Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Suggestions Please

As I am perpetually a step or two (or more) behind the curve, I have just this week started to enjoy the wonderfulness that is (are?) podcasts. We have a clunky old first generation iPod that we got along with our first Mac almost 5 years ago. A co-worker of mine has an iPod shuffle and this old thing looks like a Goliath next to her David. The display is fading and it weighs like a whole 8 ounces (compared to the shuffle that I believe is functionally weightless) but it works and so I’ve been tuning into some groovy podcasts at the gym.

I’d love any suggestions anyone might have for theater-related podcasts. I’ve listened to one from NYTheatre.com that featured an interview with Bill C. Davis. You all might remember him from “Austin’s Bridge” – a show that had its world re-premiere at the Firehouse last summer – and from a sit-down I had with him back before the show opened. He was an interesting interview in the podcast, though I was a little puzzled by his comments about critics (imagine that!)

Anyway, besides that, I’ve listened to a few AP on Broadway interviews but they seem to be of the sort like “Oh, I’m doing this play and it’s simply FAB-ulous.” I noticed that Playbill Radio does podcasts; has anyone ever listened to these? Are they any good? Any and all suggestions welcome!

9 comments:

Thespis' Little Helper said...

L.A. Theatre Works (great audio recordings of plays, several of which you can check out at the downtown library, particularly stellar is Shirley Knight in The Credeaux Canvas) has an interesting podcast called "The Play's the Thing." I found it on ITunes.

Robinitaface said...

I'm not sure how Bill got around to his comment about critics - but He seemed to be less diminishing the role of critics in theatre than encouraging audiences to go and think for themselves. Hence the comparison to immediate analysis of political speeches/debates by the 24-hour News networks. People don't *need* a team of people telling them what or how to think about politics or art if they continue to challenge themselves to see *for* themselves. Then comes independent discussion, separate from "did you read the review?"

Dave T said...

BC – thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check it out.

Hi Robin! I appreciated Mr. Davis’s comments in reference to political campaigns and agree with them. What I had a harder time with was his questions about whether critics knew how to write about challenging material – a pretty distinctly insulting suggestion. He also had questions about how critics were vetted by their publications, a line of questioning that had at least a vague insinuation of ulterior motives. The impression came across to me – and maybe I’m over-sensitive to this – that he somehow views critics as the enemy in this whole theatrical enterprise. I also have never had the experience he described where after seeing a play I’ve gotten wrapped up in conversation about the play’s reviews. And this is when hanging out with theater people, not just regular folks. Mostly, I’ve had conversations about the plays themselves. As often as critics are dismissed as not knowing anything (or having a hidden agenda), I don’t know where he gets the impression that reviews hold such sway. If anything, my experience has been that Broadway plays in particular are becoming as critic-proof as movies are, with plenty of shows the have been critically drubbed (Legally Blonde, Little Mermaid, etc.) still selling quite well.

Loved your Barbara Cook anecdote, by the way. Hope all is going well up there for you all!

Robinitaface said...

And Hello, to you Dave! Am terribly sorry to be missing the young Timberline (and EVERYONE!) in Peter Pan!

You're right - it's kinda of an iffy point to make. But I'm still not sure if that's the one he intended.

I think he views Complacency as the enemy - and he uses that word in the interview. He wonders why we didn't get angry enough about elections 2000/2004 - compared to other countries. We seemed to just accept that a whole state's votes were...well...*ahem* He wonders why we didn't do enough to stop the war in Iraq. He says there only so much blame we can put on "him." WE didn't do enough on our own to stop what we didn't like from happening.

He applies that same passivity to the theatre - but on a smaller scale. He doesn't want people wait to be told what to think before they act. He doesn't want playwrights to just stamp out a message - but to make people question, he doesn't want the critics to simply put a "thumbs up/thumbs down" in a review, and he doesn't like seeing posters emblazoned with quotes from reviews. He wants the audience to take a chance on any show, and find out what/how they think about it by themselves.

When it comes to being vetted by their publications - that was one heck of an insinuation. I've heard many people state their issues with the sponsorship of the news networks which is why they choose to listen to NPR. I've even heard people take issue with NPR of late. It stands to reason that print publications would not be immune from such questions. I don't think it's pointed at critics so much, but more towards his ideals of asking questions.

Dave T said...

I definitely think Bill makes some good points and, when I think about the press in general, well I have my own questions too (a couple sittings with the radio program "Counter Spin" and you'll start to doubt everything you read or hear in the mainstream press). I agree that his overall point was focused on complacency and critical shorthand has certainly added to that: you see a "thumbs-down" or a 1.5 stars and you automatically think something sucks -- sometimes without even reading the whole review to find out what the issues really are!

But this one reviewer CRAVES challenging material, would love to see more of it, and am much more likely to give a new play that pushes the envelope a fair shake than, say, the 47th production of "The Fantasticks" I've ever seen, or heck, even "Hamlet." So I'm on his anti-complacency bandwagon as well -- if there's room for critics on it!

Dave T said...

PS: Robin, perhaps we should just do a "point-counterpoint" podcast of our own about theater, whattaya say? I have a great title picked out already: "Stage Directions." Now, if we can just overcome the fact that we live 350 miles away from each other...

Anonymous said...

Dave-

Check out the Inexplicable Dumb Show, it's a podcast a couple of guys in Nashville do and it focuses on theatre in the southeast. I've been on a couple of times and they are pretty funny. If anyone remembers Kyle Zimmerman, I think he is involved with them as well...

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=104625778

Peace
Rick

Granville said...

Dave, you have tapped into a new universe, from which you may never emerge....

Check out http://www.audiotheater.com/

Then see
http://www.audiodramatalk.com/

"Theatre of the Mind" is enjoying a quiet Renaissance, as the proliferation of mp3 devices creates a market for something more worth listening to than classic rock remixes.

Audio (formerly known as "Radio") Drama is being reborn for a new generation. And the things that are happening in this medium now are about as far removed from "Old-Time-Radio" as "Little Dog Laughed" is from "My Fair Lady".

Check it out. You won't believe your ears....

Dave T said...

I think you're right, Granville. I was listening to an American Theatre Wing interview this afternoon with James Earl Jones today and couldn't bare to turn it off even when my loud (and frankly inconsiderate!) family came barging in the house. The ATW interviews are pretty awesome -- I also listened to a great one with David Henry Hwang. When I can emerge from all of the great ATW stuff, I'll have to check out your suggestions.