One of theatre’s great traits is its intimacy. We’re in a room with people - mostly strangers - sharing in an experience that will only be experienced in that room, in that moment. It can’t be replicated by any other form, right?
Sort of. But I actually think podcasts are the other form that has the most alluring intimacy, and a surprising crossover with theatre.
Sure, podcasts are very trendy right now. Everyone has one.
But many people think podcasts are old hat – aren’t they just internet radio? – and in a way, yes, they are.
But what makes podcasts different from the radio of old is that they are mostly listened to by individuals on earbuds, or alone in the safety of a car on your commute to work. It’s different than gathering around a radio to listen to the 6pm evening news. You’re choosing exactly who you want to listen to, and then they actually enter into your headspace – the place where you go to be by yourself to sit and dream and think.
So there is actually a startling intimacy to podcasts that shares something with theatre. And I think theatre needs to find more ways to plug into it. It seems to me it’s the perfect digital form for an analog medium that desperately needs a way to spread itself digitally. Audible is already onto it. Gimlet’s fiction podcasts are excellent, and other companies are producing quality work as well. But there’s a world of opportunity out there for more innovation in the theatre/podcast crossover.
Intimacy is alluring, it’s sexy. It’s what will keep calling us to theatre. And it’s also, strangely, what podcasts have to offer.