It’s time to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Shakespeare! Although we can’t be exactly sure when William Shakespeare was born, April 23rd is traditionally taken as the playwright’s birthday. We wanted to mark the day by talking to a podcast that celebrates Shakespeare’s work. Play On Podcasts is a series of epic audio adventures from Next Chapter Podcasts, that reimagine the timeless tales. With original music, the voices of extraordinarily gifted actors and modern setting, they create a show that will appeal to die-hard Shakespeare fans, and those that like more modern audio drama.
I caught up with SallyCade Holmes, the Senior Manager of Business Operations and Partnerships at Next Chapter Podcasts, to find out more…
Can you tell us how you got involved in Play On Podcasts?
I’ve worked as a consulting producer with Play On Shakespeare for years. When I heard the plan to make these modern verse translations of Shakespeare’s work into podcasts I jumped at the opportunity to work on them!
Most people will be used to seeing Shakespeare on stage or film. Would you say that Shakespeare’s plays lend themselves well to podcasting?
The Play On Podcasts create an aural environment that allows your imagination to run wild. Our sound designers, directors, composers, and actors all work together to create a listening experience that’s truly out of this world. It really allows you to hear and understand Shakespeare in new and more clear ways.
One of the things that stands out to me is the use of sound to make the world feel very populated. I am assuming (given COVID restrictions) this wasn’t the case in real life… Can you give an insight into how this was achieved?
During the height of the pandemic, all of our cast recorded remotely. We have a stellar crew of engineers, sound designers, technicians, and producers that work tirelessly (and remotely) to achieve the highest quality listening experience.
Can you remember your own first introduction to Shakespeare?
I think it was in 7th grade? Romeo and Juliet? But it was in English class so we were just reading the text… I don’t think I realized that this text was meant to be performed. It just felt like a thing I had to read. As I got more and more into theatre, I realized how much more alive these stories are when amazing actors are breathing life into the characters.
We always like to give people a point of entry to new series – there’s now 5 series/5 plays – do you have a favourite series you’d direct people towards?
Oh man. They’re all amazing. I’m really partial to A Midsummer Night’s Dream because it feels so whimsical and your imagination can really go wild. I also love Macbeth because I’m a huge RuPaul’s Drag Race fan and our witches are played by Peppermint, Manila Luzon, and Monet X. Change — three queens from Drag Race.
Were you influenced by any other podcasts whilst developing this?
I spoke with our Executive Producer Michael Goodfriend who said Passenger List by Radiotopia and Blackout by QCode were examples of immersive listening experiences that inspired the Play On Podcasts’ style. He was engaged by the number of levels in the audio storytelling that exist in these pieces — phone calls, intercoms, dialogue, etc. Also Floodlines by Atlantic Magazine has a sound design that we were inspired by — it illuminates the story without overpowering it.