Sep 16

Have Pitch, Will Podcast: New Radio Drama for the Pandemic-Age

Orson Welles, 1938. Shown in rehearsal, standing, center background: director Orson Welles; seated, right: composer Bernard Herrmann NB: directing his Mercury Theatre of the Air troupe, such as created panic on the CBS radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, October 30, 1938

Article by Kitty Drexel

The pandemic has sparked a greater interest in radio drama.

In May, the New York Times shared a great article by Alexis Soloski that named multiple Broadway podcast radio shows called “For Your Ears Only: Broadway’s New Stage Is a Mic.” It references the Great Depression (as we head into another recession), quotes recording actors like James Monroe Iglehart, and then details their podcast projects.

Kelli O’Hara, Annaleigh Ashford, Iglehart, and others answer pertinent questions such as “How do you develop a character using just your voice?” Their answers are excellent advice to actors making podcast theatre during the pandemic. It’s a good read.

In it, Lesli Margherita said, “I have to rehearse in front of a mirror first. I have to act with my face, with my entire body, because otherwise, nothing will come through. It’s a bit lonely.”

She is right.

An actor must imbue their recording with all of the emotion, energy, and staging that the listener can’t see. Stage actors are unaccustomed to this; they rely too heavily on their bodies to convey meaning. Their recordings lack phrasing, color, and depth.

A performance that would be just fine on stage is lackluster in a recording. A podcast/radio listener can’t see your face, can’t see your gestures as you speak into the microphone.  A new-to-the-performer medium requires different training, different rehearsal practices. It requires different energy and skills that not every performer working on podcast/radio dramas right now currently have. Developing them takes time.

Orson was a dick.

For these reasons, I won’t be critiquing the most recent additions to the podcast/radio drama field from local companies. Their work is too new and our local actors are still getting acclimated. It’s enough that they are creating.

Let’s judge them not on their first episodes but wait until the end of the pandemic and look back on how much they’ve learned over the course of the project instead. They are in the learning and practicing stages now and deserve the opportunity to explore without critics barking their opinions.

Anyhoo, here is a list compiled from press releases and marketing emails sent to the NETG email. It is not exhaustive. More will be added to this site as they are sent.

The Boston Podcast Project presented by SpeakEasy Stage CompanySeries 1: The Usual Unusual by MJ Halberstadt. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian.
The Usual Unusual is a scrappy and quaint bookstore where Boston’s LGBTQ+ community has gathered to shop, organize, and flirt since the 70’s. When the store’s charismatic founder Penn announces his retirement, neurotic staff-member Charlie persuades him to pass leadership on, rather than close the store. The staff’s efforts to unite a fractured community under one banner – or simply coordinate a weekly reading night — stoke generational disputes about identity, community, and trauma, and lead to fraught and hilarious results.”

The Legion Tapes: Radio broadcasts from an alien apocalypse by Erin Lerch and Josh Glenn-Kayden. The website for The Legion Tapes is sophisticated. There is a timeline, character tree, history, and color-coded map. This project has potential for a longevity that lasts beyond COVID-19.
The Legion Tapes are selections from an archive chronicling the world after the end. The alien Legion takes over worlds and absorbs the sentients of those worlds. They’ve assimilated eleven species so far, and humanity is next on their list. But even after the nations of the world fall, and even after being reduced to communicating solely by radio, humanity’s fighting back.”

Ask the Void by Theatre of the Electric MouthAsk the Void is currently more electric than it is mouth. If this series is anything like those of ThEM’s colleagues, that will change as the series progresses. Fans of Welcome to Nightvale will enjoy this program.
“Ask the Void imagines a world where those seeking advice in life and love call into The Void and bask in the guidance of that cantankerous abyss. Who better to trust on the important stuff than the endless, cascading nothingness that threatens daily to engulf us all!”
Beware: blind or near-sighted individuals may find ThEM’s website difficult to navigate. The hard of hearing may experience difficulty listening to the podcast as the balance between the first episode’s vocals and other sound design elements favors incidental sounds rather than human voices.

Just in case local actors are making the switch and don’t know, radio drama has existed for years at the New England community and fringe theatre levels.

Boston Podcast Players Seasons 1 – 2 are available now.
Current: Season 3, Episode 1: “The Great Isolation Check-In, Part 1.”  MJ Halberstadt talking with Caity-Shea Violette. Manuel Lopez talking with Charmaine Santiago Galdón.
“The Boston Podcast Players was started in 2016 by Greg Lam and Mara Elissa Palma, two Boston area playwrights who met while participating in the Company One PlayLab Unit.”

Tales from the Dragon Eye Galaxy presented by Sterling Arts and Design; Sound engineering by Gauntlet Creative.
“Inspired by old radio shows, such as “Buck Rogers”, “The Shadow”, and episodes of Stan Freberg comedy and dozens of different sci fi movies and TV shows I grew up with including “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”, I created, wrote, directed and produced an 8 episode sci fi radio series. The featured cast includes talent from all over Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

The Yellow Wallpaper and other offerings presented by the Post-Meridian Radio Players 
About PMRP from its website: “Founded in 2005 and based in the Boston area, The Post-Meridian Radio Players are a group of actors, writers, FoleyFX artists, composers, sound designers and other interested people dedicated to the preservation of radio drama, and the development of audio theater, as unique art forms. They offer live performances and studio productions of both classic tales from the Golden Age of Radio and original works by new and experienced writers, with a special emphasis on science-fiction, fantasy, and horror.”

Broadway podcasts/radio plays mentioned in the New York Times article by Alexis Soloski:
Little Did I Know by The Audio Drama Initiative.
“Featuring twenty-two original songs backed by a full band and sung by a stellar team of vocalists, Little Did I Know is the story of a group of friends – recent college graduates – who bring a broken-down summer theater back to life in 1976. The summer will be different from anything they expected, and what they experience will resonate throughout their lives. At turns funny, romantic, stirring, and poignant, this is an unforgettable coming-of-age story.”

Bleeding Love: A New Musical Podcast.  Book by Jason Schafer, Music by Arthur Lafrentz Bacon, Lyrics by Harris Doran.
“In a world where it’s too dangerous to go outside, a starry-eyed teen cellist risks leaving her apartment to win the love of the rebel punk next door. A twisted musical with a good, pure heart.”

Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors: The Complete Radio Play. Written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, directed by Gordon Greenberg.
“Along the treacherous Borgo Pass In the mountains of Transylvania, a meek English real estate agent is on a harrowing journey to meet a new and mysterious client…who also just happens to be the most terrifying and ferocious monster the world has ever known. COUNT DRACULA!!”

Sep 09

The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it: Player’s Ring Theatre Reopens

Player’s Ring building; performances are indoors

Produced by the Player’s Ring Theatre
An original play by Irene Kelleher
With Emily Karel
Directed by Peter Josephson
Presented by Glass Dove Productions

October 2 – 11, 2020
105 Marcy Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Player’s Ring on Facebook 

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Portsmouth, NH — According to an email press release from Player’s Ring Theatre in New Hampshire sent on September 8, the company will open its doors to the public beginning on October 2 for its production of Mary and Me by Irene Kelleher.

The company closed its doors in March due to the pandemic. It is reopening for live performance after making adjustments for audience safety. These include a new air handling and ventilation system, reduced capacity, social distancing at six feet, a health check at the door, and a mandatory mask policy.

The theater seats 75 patrons at capacity but only 33 seats are for sale to ticketholders. Only bottled drinks will be for sale. Seat assignments will be allocated by the Player’s Ring box office.

Production manager Margherita Giacobbi said in the press release, “Our number one priority in our decision to reopen has been the safety of our artists, volunteers, and audiences. We are following all State and CDC guidelines to ensure a safer environment (emphasis mine).”

Continue reading

Aug 25

Make the World Better: “I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone”

Image via http://www.judithkalaora.com/i-now-pronounce-you-lucy-stone.html. Kalaora looked as luminous during the performance as she does here. 

Presented by History at Play’s Pay-Per-Hap program
Researched, written, produced and performed by Judith Kalaora
Music by Deborah Goss
Friday, August 21, 7:30 – 9 PM

Livestreamed on Facebook
History At Play on Facebook
An Upcoming Schedule of Performances

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Apologies to Judith Kalaora and the History At Play team for the tardiness of this post – we were without internet for five days and unable to post this review. 

FACEBOOK LIVE — The one-woman show, I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone, began with a light, off-camera folk song performance minutes before 7:30 PM on August 21. Stone’s (Judith Kalaora) vibrant, full-bodied voice was heard as she puttered just offstage. As we learned, she had a lot to prepare for. MA native Lucy Stone fought for women’s right to vote in the 1840s. She nearly did it too. Unfortunately for all female-identifying individuals, women would have to wait another 80 years before wringing the privilege from men’s totalitarian grasp.  Continue reading

Aug 16

Respect the Rules or Stay Home or, Live Theatre Once Again: “Judy Punches Back”

Image via https://www.centralsquaretheater.org/shows/judy-punches-back/

Presented by Central Square Theater and Puppet Showplace Theater 
Written, directed, and performed by Sarah Nolan 

August 13 & August 14 at at 8PM
Starlight Square
84 Bishop Allen Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139
Puppet Showplace on Facebook
CST on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Cambridge, MA — Starlight Square is the brand, heckin’ new stage within Central Square intended for public performance, art and community brought to us by the Central Square Business Improvement District, Flagg Street Studio, and Boyes-Watson Architects. The performances are FREE thanks to their sponsors (although some dance classes are at a fee because teaching artists deserve to get paid). On Friday, August 14, we masked our faces and girded our loins to attend Sarah Nolan’s Judy Punches Back.  Continue reading

Aug 14

Burning Down the Establishment One BIPOC Critic at a Time: A Profile of Pascale Florestal

Florestal, image from www.pascaleflorestal.com

Profile by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON/ZOOM — Boston’s theatre journalism scene is a barren wasteland of white maleness. The desperate cries of BIPOC performing artists and designers for accurate representation are carried by winds off of the Atlantic ocean to diversity-parched cities and towns across New England: where are the critics of color?

Critiquing and reviewing circles have remained steadfastly white for the last few decades. Out of the current eleven members of the Boston Theater Critics Association, six are white men, five are white women.

The Front Porch Arts Collective launched the Young Critics Program in spring 2019 in partnership with WBUR the ARTery. It is the only independent training opportunity specifically geared towards young BIPOC journalists in New England. Boston-based director, dramaturg, educator, writer, and collaborator Pascale Florestal is the woman in charge. Continue reading

Aug 11

The Work Begins with Empathy: “A Kids Play About Racism”

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre with the Gottabees 
Lead Producers Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Alliance Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre
Adapted & Directed by Kahlia Davis
Lyrics by Davied Morales
Music by Justin Ellington
Based on the book by Jelani Memory
More information at akidsplayabout.org

Streamed through August 7 on Broadway On Demand
Wheelock Family Theatre
Boston, MA 02215
Wheelock on Facebook
The Gottabees on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BROADWAY ON DEMAND — The Wheelock Family Theatre and the Gottabees collaborated with 41 Theaters for Young Audiences across the United States to present the world premiere, online theatrical experience of A Kids Play About Racism.

The Zoom play based on the children’s book A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory explains what racism is on a level that kids of all ages can understand and appreciate. A Kids Play About Racism is intended for ages 5+ but has a lot to offer adults too. It simplifies abstract concepts like white supremacy, microaggressions, Black culture, and emotional labor into digestible nuggets of truth. All viewers will be able to take away something valuable – even if it’s remembering that dismantling racism is strenuous; it’s okay to take a short rest before getting back to work.  Continue reading

Jul 23

Coronavirus Take Me: “Edith VS. Quarantine”

Edith in all her glory.

​Presented, performed, and written by Amanda Erin Miller
Featuring: Rachel Evans, Melissa Shaw, Shawn Shafner, Lorin Taylor
Produced by FringePVD

Performed July 21, 2020 at 7:30PM
Website: How to Suffer Better, The Jew in the Ashram
Amanda Erin Miller on social media: 
Facebook
​Twitter
Venmo

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“What do you call an anti-vaxxer in the 1920’s? …Dead!” – Edith Shlivovitz

Trigger warning: screen kissing

YOUTUBE — Edith VS. Quarantine: 89 & One Tough Cookie opens on Edith Shlivovitz up to her elbows in household detritus for donation, ropes of pearls swinging around her neck, plastic-framed glasses matching perfectly her cheetah jumpsuit. Edith is a character: she won’t take any of your crap. She’s stir crazy and has no more fucks to give.

EVQ is what happens when a one-woman-show has reached peak performance. Edith, a widowed, Jewish, octogenarian housewife from New York who hasn’t left her apartment since March, is over the top archetype of old lady. 

Miller’s character shoots through Zoom, past the door of your bedroom and into the street like porn on an iPhone at a family reunion. Edith is holding her tits, listening to “Memory” and quoting Deepak Chopra. As the late Joel Schumacher said of his movie disasters, “nobody pays to see under the top.”  

EVQ is a an emotional journey. Folx who don’t enjoy a bit of the absurd with their raunch won’t get this show. Edith’s antics read like a peculiar Only Fans site for gawkers with very particular kinks. Edith references her dead husband Winston, chats with her taxidermied cat Clementine, and reenacts her favorite scenes from the thee-atre. 

Edith treats you, her guest, to several photo montages. She pitches her app idea, quotes Anaïs Nin’s erotica, and segues to her reality TV show. That’s what I remember from before I blacked-out from the silliness. 

Edith VS. Quarantine is not high art. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, either. It is a character sketch that depicts one woman going as far as she can go because the rules no longer apply. These are unprecedented times, and Edith is no longer at the mercy of society’s rules. If that isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is.  

My sincere apologies to Miller re: review tardiness. The pandemic kills productivity like a mother.

Next performance of Edith VS. Quarantine: 89 & One Tough Cookie: Friday 7/24 at 7:30pm

FestivalPVD runs July 19 – August 1, 2020
Information about the 2020 festival HERE
FringePVD on Facebook

Jul 23

Faster than Eight Tiny Reindeer on Uppers : “Get Thee Behind Me, Santa”

Get Thee Behind Me, Santa: An Inexcusably Filthy Children’s Time-Travel Farce for Adults Only
Presented by Maximum Verbosity
Produced by FringePVD
Written and performed by phillip andrew bennett low

Performed on July 20, 2020 at 9PM
Website: Maximum Verbosity
Maximum Verbosity on Facebook 
Venmo
PayPal

Critique by Kitty Drexel

My sincere apologies to low re: review tardiness. The pandemic kills productivity like a mother.

ZOOM — Maximum Verbosity presents a holiday allegory to beat that tired one told every single Christmas. Get Thee Behind Me, Santa features cursing, sexuality, blasphemy and other microaggressions. 

Get Thee Behind Me, Santa is an exceedingly fast-paced holiday allegory with an occasional rhyme scheme that pulls no punches. Jesus of Nazareth, Saint Nick, two angels with a greater appreciation for the physical form and a cast of other characters are determined to live in a better timeline, a timeline without a Santa cult.

It makes fun of the Da Vinci Code but it’s more similar to the popular 2003 mystery novel than it isn’t. GTBM,S jumbles together art, religion, science fiction, film noir, and other seemingly incongruent references into one tale. Therein lies the intended humor. 

In humorous narratives of this ilk, the jumble of references is the point. Lists are par for the course. Except, GTBM,S is  told at such breakneck speed that we aren’t able to absorb all of phillip andrew bennett low’s puns and scenes. They aren’t funny if we can’t savor them. The image of elves with super soakers is funny but, with low’s telling, blink and you’ll miss it. The same goes with many of the other clever bits concerning the Bible, popular soft drinks, and the Mayan civilization. 

The funniest moments of GTBM,S are when low pauses after a character’s one-liner. Jesus said, “Howdy-do?” Low gave us time to react, so I did; I laughed.

Someone said (I couldn’t catch the character’s name), “I am amazed at how useless I find your vowels.” Low paused again; I laughed again. 

I was able to respond in real-time to low’s work. It felt amazing. Audiences of artists want to respond to an artist. Please let us. 

Theatre shouldn’t be a race to the finish… Unless it is.  If the point of GTBM,S was to impress the audience with how quickly and how much low can spit a monologue, low succeeds. But, we couldn’t tell that this was his goal. He needs to indicate this to us. 

Some of this can be excused by the medium of Zoom. A one-person show without an audience is torture for an artist. We create with the presumption that an audience will share the room when we perform. Without the audience, we fly by the seat of our pants. It’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out. We can only hope for the best.

Based on the GTBM,S trailer from the 2019 Minnesota Fringe, I’m going to make an educated guess that low’s speed is intentional. If low’s intent truly was to tell a convoluted story overflowing with references across modern and archaic world history while ripping Christianity a new one, he needs to slow down so the audience can receive the story.

Storytelling can be as alinear as the space time continuum but, if it’s for an audience, it also has to be available to that audience. Artists need to perform at the same speed that an audience listens. Anything else is masturbatory.   

Next performance of Get Thee Behind Me, Santa: Friday 7/24 at 9:00pm

FestivalPVD runs July 19 – August 1, 2020
Information about the 2020 festival HERE
FringePVD on Facebook

Jul 22

Klaatu Barada Nikto: “The Puritans”

Produced by Sparkhaven Theatre Company
Part of the Camp Strangewood Series
Written by Phaedra ​Michelle Scott
Directed by Hannah Pryfogle
Compositions by Alissa Voth

July 19, 2020 at 8PM
To watch with captions during the live broadcast, head to sparkhaventheatre.com/watch-strangewood.
Sparkhaven on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

YOUTUBE — The Sparkhaven Theatre Company’s anticipated series Camp Strangewood opened last Sunday, July 19 at 8PM. It’s fans gathered on YouTube to watch the first installation, The Puritans. Similar to Sparkhaven’s previous endeavors, it was spoopy, silly and uncannily relatable.  Continue reading

Jul 18

More Entitled than a Cis, White Man on the T at Rush Hour: “Incredibly Annoying Women”

Produced by HowlRound Theatre Commons
Presented by Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston (AATAB)
By Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro
Directed by Mallika Chandaria
Stage Managed by Karin Naono

Originally streamed on Wednesday, July 15 at 7 PM EDT
AATAB on Facebook
Featuring: Roxanne Y. Morse, Kendra Jain, Lisa Yuen, Vijaya Sundaram, Emily Kuroda

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM/HowlRound — The characters in Incredibly Annoying Women by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro are unapologetic. These women take up space with their bodies and emotions like a cis man on the T at rush hour: legs sprawling to the left and right, arms resting on seat backs, backpack taking up a fourth seat. They aren’t inherently annoying but their unfounded entitlement is. Continue reading