A Podcast Reaches Across Chicago’s Cultural Divides


Chicago — The checklist of issues born on this metropolis contains the skyscraper, the Ferris wheel and (supposedly) brownies. And then there are its wonkier claims to fame.

Chicago was the crucible of 20th-century city sociology. It was additionally midwife to right this moment’s growth in audio storytelling, because of “This American Life,” which originated right here.

Jeremy McCarter, the founder and government director of Make-Believe Association, a brand new nonprofit podcast manufacturing firm, makes no declare to inventing something. But he’s hoping that the corporate’s first season, which made its debut this week, would possibly usefully mix these final two Chicago creations.

Each episode within the season, titled “Grown Folks’ Tales,” options an audioplay based mostly on a conventional folktale representing one strand of Chicago’s cultural variety, reinterpreted by a homegrown author. The performs are recorded dwell and offered together with excerpts from the post-show dialogue amongst an viewers fastidiously chosen to achieve past the same old theatergoers, who on this deeply divided metropolis (as elsewhere) are inclined to run whiter, older and wealthier than the general inhabitants.

Make-Believe, as Mr. McCarter likes to place it, is a podcast that’s “one part live theater, one part TV production, one part social science.”

When it involves bridging social divides, he stated lately over breakfast, “stories have an important role to play.”

Stories, in fact, are additionally simpler to return by than ever, because of the web. The podcast universe is huge, and the most important problem for any new providing isn’t getting individuals speaking, however merely being heard.

“Grown Folks’ Tales” is also 100 percent local, starting with a core writing team of up-and-coming collaborators. (The first season, whose budget Mr. McCarter described as running into the low six figures, is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation.)

Mr. Marshall, also a co-organizer of the annual Chicago Poetry Block Party, said that it took a while for Make-Believe’s approach to storytelling to take shape. But where the shows would be taped (non-theater spaces, they decided) and “how the audience is built and invited into the space was something we talked about from the very beginning,” he said.

Daniel Kyri, 25, an actor, director and filmmaker who is directing the Hansberry play, grew up in the Jackson Park neighborhood on the South Side. He has performed at the city’s most prestigious theaters (the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass), as well as in his own crowd-funded web series, “The T” (created with Bea Cordelia), which explores queer and transgender friendship across Chicago’s divides of race, class and geography.

The first time he ever interacted with a white person, Mr. Kyri recalled, was when he was 9, on a school field trip.

“Chicago is multiple cities,” he said. “The discourse becomes more authentic when you can bridge — let’s call it what it is — segregation.”

During the post-show discussion of “Bruh Rabbit,” Mr. Marshall’s mother talked about the “invisible line” on Rainbow Beach, a public beach in the South Shore neighborhood, where, in 1961, whites attacked an interracial group staging a “freedom wade-in.”

The excerpts from audience discussion included with “Brava” emphasize how Latina women in the audience identified with its heroine. But the experience also stirred some different jolts of recognition.

“There were people there who hadn’t heard a radio play since they left Mexico,” Ms. Garcia Loza said. “They recognized this kind of oral tradition.”

After “The Lost Books of the Odyssey,” the conversation gravitated in a different direction: toward the placeless place of the internet, and the way social media allows us to act out different identities, different selves, different stories.

Mr. McCarter hopes Make-Believe’s stories will get people who find them online talking too.

“We want to open up a space and try to get people to travel an imaginative distance together,” he said.



Source link Nytimes.com

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