At the Table is a podcast of actors doing table readings of works by emerging playwrights:
Are you a fan of theatre? Do you love new plays? Well we are bringing one of the most important aspects of new works right to you, the table reading. Unlike staged readings, table readings rely entirely on the aural experience. Under the direction of Rachel Flynn, a collection of actors will meet and work through a fantastic new script, which we will then package and deliver to you! At the Table is a fantastic resource for you to discover new authors and plays, as well as listen to a wide variety of genres and topics before they make it to the stage.
In practice, At the Table is somewhere between an interview podcast and an audio drama. The format is reminiscent of Join the Party, but with a focus on theater instead of tabletop gaming: half of the episodes of At the Table are the aforementioned table readings, and half are interviews with the play’s writer. Because each episode is a different play (with some clearly-titled exceptions), listeners can jump in without having to worry about an ongoing story to follow.
Deciding to produce plays as a podcast seems like a natural progression for both mediums. For producers, podcasting is a substantially more affordable and forgiving method of distributing a play than an actual stage production. There’s no need for worry about a venue, sets, costumes, or multiple performance. One solid recording is all that’s needed. For podcast audiences–who unsurprisingly overlap greatly with theater audiences–it’s a way to experience a play without needing to worry about cost, travel, or timing. Podcast listeners got hints of this with 36 Questions, which was discussed by its creators as a way to make musical theater more accessible. At the Table takes this a step further by not just writing an audio drama, but actually connecting the two worlds together.
The table reading episodes of At the Table are produced to the same caliber one would expect from a polished audio drama. Episodes use music when called for (“Ep. 15 – Objects in Mirrors by Emma Wagner” is an especially notable example) instead of relying solely on the actors to carry the episode. Certain episodes do leave in vocal stutters or missteps, but it feels more welcome here than it might in an audio drama; it reminds the listener that the podcast is a table reading, something organic and more unpolished, than a traditional audio drama. At the Table also differs from traditional audio dramas by including narration of pertinent stage directions, which feels at home here. The stage directions give the listener a sense of action without being intrusive or needing to add dialogue that isn’t in the original script, and it helps those interested in theater get a glimpse at how the script itself reads.
The table reading episodes also end in short, casual discussions with the episode’s actors. Each talk begins with asking the actors’ favorite snack (I think At the Table may also count as a popcorn fancast at this point), a silly way start off the discussion in a relaxed but surprisingly intimate way. The interview episodes begin similarly and are some of the most genuine interviews I’ve heard on a podcast before. “Ep. 18 – Interview With Lia Romeo” has a discussion of the playwright’s doubts about her own work, for instance, and thoughts on how she wants to drive future versions of the script. The interviews are less writers talking up their own work, more discussions about the creative process in such a specific industry. They’re down-to-earth, earnest discussions, and having them with emerging playwrights means there’s no facade of hubris muddying a real conversation.
The combination of theater and audio drama in At the Table is incredibly clever; the table readings will appeal to standard audio drama listeners while providing a glimpse into the theater world, while the interviews and discussions will likely lead people interested in the industry towards audio drama. At the Table feels like a perfectly-engineered two-way street with a huge amount of appeal for any audience.
You can find At the Table on the Charging Moose Media website, a production company that “came out of a desire to create fun, exciting, high quality media projects across a wide spectrum of interests with a diversely talented group of artists.” The At the Table page includes information on actors, playwrights, and a contact form to submit to the podcast.