I've been the Artistic Director of Improv for Radiostar for all of our existence, somewhat over two years and eighty episodes, and now I'm moving on. I'm headed off to live in Africa for a year with my amazing life partner Ann. It looks like the project will continue in my absence, which is a good thing. I've never felt much sense of ownership about theatre as a product. I'm more interested in the process of making it than what happens afterward, which makes for a good split of responsibilities between me and our producer Dan, who does all our editing and postproduction.
Radiostar started out as a chance to continue improvising with a dramatic focus with like-minded folks. It's turned into something different than that, something good and interesting in its own right: a weekly improvised radio show with a distinct format and content. The shows tend to run under half an hour, the material is usually humorous, and the characters an unpredictable mix of everyday (ourselves on the mic) and the extraordinary (turtles, swans, Grand Viziers, inventors, archaeologists, and even God a couple of times). To date, we're up to about eight thousand downloads a month, the current peak of a dramatic upswing in popularity that started earlier this year. We even got hit with a denial-of-service attack that downloaded one episode a few thousand times last week before Dan caught it. But as far as we can tell, aside from this, the downloads are legit. People out there are listening to us.
I always suspected that if you do what you love doing in theater, people will eventually catch on, that they'll eventually find out about you and enjoy what you're doing because you enjoy doing it. So I always figured if we just stuck with the show, people would eventually discover it. And here we are. I've heard that about 20,000 listeners is the threshold for a really big podcast. Nobody else seems to be doing what we do, and our numbers keep climbing every month, so there's no reason Radiostar couldn't get to that level if it continues. That might be interesting.
I record my last 2 episodes on the coming 2 Sundays, and I'm off. I've learned a few things during this project:
- you can't make improvisors do anything; if you're going to try to lead a project, the best thing you can do is empower people to do what they love, and not try to control anything
- improv will send you home in the depths of despair or on the heights of exaltation, and you never know which from night to night; acting just isn't this extreme
- people do actually listen to us, but we have no idea who; it would be fun to hear from a few of them sometime
- none of this is what I had in mind at the beginning, which is the whole point of improv, and it's all been good
- downtown SF needs a few more places to sit and have dinner and a quiet drink with your friends at 10pm on a Sunday night
So long! Thanks for listening!