. His excitement and exuberance, is so infectious that you feel like your best friend just got you a backstage pass into the stars' dressing room. There are not enough adjectives to describe the absolute joy he gets talking to these wonderful people and letting us hang out while he does it. So, what do we know about this Patrick Hinds? Let's put the spotlight on him for a change. BroadwayWorld was lucky enough to get a few minutes with this soon to be Podcast mogul, enjoy.

I know that Tommy was the first professional show you ever saw, how did it affect you?

You know more than anything? I was caught off guard by how much I loved it. It was one of those like magical experiences where me and a couple of friends from High school bought tickets to see it in Boston. We grew up about 90 minutes outside of Boston, and I just thought it sounded cool, and we went to go see and I just kind of expected it to just be fun. We got front row tickets. We were right on top of it, and I just remember being completely overwhelmed. Tommy, It's one of those shows that the music starts before the lights even go down, so all of a sudden, you were just jolted into the action of the show. And it just hooked me from that moment and just didn't let me go. It's the first thing that opened my eyes to theater and my first real understanding that theatre was going to be a major part of my life.

Did you watch musicals on tv growing up?

You know, my husband is one of those people, like so many people that I've interviewed that grew up wearing out the Sunday In The Park With George vhs cassette tape. I had gone to the movie Newsies and I had loved that movie. But when I was young, like in the middle school and early high school, and I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be like a TV/ film actor, theatre not so much. I loved acting and I liked drama club because it was a place where I could act, but it wasn't because I loved the theatre, and so it was after I saw Tommy that I all of a sudden started to see as much real theatre as I could but you know I wasn't one of those people that the old musicals really spoke to. When Gypsy was on TV with Bette Midler, I wasn't that into it because I was much more into Newsies and like the Tommy rock musical thing, that was really brought me in.

So what was the first cast album that you just started to wear out?

That was Tommy. I remember after I saw Tommy, the next year, I started taking classes in Boston on the weekend, musical theater classes, and I would take the bus from Cape Cod, on Saturday morning. Then I would put in the cast album of Tommy and listen to it all the way up to Boston, and I would go Musical theatre classes all day and then get on the bus to come back and listen to the Tommy cast album the whole way home so, I mean, I knew every inch of that album. I still do.

When did you realize that you wanted to act at the professional level, was it when you started classes?

I think it was, probably. I mean acting in general early on I knew I wanted to do it. When I was a kid, I loved movies, I loved watching TV. And so I think probably when I was in early middle school, where I grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, there was a really great community theater program, so there was tons of Community theatre. There was always opportunity to do that. I wasn't a great student. I liked school. I was fine in school, but I wasn't like a smart student. You know, acting was something where I could go and be around people, and I could make people laugh and I could meet other people that were like me and I just knew I wanted to be around that from a really young age. Now that changed when I got to college and I realized I just wasn't cut out for acting. Then my challenge was to find a way into the world theater.

What happened that made you realize that acting wasn't going to be your way into Theatre?

When I got into college and the curriculum was all acting and musical theater classes, I was bored, I didn't like it. I was surrounded by a lot of people who took it really seriously, some who are on Broadway now and are doing really great. I started to realize that I didn't have the talent that those kids did. Whereas when you're in high school and you're outgoing and funny, you might get the lead in the school play, because they need somebody who isn't afraid like that. So you think you're this great actor and then I got to college. I think that I was not interested in not being who I am. I didn't think that there was a world in which anybody was going to take me seriously as a heterosexual straight man, which is what most parts for men in theatre are. I remember when I first moved to New York, I had the idea of starting a theater company that was geared towards producing gay work with gay actors. I think if I had done that, I could have stayed in acting and really loved it. But when I was in college, I didn't know how to do that and so it became a thing of "I love the world of theatre, I love the people in the world of theatre." However I didn't want to study Shakespeare even though I love to watch Shakespeare. I wasn't interesting in studying the process of character building. When I realized I was in acting class and I was bored to death, and I remember one of my acting teachers said "What are you doing? You seem like you hate this?" And I said "No, I love it, I want to be an actor." And then I went back to my dorm and got real serious with myself and said "No, I actually do kind of hate this." That's when I had to figure out how can I be in this world without doing it this way, became my big question.

So was it at this time that you thought, I'm going to New York and I'm going to start a theatre company?

After I had that revelation, which was at the end of my freshman year of college, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I really wanted to write and I was in Boston and I went to Emerson college, which was a big communication school and I loved the idea of working in TV. I started getting internships with the NBC affiliate in Boston which turned into a job with CNBC in New York. I loved Boston and thought I would stay there forever but when I got this job in New York, that's when I decided to come down here. I was out of the world of theatre for awhile, I worked in TV. When I left the TV world, I was 21 and wanted out of the corporate world and I got a job at a bar in the Village. I started writing and did pretty well with that, I wrote 2 books that both got published.

( The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard and The Q Guide to New York City Pride)

That's when I started thinking about what I wanted to do and that's when technology started to evolve and podcasts started to exist. There was a lot of new media that was starting to pop up and that really interested me. That was back in the day when I was thinking about if I should start the theatre company. I had these friends who started Backhouse productions and back then they were nobody, but now they are Tommy Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda, all the people that were behind In The Heights and Hamilton. I was seeing what they were doing and I remember having this conversation with Tommy about this and how I was really interested in how they had started their company. I was still interested in starting an LGBT company but for some reason that just wasn't the idea that I pursued. Tommy was really supportive and there were a lot of options opened to me back then.

That actually answered one of the questions I had, had you ever considered directing or playwriting?

Yeah, I think I did. I was a good writer, I like writing. I wrote books and that was easy enough for me to figure out how to do that. When I sat down and started to try and figure out how to write plays, it didn't come naturally to me. I didn't go out and study it, but it was something that I was very interested in. It is still interesting to me. I think what's interesting to me now, is sort of the solo show. I think of Ben Rimalower's Patti Issues, where he tells his story of his relationship with his father and his obsession with Patti LuPone. That kind of storytelling and playwriting is very interesting to me and something that I might pursue at some point.

I know that you have seen a lot of theatre, has there been anything that you've seen that offended you?

Actually yes. Very early when I started Theaterppl, we had gotten an interview with Mark Kudisch who was in that play, Hand To God. So Mark was our guest, and so my producer Mike Jenson and I went to see the play and in the very first scene or somewhere very early in the play, one of the characters calls another character the anti-gay F word. It really, really caught me off guard. For me, that word can used in certain situations where the characters learn something from it. I take great offense to that word. And especially the use of that word being used in a comedy. So we were very new at the podcast, we didn't handle it very well and we ended up canceling the interview with Mark Kudisch. It was only because Mark wasn't in the scene and he didn't write the play or direct it, but I couldn't in good conscience do the interview with him without talking about that. But I didn't think it was fair to him to talk to him about it, since he had nothing to do with it. And rather than creating an awkward situation, we just canceled it. I explained to his PR person why and she was sort of caught off guard by it. Then literally within minutes, I got an email directly from Mark Kudisch, which scared the hell out of me. Back then we weren't used to meeting these actor people until we got to the interviews. Mark wrote me this really sweet email about how he totally understood and he said "forget about the interview I don't care, can we have lunch and talk about this? I want to know what offended you, I want to talk about this." They were in previews then and that process for actors is very, very intense and I think Mark was really living inside the play and wanted to hear our prospective on it. We said yes but we were so nervous. We went a few days later and it was this amazing conversation, it was kind of intense because Mark is kind of an intense man. We talked for over an hour and we left there and Mark said "Come back and see the play, see if you see that moment differently". We went back again and I didn't see that moment differently, I felt pretty much the same way about it. But at least we had that conversation and I've seen Mark a bunch of times since then and he's followed up and we've stayed in touch and it's been years. That was one of those situations where I took a lot of offense and probably didn't handle it the right way, but it was a great learning experience. Number 1, I'm not for censorship, I believe in free speech so obviously I wasn't protesting in front of the theater saying you should shut the play down. But number 2, I just think that responsibly if you're going to use that word it needs to be in a context where the character grows in a way that the audience learns something about it. Or if that character had ended up being the villain but he wasn't. He gets totally redeemed in the end, which to me makes it sound like it's ok to use that word.

Who was the first actor or performer that you idolized?

It was the actor River Phoenix. When I was a kid, he just had that cool sensitivity and was such a great actor and made all those cool movies. I remember when I was young seeing that movie Stand By Me, it was this great adventure movie. That was the kind of adventures I wanted to have when I was a kid. Then when I got older and he started making these really weird, interesting movies and I just loved them all. I remember back in the late 80's early 90's, he was maybe flirting with bisexuality which I thought was edgy at the time. So River Phoenix for sure.

With the current administration and the constant threat of budget cuts, why do you think theatre is important in schools?

For me, Theatre was the place that I felt like I could meet other gay kids or other kids who didn't care that I was gay. Where I could be myself, I could express myself. I remember my theatre director in high school was gay and had a partner and this was the mid 90's and that was kind of a big deal. I think theatre pushes boundaries and every time a high school does The Laramie Project an angel gets its wings. I just think that theatre is a safe place, which is really important for kids. Theatre tells stories and it brings the world to kids in a way that other things don't. It brings other people's perspectives and other people's experiences that's so vital. I think for some kids that theatre is the outlet whereas for other kids gym class is the outlet. Some kids need to go blow off steam by running track or throwing footballs. Other kids need to blow off steam by embodying another character, being silly or taking risks or taking chances. It's a confidence builder, there are no ends to the positive adjectives I could use. I was a pretty happy kid and I liked high school but I remember going to rehearsals. We had night rehearsals and there was a clock on the wall and I remember looking at the clock thinking "don't end, don't end."

When you came up with the idea for the podcast,(Theaterppl) did you ever imagine it would be as big as it is?

No, you know the world of podcasting has changed. I have said this a lot, the whole reason I started Theaterppl was that I listened to another podcast called DownStageCenter from the American Theatre Wing. It was kind of dry but they would get big Broadway stars like Bernadette Peters or Patti LuPone and they would come in and talk about their careers and I was obsessed with that podcast. Then it just sort of stopped, it went away. Then after a few months of me thinking someone else was going to make another podcast like that and nobody did, I was just like, "Well, I guess I'm gonna do it." Just really truly because I wanted to listen to it. So I made it out of necessity. I didn't care if anybody listened to it, I wanted to listen to it. Which is kind of what I thought was going to happen, I will get to be in the room with these actors, I will make a little episode and I'll get to listen to it. Which is all I cared about. Then it just sort of grew and grew and grew and grew. Then it turned into other podcasts and so here we are. I don't think I could have possibly envisioned it back then because that world of being a professional podcaster didn't exist. All of the goals in the beginning were very small.

When did you realize that people outside of New York were loving it?

I think that I just sort of watched the numbers grow, the number of people listening and downloading the podcast and went "Oh my God." Then podcasts will give you demographics of where people are listening. I remember seeing one day that we had 5 listeners in Africa and like a 100 listeners in China. The social media engagement has been the place where people, from New York for sure but also people not from New York really engage and I try to be as engaged as I can. That's when I started to see where people were listening and what it meant to people. I think about when I was in high school in Massachusetts, if I had the opportunity to hear Laura Benanti be silly for an hour on a podcast, that would have been everything to me.

When did you realize that you were famous?

I don't think I'm famous, but two moments stand out as memorable. One time a couple of years ago, I was on the subway with my husband Steve, my producer Mike and my daughter Daisy and we were uptown and we were sitting there and there was this group of kids sitting across from us and they had been really loud and then they got quiet. I didn't really notice it till one of the girls came over and she said "Are you Patrick from Theater ppl?" I said "I am! Yes I am. How did you know that?" She said "your voice." I said, "Oh my God, my gay squeal." She said, "No, I love your voice." Then all the kids wanted to take a picture with me, which is really sweet. Then it happened another time when I was on the subway and it was rush hour and this girl was listening to her podcast and she looked up and saw me and she said "Oh my God it's you!" She showed me her phone and she was listening to Theater Ppl. Did you ever see the movie Soapdish? You know how when Sally Field's character is having a bad day and she wants to get recognized she goes to the Paramus Mall, that's BroadwayCon to me. BroadwayCon is the Paramus Mall where I can walk around and feel famous for a day.

Now that your established is it easier for you to get people on the show? Do some of them contact you?

At this point I have relationships, which is really nice,I have a couple of PR people that I work with a lot. So it's much easier to get people now than it was a couple of years ago. We still have people that we would love to get that are hard for us to get. I would love to get Patti LuPone or Audra McDonald or Kelli O'Hara on the show. They are on our vision board and every time I make a connection, I'm one step closer to meeting those people.

So do you work thru the PR companies?

For a show that's currently running, what I will typically do when a show is in previews I will reach out to the PR company and say "Hey, it's Patrick", just remind them who I am, and say I'd love to come see the show and talk to them about who would be the right person to be on the podcast. Ninety percent of the time I get a, "Yes, absolutely, come this night" and then we will email after that and figure out who the right person is. But Norm Lewis helped me book Sierra Boggess, because they are really good friends and Norm came on the podcast and said "Oh, you have to have Sierra." So he connected us via email, so that was a big thing. Sometimes if it's someone I really want to get and they aren't in something or I don't have a direct connection to them. I will literally get on Twitter and say "Hey theater people, I want to book Laura Osnes" or "retweet this and let her know how much we would love to have her on our podcast" If enough people retweet it and favorite it, she's basically having been browbeaten, will send a message and say, "Fine, when do you want to do it?"

You have BroadwayCon coming up, more podcasts in your future, is there anything else professionally that you would like to do?

I have a lot of ideas. So I make a non-theatre podcast with Gillian Pensavalle called True Crime Obsessed. There's another podcast that I'm on a lot called HGTV and Me, with my husband Steve, who's really, really funny. I would love to find a project for Steve and I to work on. I have this idea for a Broadway documentary series I want to make and I'm constantly having ideas. It's funny, my 2018 is booked solid so I can't take on any more projects this year and I'm already looking ahead to 2019 and what can I be working on then? I'd also like to grow my business. I'd like to get to a point that I could hire people and be like a Gimlet media, where we have producers and editors working for us that we're paying so that we can take on more shows. I would just like to keep growing.

Has this whole thing made your head swim?

Yes, I will say I'm not an organized person, I'm a doer. I will wake up at 4 in the morning so I can get 2 hours of work done before my daughter wakes up and I get her ready for school. Then I work all day and I try and exercise when I can. Taking on Broadway Backstory and the massive project that it has become while keeping Theaterppl and taking on True Crime Obsessed and Gillian and I are working on another podcast that we will announce in a couple of months. Yeah, yeah it has made my head spin. The doors keep opening, which is amazing but I think that I can do more than I actually can do. The last few months of 2017, with the podcasts and my family and the holidays, it was madness. I'm trying to take deep breaths, stay focus and just be grateful.

Well, we are all very grateful for you and what you have done especially for the theatre community.

Thanks, thank you very much.

You can listen to Theaterppl, Broadway Backstory and True Crime Obsessed by going to wherever you get your podcast or you can stream the show and get bonus content by going to theaterppl.com, todaytix.com/broadway-backstory and truecrimeobsessed.com

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