Podcasting has been a boon for fans of theatre, and now, with stages closed down because of health regulations associated with COVID-19, storytelling serials are a lifeline. These three podcasts arrive just in time for those jonesing for drama.
Metamorphosis – A Viral Trilogy: From the Giller-winning author André Alexis comes a pandemic-inspired audio drama in three parts, directed by Ross Manson. The first instalment is Lucretia in Quarantine, in which a young teenager (voiced by Bahia Watson) documents her motherless, near feral existence in a daily journal. It’s a poignant story of fear, family and survival, involving the adoption of a baby raccoon. In an allegory for these weird times, the lines between human and animal are blurred: A confused “pet” shrieks; its unprepared caretaker is just as scared. “I wonder what it would be like,” Lucretia says, “if you had to remember you were human.” The trilogy is presented by Volcano Theatre, TO Live, Canadian Stage and SummerWorks theatre festival, with new episodes dropping Aug. 24 and 31.
Playing On Air: This continuing American radio and podcast series was launched in 2012 to present short plays – a preferred form of many playwrights because of the pithy dramatic possibilities, and yet they are rarely performed professionally outside of theatre festivals. Though the Playing On Air productions are bite-sized, they’re not short on big names, with actors Ed Asner, Elizabeth Ashley, Adam Driver, Kathleen Turner and Jesse Eisenberg being just a few of the A-listers on board for these stripped-down performances. A new season comes this fall, but meanwhile Playing On Air is re-releasing a few old episodes, including Happy by Alan Zweibel of Saturday Night Live, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. Taped in front of a live audience, Happy stars Frankie Faison and Scott Adsit in a delightful curve-balling comedy about a New York Mets fan who looks up a former boys-of-summer hero of his.
Ghosts of the Royal Alex: Figuring that every good ghost story needs a twist, Mirvish Productions marketing and sales director John Karastamatis came up with a crowd-sourcing gimmick. At the end of each chapter of this spooky six-part tale about Toronto’s historic (and apparently haunted) Royal Alexandra Theatre, listeners are invited to submit ideas on what should happen next. The backstage story read by actor David Mucci is set in 1959, when the new television fad contributed to a decline in theatre attendance in general and the building of the modern, bigger O’Keefe Centre nearby threatened the Royal Alex’s livelihood in particular. The script comes from Karastamatis, and while he’s no playwright, as a promotion man he knows there’s nothing more frightening than an empty theatre.
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