Everything You Wanted to Know About Podcasting But Were Afraid To Ask…

by David J. Loehr

in National Conference

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(This post is part of the 2014 TCG National Conference: Crossing Borders {Theatre | Technology} blog salon, curated by Jacqueline E. Lawton.) 

JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, please tell us a bit about yourself and your organization.

DAVID J. LOEHR: By day, I’m a playwright and co-founder of the Riverrun Theatre Company in Madison, Indiana, but now I’m also the editor or artistic director or whatever you want to call it of 2amt. That’s short for 2 a.m. theatre, because it grew out of a global conversation on Twitter late one night. (Chicago critic Kris Vire woke up the next morning to find thousands of tweets in his list and tweeted, “Damn, I missed the great 2 a.m. theatre summit last night,” and the name stuck.) It’s grown from a conversation to a website to a community to a creative concern and—now—a podcast network to feature interviews, profiles, original short and full-length plays in audio form.

My fellow panelist is Jason Snell, from the Incomparable Radio Network. The Incomparable began as a single weekly pop culture podcast series—episode 199 will go live during the TCG conference, so it’s been around for a while—and has now expanded into a network of its own with several spinoff series. In the coming months, we’ll be expanding into scripted series with The Incomparable Radio Theatre of the Air. (Watch the skies!) Outside of podcasting, Jason is also a senior vice president and editorial director at IDG, publishers of Macworld, PC World, and TechHive.

JL: Next, please share the title and description of your breakout session, so that folks can find you.

DJL: It’s called “Everything You Wanted to Know About Podcasting But Were Afraid To Ask…

Our session will show what’s possible with podcasting—the how and why of it all—and how projects like this can be used as a marketing effort, a draw for patrons and tourists, even as a series of “Never Be Dark” events. (“Never Be Dark” is an idea we’ve talked about at 2amt for a while now—it doesn’t mean “always on, never closed,” but it does mean opening your building’s doors to more events, artists, performers, and letting them bring new audiences into your building on a regular basis.) We’ll also talk about how the Incomparable grew from a single series into a network of advertiser-supported shows and is continuing to grow.

One podcasting statistic: we produced a ninety-minute Radio Theatre episode of The Incomparable for Christmas 2013. Within the first week, it had been downloaded over 20,000 times. Using my local major regional theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, for comparison, that’s roughly equivalent to a sold-out month-long run in their largest venue. The main difference is, that’s a global audience. And it keeps growing every week…

JL: Now, what inspired this breakout session?

DJL: I don’t know how many times I’ve visited a theatre company website and seen that they have a podcast series, only to discover that it’s a basic interview with a designer or cast member from their (then) current production. Which is fine, but there’s nothing unique to it. Specific production details might change, but the basics are usually the same. Even worse, looking in iTunes, I see that these podcast series tail off and vanish after a few episodes. Is it because only one production or festival was worth the effort? Or is it that there was little interest or response from the community?

We’re creative people in a creative industry, we can do better than this.

Look at the podcast series people are talking about. Welcome to Night Vale is one—created, written, and performed by theatre people. The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Wits, Live Wire Radio, all of these are podcast series filled with theatre people. None of them were initiated by theatre companies. All of them regularly perform to sold out audiences. (Welcome to Night Vale does occasional live shows, but they often sell out within hours.) Why aren’t we as theatre companies developing and nurturing projects like these?

JL: Finally, what do you hope participants learn from this breakout session?

DJL: I hope people come away with a sense of what’s possible. The BBC never stopped creating and supporting audio dramas. Similarly, NPR supports several performance and variety series. Various writers and performers are off making this work already—why not give them a home for performance? Why not commission and develop original work? How about partnering with 2amt on developing episodes for our series of plays? Best of all, why not build a series of events for your communities in the spirit of “Never Be Dark,” giving your audiences more bang for their buck? Why not create art that can be enjoyed by anyone anywhere, whether inside your building or not?

Aside from the potential involved, we’ll help explain the how-to part of it: what kind of equipment you can use, what’s the bare minimum of technical know-how you’ll need, etc. We’ll also look at how to fund larger-scale podcast projects: how you could use sites like Patreon.com to help build financial support for such projects—or indeed for any projects; it’s well-suited for podcasts and individual artists producing work, but it’s easily scalable to a theatre company’s work in general. It’s recurring crowdfunding, and more sustainable than running multiple individual Kickstarters. Or how to use a service like Midroll Media to sell advertising time at the beginning and end of your episodes. Heck, instead of printing one extra brochure or running one more newspaper ad, take that money and create a podcast series—it will last longer and, in the end, have a greater impact. (Saves trees, too.) And we’ll look at how your theatre company could reach out to host other programs and help build a touring circuit for other podcast series, again drawing attention from new audiences to your theatre and work.

In the end, it’s about creating new—and affordable—opportunities to support artists, producing new work accessible in some form to anyone inside or outside your building, and developing new event opportunities to draw more—and new—audiences into your buildings.

David J. Loehr is the editor and artistic director of 2amt. He is also the artist-in-residence & co-founder of the Riverrun Theatre Company in Madison, Ind. Plays include: The Incomparable Radio Theatre of the Air, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Seeing Red, Wise Man, A Report of Gunfire, The Rough Guide to the Underworld and more. His work has been performed at the Capital Fringe Festival, Chicago Fringe Festival, Louisville Playwrights Festival, NJ One Minute Play Festival, South Carolina Repertory Company, Glass Mind Theatre and Actors Theatre of Louisville. He is also a marketing consultant and occasional sound designer for multiple theatre companies. davidjloehr.com 2amt.com @dloehr


Jacqueline E. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. She resides in Washington DC and is a member of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena. jacquelinelawton.com