The School of Theatre is tapping into an essential, fast-growing, and fairly new medium to engage and increase audiences for the 2021 spring season of shows. “Podcast & Crew” made its debut this semester, produced by Chris Forrer (’22 MFA Directing) who is working as the School’s Marketing Director as part of his graduate assistantship.
Forrer came to UNC Greensboro from Oregon where he got his undergraduate degree in Theatre at Linfield University. There, he made a point of packing his time with a myriad of experiences: debating on the Forensics team, performing vocals with a Jazz group, sports-writing for the school’s football program. After he graduated, Forrer took a professional internship at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre in California and even started his own theatre company before beginning grad school.
“I’m here for Directing ostensibly but theatre-making in general. I think it all matters, especially in this business. If you’re going to be a director you need to know the languages of design and engineering, and you’re going to be a part of a Theatre company you need to know the languages of marketing, production, and management. If you’re with a company, you’re going to need to be able to interact with all of these phases of the industry regularly and as efficiently as possible.”
According to a recent study by the media research firm, Edison Research, 49% of all Americans, ages 12-34, listen to at least one podcast a month. 75% of all Americans are familiar with podcasts, and the number of podcasts listeners has grown by 37.5% in three years.
With statistics like that, Theatre Manager and Lecturer Josh Ritter knew that a podcast was the next step in marketing School of Theatre productions. At the same time, one of his practicum students, Elizabeth Ray (’21 BA Theatre), approached with her interest in creating one. An assignment was created and the project began. Ray would be the host, and Forrer would help set up the infrastructure and assist in the technical aspects of the broadcast. There were a few bumps in the beginning. Ray had to temporarily leave the podcast for health reasons, and one of the interview subjects cancelled because of an injury. Forrer cobbled together some of Ray’s interviews with her voice on them, and everything is back on track, with two episodes in the can.
The podcasts are released to coincide with shows as they go up in Taylor Theatre where they are performed for limited audiences. They serve as companion pieces for ticket holders, and also as previews that the marketing team hopes will boost ticket sales for on-demand streaming of the shows a few weeks later.
“The goal is to give you a little look behind the curtain so you can see how the gears move and the way they interact, and hopefully you’ll get excited and want to see more,” says Forrer.
“Podcast & Crew” began streaming on Spotify on February 17th with a preview of the production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Guests are Sophomore BFA Actor India Jones who plays the title role, MFA Design candidate David Garrett (scenic design), and MFA Design candidate Karsen Greene (costume design.) The second episode is the MFA Theatre for Young Audiences preview, featuring MFA candidates John Perine and Hayley Greenstreet discussing their direction of Where Words Once Were by Finnegan Kruckemeyer and Round Pegs, Square Pegs by Mary Hall Surface.
“Perine and Greenstreet are always a good interview, and they work so well off each other. It turned out to be more than just Q&A — really more of a wide-ranging conversation about the shows, their directorial approaches, and the ways they believe Theatre for Young Audiences is so important, and the impact it can have on children and teenagers. These plays have messages for all ages, really. “Round Pegs, Square Pegs” is about the Cold War and that mindset. “Where Words Once Were” is about censorship. It’s a dystopian play in which the characters have one thousand words they’re allowed to use, and if they say anything else they’re banished.”
Words, specifically those spoken by the creative teams about these shows, get Chris Forrer pumped up about podcasts:
“I think that the most important thing about podcasts — and this is why i’m such a fan of the medium — is that it just means so much more when you’re hearing about something in the words of the people who are creating it. In these podcasts about the shows, you can hear the passion in the way the actor, director, or designer talks about them. Once you hear them talk about it, it will change the way you view the show. “
Story by Terri W. Relos
Photo credit: University Communications