2 May 2008, 8:40 am

Last night we went to see a This American Life event described like this:

Ira Glass takes theatergoers behind the scenes by showing never-before-seen stories and out-takes from the upcoming season of This American Life television, performing a radio story, answering audience questions, and more!.The show will originate in New York City and be sent in High Definition live via satellite into select theatres nationwide.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. The excerpted/excised material from the show was consistently interesting; even better were the discussions of the creative process the shows (radio and TV both) go through: what to keep, what to junk, how to position an individual piece within the theme/framework of a show. Glass and director Chris Wilcha also spent some time talking about the problem of “finding something interesting to look at” in a story, and Glass’s process of adapting to television’s rules (he says that with the show’s second season, he’s gone beyond the “but it would work on the radio!” wall).

If we’d rented this as a Behind This American Life DVD or some such, I wouldn’t have thought there was anything weird about it. But the simulcast nature of the event made it seem like a bit of a missed opportunity: whenever the director turned the cameras on the NYC audience it pulled me out of the experience — it was a little bit like looking into a giant mirror and seeing the theatre I was sitting in reflected. Except that it wasn’t, because it wasn’t my audience, but a completely different audience a few hundred miles away. And when Ira Glass urged the (oddly reticient) audience to make use of the microphones provided for Q&A, he wasn’t addressing my audience.

If there had been cameras and microphones in each of the theatres, it would have increased the complexity and expense of the event by an order of magnitude. But I think it might have felt like a communal event, instead of like watching someone else’s communal event.


The event was at Fenway Theatre on a home game night, and ended about when the baseball game did. There was typical confusion about what lines were for people with/without the various enabling objects for boarding an MBTA vehicle, so we wound up waiting in line with people from the stadium for probably longer than we needed to. Three observations:

  • Waiting in line to get on the T made me want to buy tickets to more games right then and there. It was like, “I have to wait ’til July to be in a line like this again!? No way!” I’m sick.
  • I was trying to guess from the crowd’s demeanor whether the Sox had won or lost (I could have asked someone, but that would have taken the fun out of it). My guess was that the Sox had won, but not in a close, tense game like the previous two. I was surprised this morning to learn that the Blue Jays had blanked the Sox.
  • Ohmygoodness I’m glad I didn’t have to wake up with the water-starved brain cells of the guy who laughed about how he’d been trying to get his date, not himself, drunk — after he nearly fell over in the bushes.

One comment on “mayday”

  1. Editrix

    I started to wonder if that guy was retarded or something — the way he couldn’t move anywhere without attempting a spin. But I think he was just drunk.

    Thanks for being my hawt date! (I am making the WOW sign at you right now.)


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