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 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

Aug 04

“Macbeth” Gets Bloody Good: Part II

Presented by Liars & Believers
Directed by Jason Slavick
Original Music and Sound Design by Jay Mobley
Additional Video by Sam Powell

June 18, 2020 – Present (Weekly)
View – https://www.liarsandbelievers.com/show/pandemicplay/
LAB on Facebook, Twitter

Review by Gillian Daniels

ZOOM – When we last left our antiheroes, Macbeth (Jesse Garlick) found his ambitions for the throne awoken by three, soothsayer witches (all played by Rebecca Lehrhoff in different registers and Instagram filters) and Lady Macbeth (Rachel Wiese) decided to do whatever was in her power to climb the hegemonic ladder and stomp on every person who got in their way as bloodily as possible. Betrayal has yet to visit ruin and mental anguish on their lives. Continue reading

Aug 03

10 Minute Stretch Breaks: “Dream Boston”

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Dream Boston: A New Series of Audio Plays
The 54th in ’22 by Kirsten Greenidge
McKim by Brenda Withers
Overture by Kate Snodgrass
By the Rude Bridge by Melinda Lopez

Online now for free on the Huntington Theatre website
Huntington on Facebook, Twitter
Please remember to donate! Donate now so theatre can still exist later. 

Critique by Noelani Kamelamela

STREAMING – I appreciate theatre makers using online platforms to present pre-recorded work or livestream theatrical content. In these times, when it is prudent for people not to be in theatres or congregating outdoors for a concert, the creation of work that can be digested at home or even on a lunch break is a political act beyond taking general responsibility for the health and welfare of a community by cancelling in person productions.

Dream Boston is easy to digest in four separate audio plays and can be listened to with an internet connection on someone’s phone for less than ten minute stretches.  The playwrights and the directors for Dream Boston are women. Continue reading

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

May 27

They stole her body and the pants off a white man: “Our Lady of 121st Street”

image via https://www.facebook.com/LABTheaterCo

Presented by LAByrinth Theater Company
Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Elizabeth Rodriguez
Stage Directions read by David Deblinger

Performed on Saturday, May 23 @ 8PM
A Zoom performance

LAByrinth Theater Company
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014
LAB on Facebook
LAB on Instagram

Holy cats, DONATE!

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“Hang on because it’s gonna be dope.” – From the pre-performance speech by Elizabeth Rodriguez.

ZOOM — This production is made available to viewers as a part of LAByrinth Theater Company’s desire to continue existing past the coronavirus pandemic. If you viewed this production and you are able, please donate to LAByrinth Theater. Donate now so theatre can exist later.

Directors must stop apologizing for their Zoom readings. Our Lady of 121st Street’s triumphant director Elizabeth Rodriguez is not the first to apologize to a Zoom audience. If I had my druthers, she would be the last. It’s unfair to the cast and crew who have put so much energy into the performance. Now is not the time to apologize for variables spinning mundanity far beyond our control. There is no set precedent for corona-times streaming theatre.  We’re inventing the genre. Mistakes and minor emergencies are part of the fun of live theatre. Continue reading

Feb 07

Pride & Shame Are Brothers: “Sweat”

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company
By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Kimberleigh Senior
Original music & sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca
Fight direction by Ted Hewlett

Jan. 31 – March 1, 2020
Huntington Avenue Theatre
Boston, MA
Huntington Theatre Co on Facebook

Content warnings: This production includes the smoking of cocoa shell cigarettes (100% nicotine-free). It contains themes of drug use, drug addiction, alcoholism, and homelessness.

Trigger warnings: racial and gender microaggressions, intentional bigotry, sexism, racism, graphic violence, implied drug use, exploitation of a disabled person, and Republican politics

The Huntington Theatre Company website says that those who are interested in more information should please reach out to Ticketing Services at 617 266 0800.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Boston, MA — Lynn Nottage’s Sweat won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. After reading in in 2017 and seeing it live last night, it is not difficult to understand why. Sweat balances gender, race, and class discrimination issues like a well-crafted dagger. This art represents the struggling people of Reading, PA that Nottage interviewed to write her play. It gives insight into the dangers of unchecked greed while commenting on the political events that provoked into a capitalist fury. Sweat has you in the palm of its metaphorical hand… And then it drops you on your ass. Continue reading

Feb 04

“boom”: An End or A Beginning?

Nicholas Yenson* & Chloe Nosan as “Jules” and “Jo.”
Photo by Maggie Hall

Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Marta Rainer
With Nicholas Yenson, Chloe Nosan, Stephanie Clayman

January 16 – February 9, 2020
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Wellesley College
Wellesley , MA 02481
WRT on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

Wellesley, MA — The set for boom is a tank reminiscent of a gallery or museum exhibit, with assorted instruments set to the left. As it starts, Stephanie Clayman’s  (“Barbara”) crosses the stage in a jumpsuit and overcoat. Shortly thereafter,  Nicholas Yenson ( “Jules”) and Chloe Nosan (“Jo”) robotically take to the stage, arranged as an underground bunker. Continue reading