Stage Grok

During the run of New Line's Jerry Springer the Opera in March, I decided to leave my post as co-host of the radio show Break a Leg: Theatre in St. Louis and Beyond, which I hosted with New Liner Deborah Sharn for fifteen years.

(Okay, the truth is, she hosted the show solo for a few years first, then asked me to join her, but we're not exactly sure when that was. We started keeping a list of our guests in mid-2001, so all we know is that we teamed up sometimes before that... So we're kind of guestimating that "fifteen years"...)

It was a blast co-hosting Break a Leg all that time, and we got to talk with so many very cool people, including Amanda Green (twice), Andrew Lippa, Tom Kitt, David Lindsay-Abaire, Stephen Schwartz, Adam Guettel, Larry O'Keefe, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (twice), Henry Krieger, Rupert Holmes, Jeanine Tesori, Bill Russell, Bill T. Jones, John McDaniel, Barbara Cook, Eartha Kitt, Ed Asner, Ted Neeley, Dee Hoty, Ken Page, Faith Prince, B.D. Wong, Marin Mazzie, Norbert Leo Butz, Liz Callaway, Jason Graae, Judy Kaye, John Rubenstein, Steve Ross, Doug Wright, Rocco Landesman, Jhett Tolentino, Anne Bogart, Frank Rich, I could keep going...

But I was burning out. Over the next few weeks after I left, the idea started percolating in my head of doing a podcast. That way I could keep doing what I had been doing, but with almost complete freedom – all the fun, almost none of the hassle. I did some research and discovered it's really easy to set up and maintain a podcast. And you can put your podcast on iTunes for free!

If you don't know what a podcast is, think of it as a radio show that's only on the internet, a radio show that is "on the air" whenever you choose to listen. You can even subscribe to it (on iTunes, for instance), and get it delivered automatically to your phone or computer. Like Netflix for the radio.

The more I thought about all this, the more I liked the idea. I found that with a fairly small investment, I could record my podcasts on my iPhone, and edit them on my computer with Audacity. I found that there are podcast phone apps, microphones, hosting websites, the whole bit.

Because I could do it with my iPhone, I decided to make it a "roaming podcast," going to my guests, instead of them coming to me, talking to them in their environment, where they're comfortable. I thought about several categories of interviews I could do, really in-depth, step-by-step analysis of people's jobs and/or creative process, pairs of interviews with both the artistic and business heads of the same company, exploration of an organization or event, in-depth discussion of a single play or musical. Thanks to Facebook and the fact that New Line often redeems shows that fail in NYC, I have a fair number of theatre friends working in New York, so I'll be able occasionally to get a "Broadway" guest.

I decided I'd have as few rules as possible for my podcast. No exact time limit, though I'll aim for 20-30 minutes. No regular structure. And the best part will be no fundraising drives, no restrictions on my language, no prohibitions against covering New Line shows, no deadlines, etc.

I'm calling my podcast Stage Grok. I did an informal survey on Facebook and discovered way more people than I expected know the word grok, as in, to understand in a deep, fundamental, intuitive way.

And so I launched Stage Grok April 21 with Denny Reagan, president and CEO of The Muny; and with Judy Newmark, theatre critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Both interviews turned out really well and both are still getting traffic.

My favorite interview so far has been composer-lyricist Bill Finn (Spelling Bee, A New Brain, Falsettos, Little Miss Sunshine), who really let me dig down into the details of his writing process. It was so much fun!

In the short time my podcast has been online, it's already gotten more than 2,300 visits. Not too bad for a start-up theatre podcast in the middle of the country.

So come visit my podcast at, and please help me spread the word...!

Long Grok the Musical!