Okay, back in October, I wrote on our blog about Jane Espenson's Internet sitcom Husbands, whose premise is, basically Mad About You or I Love Lucy but with a gay couple. My last paragraph:
Jane's hope is that some brave network — AMC? NBC? — will notice their little experiment and give them a budget larger than the cost of a Hyundai to blow people's minds on real TV. If they do it right, of course, they won't be blowing minds at all. They'll just be the New Normal.
Okay, fast forward till today. Maybe you've seen the ads that've started running for the new NBC series about a gay couple? Stars that guy from Book of Mormon who was so great as Hannah's ex-boyfriend in Girls? Created by the guy who did Glee? Its name? The New Normal.
That is the incredible influence of this blog at the highest levels of show business.
Last week's episode, 'What Happened at Dos Erres,' was about a man named Oscar Ramirez who learned that when he was three years old, his entire family was killed at a massacre in Guatemala, and he was then taken and raised by one of the soldiers. He also found out that his biological father, Tranquilino Castañeda, survived the massacre and is still alive. For thirty years, neither Oscar nor Tranquilino knew the other existed. Oscar thought the soldier who took him was his real father. And Tranquilino thought his entire family had been killed at the massacre.
And then, on Monday, the two met face-to-face. Tranquilino, who's 70, left Guatemala for the first time, and landed at Newark Airport, where Oscar was waiting with his wife and four children. ProPublica, one of our partners in reporting this story, was there, and they've posted this video of the reunion:
A print version of Oscar and Tranquilino's story is also available on ProPublica's web site, and as an e-book. And several publications throughout Latin America are running the story in Spanish. Here are links to those:
Argentina's el puercoespín
The Dominican Republic's Diario Libre
Guatemala's El Periodico (the publisher of El Periodico, Jose Ruben Zamora, also helped us as we were reporting the story)
This weekend, versions of the story will run in Mexico's Proceso.
Big thanks to everyone who came out to the live show. Here's a little recap, including photos by Adrianne Mathiowetz (who is our web manager and also a Minnesota-based photographer). You can see an entire Flickr gallery with 180 photos from the show here.
On Thursday, May 10th we performed an episode of the radio show on stage at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, and sent it via satellite into movie theaters all over the US and Canada (Some upcoming screenings in the US and Australia too). The show was called "The Invisible Made Visible," and was half stories and half visual things that could never work on the radio - things like dance, animation, a short film, and interactive music performance. The radio version airs this weekend. If you missed the show, fear not. It'll be available on DVD and as a download in a few months.
Ira Glass making some notes on his script before the show.
To run a show like this, you need one of those big RV-sized production trucks. The director, David Stern, is wearing white in the center in the above photo. He calls the shots live from the seven cameras, like at a sporting event. We had five stationary cameras, one steadicam, and one jib (a small crane that can swoop around the room). Technical Manager Marc Bauman is in the foreground.
Live show producer Seth Lind looking over associate producer Emily Condon's shoulder during rehearsal. Performer Ryan Knighton is in the background.
The show kicked off with an animated intro created by Claire Keane, Vincent Rogozyk and Chris Sonnenburg. Claire and Vincent also created the curtain animations that appeared on screen throughout the show.
Ira performing the prologue, about a blind guy named Ryan Knighton trying to find the phone in a hotel room. This story featured 112 illustrations by Jeff Turley.
Next, Ryan Knighton himself took the stage to tell a story, about struggling to get his daughter to understand his blindness. Ryan has written two memoirs, Cockeyed and C'mon Papa. The background for Ryan's story was designed by Chris Ware.
Then Ira invited OK Go to the stage to perform a song on hand bells, accompanied by tens of thousands of people playing along via their phones, in movie theaters all over the place. We all performed a bit of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as a warm-up, then launched into OK Go's "Needing/Getting."
OK Go's Andy Ross coded the mobile apps that people used to play along. Morgan Knutson designed the app visuals. And John Kuramoto did the video.
Ira's inspiration for the show was seeing a dance performance by Monica Bill Barnes & Company. He felt that their sensibility matched the radio show, and started building the live show around the idea "things you can't do on the radio." Here, Anna Bass, Christina Robson and Monica Bill Barnes watch rehearsal.
The first dance was a solo by Anna Bass, set to Nina Simone's "Let It Be Me".
Next, Glynn Washington told a story about using supernatural means to find well water. Glynn hosts the public radio show and podcast Snap Judgment.
Glynn was accompanied by Snap Judgment producer Pat Mesiti-Miller on music and sound effects.
Then comedian Tig Notaro told a story about repeatedly meeting 1980s pop star Taylor Dayne.
After her story, we surprised Tig with a serenade by... Taylor Dayne. She sang "I'll Always Love You." Tig, who showed off some pretty sweet dance moves during Taylor's song, co-hosts the podcast Professor Blastoff and has a new standup album called Good One.
Then Ira showed a new short film that comedian Mike Birbiglia made for the show. It features Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air... and clears up the question of what Terry does when she's not doing interviews. Mike's feature film Sleepwalk With Me comes out on August 24th (produced and co-written by Ira Glass).
Next, Ira told a story that took advantage of our ability to show visuals. It was about a photographer named Vivian Maier, who shot rolls of film every day for dozens of years - brilliant shots of street life - but never showed the photos to anyone. A guy named John Maloof discovered the negatives, and put out a book of Maier's photos. Rich Cahan and Mike Williams also appear in the story, and have another book of Maier's photos coming out in September. Miki Meek helped produce the story. Adam Beckman filmed the interviews. Becky Laks did video editing.
Then David Rakoff took the stage, to tell a very emotional story about dance and cancer. David is the author of several books, most recently Half Empty. At one point David left the microphone, seemingly walking off stage, then broke into dance. It was choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes, and set to Irving Berlin's "What I'll Do," performed by Nat "King" Cole.
After David's story, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass returned for a second dance piece, this time set to a live recording of James Brown's "Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine." As this photo indicates, it's not like a lot of modern dance that you'll see.
Somewhere in the building, a man was being put into clown makeup...
That man turned out to be David Sedaris, who told a funny story about getting really mad while waiting in line to buy coffee. David's most recent book is Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.
OK Go played one last song.
Then everyone came out for a bow.
And then we had a party. Because we couldn't quite believe we pulled this thing off.
Here is a Flickr gallery with 180 photos from the show.
Did you hear about the new short film that Mike Birbiglia created for the live show that we sent to movie theaters? It shows a surprising (and fictional) side of a media personality you might recognize.
Our May 15th live show encore screening has come and gone, but there are still several independent venues in the US screening the show on various dates, as well as more than a dozen theaters in Australia hosting screenings on May 26th and 27th.
The show features stories by Ira Glass, writers David Sedaris and David Rakoff, comic Tig Notaro and Snap Judgment host Glynn Washington, plus live music by OK Go. It'll also include things you could never do on the radio, like a new short film by Mike Birbiglia, dance by Monica Bill Barnes & Company, original animation, projected illustration and more. Plus special surprise guests (who may not be a surprise anymore but are still great!).
If you'll be attending and have a smartphone, we highly recommend you download our live show app!
I saw this amazing dance performance by Monica Bill Barnes' company, and I thought - that is totally in the style of our radio show. But obviously you can't have dance on the radio. Then I realized, we have to do another cinema event! We've built this lineup of stories mixed with super visual things, including the dancers I saw, so it's going to feel like the radio show but also totally unlike anything we've done before. I really can't wait to see how it turns out.
5/11 UPDATE: If you're going to an encore screening of the show, you still need the app!
Hey everyone who's bought tickets to our May 10th live show: if
you're an iPhone or Android user, we have a special app we've made, for you to
use at a key moment in the show with the band OK Go. It's free. And we think it's going to be really fun. Download links:
If you have friends attending the show, please tell them about the app.
The more people who have it, the more exciting this part of the show will be. You can even print out these flyers and hand them out in line!
Important: Don't wait till the night of the show to download the app.
Some theaters don't have great cell reception so you won't be able to
do it there.
People without smartphones who are coming to the show,
don't worry, we have you covered too. You have a key role to play in
the moment of iPhone/Android magic that we and OK Go have planned.
Just show up wearing shoes and you'll be fine.
If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, find a theater near you and
screenshot from the app
Our all-star lineup for the May 10th cinema event has gotten all-starrier! David Sedaris will join David Rakoff, Mike Birbiglia, Tig Notaro, Glynn Washington, Ryan Knighton, the Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company and OK Go.
I've been so busy putting this show together I fear sometimes that the promos we've done for it have not communicated just how special and different it is. We're trying to make a show that's more visual than any stage show we've ever done, so there's animation and dancing and a little movie and we'll be performing the whole thing in front of a rear projection screen that we use throughout, to enhance the stories.
In short, we've been trying to think of things that can't be done on the radio. Things that are best done in a movie theater. Making this our most ambitious live show ever. I was talking to a friend last week and realized, right, this is either going to be the most amazing thing we've ever created onstage, or it's going to be a complete train wreck and there is no in-between.
You should be there.
To answer all my relatives and friends who are emailing to ask "Are there theaters in Missouri? Why the DC suburbs and not DC? Are you sure there's a theater near me I can't seem to find it" here are the links:
Try this one first - this is most of the theaters.
If no luck, try this one. These are independent theaters.
If you're in Canada - use this one.
Want to attend our live show in movie theatres on May 10th?
For the primary list of 550 theatres across the US, enter your zip code in the upper right corner of the Fathom website.
There are also an additional 32 independent theatres in the US hosting the event.
And if you're in Canada, find tickets here.
See you at the show!
Here's your chance to win a poster for our May 10 live show in movie theaters, and get a shout-out during the show. Ten winners will receive posters signed by Ira Glass. If you win, Ira will announce your name during the show, and say which movie theatre you're at. The show is being filmed and sent live via satellite to movie screens all over the US and Canada.
To enter, email [email protected] with the following info:
* First and last name
* Movie theater where you will be attending, including city and state
Deadline: Monday May 7th, 2012 - midnight Pacific Standard Time.
Note: You don't have to attend the live show to enter the contest - though it'll be way more fun when you win. If you do win, we'll email you to ask for your mailing address. Good luck!
Aaaaaaaand... here's the poster, designed by the super-talented Claire Keane. Claire and other artists are also busily creating illustrations and animation that'll be included in the show itself.