Remember the days when you could go out and enjoy live theatrical performances? From classic Broadway shows and funny off-Broadway shows in Midtown to experimental acts on local stages, New York’s theater scene has always had a lot to offer. But while the stages are temporarily closed, we can still access rich theater and allow the art form to intellectually stimulate us through another, more socially distant form of media: podcasts.
Live stage events are unfortunately postponed for the time being, but The Public Theater’s podcast called “Public Square” offers audiences a means to stay connected to the theater community through interviews with staff and other collaborators — all from the comfort and safety of their homes. Known for being an artist-driven, inclusive and socially-engaged space for everyone who wants to be a part of it, The Public is a nonprofit theater that hosts many performances in its location on Astor Place in addition to its productions all around the city, including the fan-favorite Shakespeare in the Park event held in Central Park.
Although people are unable to continue to hone their craft and create theater in public group settings, “Public Square” can be especially beneficial to those who are working toward careers in entertainment. The episodes offer an opportunity for professionals and amateurs to learn about the trials and tribulations of the theater world, in addition to the significance of its role in the greater community. Even if theater doesn’t particularly spark certain individuals’ interests, the series is still a good way to support local artists and stay up to date on important topics unrelated to the ongoing global crisis.
Hosted by Reynaldi Lindner Lolong and Fernando Masterson, the podcast’s episodes range from 24 to 45 minutes, always revolve around a different topic and feature different individuals who work in the theater. The episodes typically start out with the hosts introducing their guest speakers and then proceeding with an interview.
Discussions sometimes revolve around the guest’s work and their experience, but the conversation tends to move towards broader, more relevant topics. As part of the theater’s emphasis on community engagement and social issues, the speakers try to have a dialogue about theater, where they bring in larger themes, which they then apply to the theater community. Guests usually comment on the difficulties associated with their job and detail the ways in which they are able to overcome them. While this experience is not quite the same as watching a play, the podcast allows listeners to learn about all the work and stories that happen behind the scenes which they would never receive as an audience member.
Eight episodes have been released as of now, all of which are free and available on the theater’s Spotify, Apple and Twitter accounts. Though this isn’t the same as going out to see a show, it’s a pretty good alternative given the circumstances. While times do not permit this now, maybe the podcast will inspire listeners to visit The Public once it reopens and support the theater’s engagement programs. In the meantime, this podcast offers a great opportunity for people to develop an appreciation for all of the hard work that we don’t usually notice when we only see live performances.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 6, 2020 e-print edition. Email Dani Herrera at [email protected]