Durational Podcasts

Now THIS is what I’m talking about.

The Podcast Play has transfixed my consciousness of late — namely, here and here. Last we discussed this burgeoning medium, I bemoaned the two predominant problems facing initial experiments in the field: firstly, a lack of experimentation — the texts in no way take advantage of the particularities of the form, instead sounding more like plays written for the stage and merely recorded for posterity, a reductively-simplistic disservice.

Audible and other organizations (both announced and unannounced) have started commissioning new dramas specifically for their platforms (which doesn’t mean they won’t be staged as well), which will hopefully avoid this issue. But these tailor-made aural experiences won’t necessarily circumvent the second problem: my practical belief that few podcast listeners ever listen to podcasts straight through, uninterrupted, without stopping, for the length of a play, be it of the short or full-length variety. Which wouldn’t be a problem…if there were modifications embedded in the script that would allow them to be engaged with in different ways; without them, a work intended to be heard in one-go is diminished in fragmentation.

Writer Aaron Mack and “narrative podcasting powerhouse” Gimlet may have found a solution to these problems. The former shall be adapting his Empanada Loca — a sinister one-woman riff on Sweeney Todd that was first produced by the Labyrinth Theatre Company in 2015, and has since been subsequently recorded for Audible and iTunes — into a podcast SERIES, spearheaded by Gimlet (Mimi O’Donnell, Gimlet’s executive producer of scripted content, used to be the artistic director of Labyrinth), with all episodes set to be released on October 17. Though Daphne Rubin-Vega will return to the role she originated — hopefully retaining its titanic dimensions — this time she’ll be joined by Bobby Cannavale, plus a slew of other stage faves. Combined with the fact that Mack has given this new version a new title, The Horror of Dolores Roach, it’s clear that this won’t be your mother’s Empanada Loca.

Hopefully it’s not just a series of short plays better suited for the stage. Since the enterprise is billed as an endeavor specifically created for these means, I feel confident this may be the first step towards a potentially fruitful and lucrative road, leading to the further proliferation of new plays around the world, unencumbered by the inherent limitations of geographically-restricted theatre and mismatched audio dramas.

As for some other audio-theatre news: I always prefer to err on the side of optimism, but I have a feeling this ain’t it, kid.

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