A Nose for Classics

Parson's Nose Theater keeps the classics coming with its Radio Theater of the Air! podcast series.
Published on Oct 8, 2020

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For two decades, Parson’s Nose Theater has performed classic tales using an especially accessible formula: stage adapted works by the most revered writers in Western literature in 90 minutes or less.

PNT has been mounting both its Major Production Series of fully produced performances and its Readers’ Theater Series of staged readings since 2008. But when the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown hit in March, founder and artistic director Lance Davis conceived another, safer way to reach theater lovers: The Parson’s Nose Radio Theater of the Air!, a free podcast series already popular enough to merit a new, second round of shows.

“At Parson’s Nose, we adapt the classics and bring them to life, and we’ve always had a Readers’ Theater Series,” says Davis. “Readers’ Theater is a form that became popular in the 1920s and revived after World War II. It concentrates on ‘no frills’ theater — actor, audience, script and imagination — perfect for radio.

“We were already thinking about a podcast series, and when Covid hit it just seemed logical to create this, like the old Mercury Theatre, featuring the company recording remotely and adding a sound designer,” he adds. “We have our original adaptations and are creating new ones.”

The new podcasts feature lauded local talent. Pasadenans Barry Gordon and Paul Perri recorded the chilling Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, whom Davis describes as “the woman who jolted America” with her story of two German friends during the rise of Hitler in the 1930s.

So far, the series consists of eight shows, ranging from Shakespeare to Wind in the Willows, streaming on iTunes, Spotify and the company’s website, with another twelve in the pipeline for the current season. The podcasts broaden the company’s profile by reaching a national audience that far surpasses the theater’s usual 50-seat capacity.

Davis and PNT co-founder Mary Chalon write and perform the initial scripts and music, also voiced by company members Barry Gordon, John Rafter Lee, Jill Rogosheske and Paul Perri. More PNT favorites will join future casts.

Parson’s Nose launched the podcasts with a long-form series based on Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows, bringing the children’s classic to life across five episodes. A two-episode introduction to Shakespeare — The Taste of Shakespeare — and a 22-minute reading of the Declaration of Independence soon followed.

Just added is Quality, a 20-minute episode based on a narrative essay by The Forsyte Saga author John Galsworthy, and the aforementioned Address Unknown, recorded in two episodes.

They join a repertoire that also includes Mark Twain’s Advice to Young Ladies, a bite-size, four-minute episode; the 15th-century morality play The Summoning of Everyman in a 40-minute podcast; and The Tale of Noah’s Ark, a comic 20-minute episode suitable for ages 6 and up.

Parson’s Nose will release two productions each month, filling out a season of works by Molière, Perrault, Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen. Plans for Dickens’ Hard Times are particularly ambitious — Davis will release it in the same serial chapter form as its initial publication.

All podcasts are available from Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anchor, Breaker, Spotify and Radio Public.


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