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Summer in New York City is a special time of the year. Every day feels like there is something special going on here. For Braodway fans, it's a great time of the year as well. There are outdoor concerts in Bryant Park, Shakespeare in Central Park and theatre festivals all around 42nd St.
But one event is providing theatre fans an up close and personal experience with some of their favorite Broadway stars, at the fraction of the cost of seeing a Broadway show. And it's become the must-attend event of the summer.
I'm talking about the Theatre People Podcast's Summer Series. According to their website, the event is described as " one part live show, one part meet-and-greet, and one part hang out session." Attendees can arrive to the event an hour early to mingle with the hosts and each other. The show is hosted by Patrick Hinds and producer Mike Jensen. It starts by following their familiar podcast interviews(which are incredible and vastly underrated by the way). After the interview, the guest artists perform and then there is time for Q&A and a meet/greet as well.
The guest list is chock full of incredible talent. They include Lesli Margherita, Lindsay Mendez, Eden Espinosa and Laura Osnes.
The best part? For all of this, it will cost you $10....No seriously, $10. For 10 singles, 2 $5 bills or 1 Alexander Hamilton, you can attend the best fan experience of the summer.
I had a chance to talk to Patrick Hinds about where the idea for the Summer Series came from, the work that goes into it and what the future holds for this series.
CP: Where did the idea for the summer series come from?
PH: The credit here goes to our Producer, Mike Jensen. Around March, I was trying to come up with ways to build on the momentum we were building—for some reason we seemed to be getting a lot of press at that time—and Mike suggested that we do a series of live shows over the summer. I knew right away that it was a brilliant idea. It was important to me that we find a way to do it cheaply so that we could make it affordable to everyone. I didn’t want it to be a situation where it would be, like, a $25 cover and then another $25 minimum at the table. So we decided to produce the events ourselves. We went out and bought a sound system, figured out how to sell tickets, put together a concessions bar, and reserved space at Pearl Studios. Doing it that way enabled us to charge just $10 and gave us complete creative control. It’s WAY more work than we expected, but it’s tons of fun, and everyone from the fans to the artists seem to be having a really good time.
CP: The response seems to have been really popular. What have you been hearing from your fans?
PH: From the beginning of putting together the summer series, our mission was to bring well known theater artists and fans together in unique and affordable ways. One of the ways we’ve done that is by creating a pre-show party where guests mingle and meet each other. The artist will usually join us for a while during the party to meet fans and take pictures & sign CDs. I should also point out that we’ve had people come from as far away as Hawaii for the shows, which completely blows my mind. From the feedback we’re getting, I’d say that we’ve accomplished our goal of bringing the fans and the artists together in a really fun and exciting way. I’ve also seen true friendships sprout up between the people who have come to multiple shows, so that’s incredibly rewarding. It’s really great to see a community forming around the podcast and the events we’re doing.
CP: You served on a fantastic panel at BroadwayCon, what has the year been like for you since that event?
PH: I’m really grateful to get to say that since BroadwayCon last year, the podcast has continued to grow—I mean that in a couple of ways: We’re constantly finding new listeners, which is so great, but also I think we’ve become a bit more established in the Broadway community, which means we have access to guests and shows that we didn’t before—people seem to know more about us now. Also, I think the quality of the show has gotten better. Mike and I are continuing to learn—we knew literally nothing about sound engineering and a lot of other technical aspects when we started—and to apply what we’re learning into our production quality.
CP: The list of guests are incredible, has it been easy to line up these artists?
PH: We have been incredibly lucky to have been able to book the guests that we have lined up for the summer series. Basically everyone we reached out to said Yes—even if they didn’t necessarily know what they were getting themselves into. Lesli Margherita and Laura Osnes have always been so supportive of our show—and their support has really helped us get “Yeses” from other artists. Lindsay Mendez is so so so busy and agreed to come down to NYC on her one day off from the show that she’s doing in Williamstown, so that was amazing. Eden Espinosa, I think, is one of the great musical theater singers of our time, so we couldn’t have been happier when her schedule opened up and she was able to do it. I don’t know, sometimes I look at our line up and just go , “How on EARTH did we manage this?”
CP: Tell me about the amount of work that goes into these concerts?
PH: Getting ready for the shows can sometime be like a hilarious comedy of errors. Because we do them at Pearl Studios, we have to bring EVERYTHING. We have this huge step and repeat (you know, that, like, huge banner thing that you put your logo on and then hope people will stand in front of to take pictures?), we have a huge sound system, we have boxes of concession items that we sell like T-shirts, CDs, food, etc. We make homemade Sangria, which, as you can imagine, is an absolute nightmare to transport. So we have to somehow get all that stuff there and then we only have an hour to set up before the doors open. So I’m always running around like crazy, Mike focuses on the technical stuff, my husband Steve handles Daisy, and our amazing stage manager Jenn Scott keeps us all calm. Somehow it all seems to work out and everyone has a blast. None of us are natural event producers, so we’re learning as we go.
CP: Any dream guests?
PH: YES! Off the top of my head, we’d love to do shows with Megan Hilty, Alex Brightman, Norm Lewis, Renee Elise Goldsberry (can you imagine?), Lin-Manuel, obviously. We’d also like to expand to having more than one guest per show. I joke with Lesli Margherita that I want to produce a concert called “Lesli and Friends” where she just drinks wine and sings songs with her friends in the business. Everyone loves Lesli, so we could book just about anybody for that. We’d also love to do cast reunion shows. I’d love to get a bunch of cast members from “In the Heights” to come do a show with us. So, yeah, we have a lot of big ideas.
CP: Will you be continuing these throughout the year as well?
PH: Right now, our last scheduled show is with Laura Osnes on Sunday, August 7th. We will probably take some time off from the live shows at that point. We have some VERY exciting announcements to make in the next couple of weeks and are planning for a very busy fall / winter season. We love doing the live shows and definitely plan to continue with them, just not necessarily as a set monthly gig. Also, we’re planning a 100th episode concert for January or February, so stay tuned for details on that too!
I highly recommend you attend these events. For $10, the amount of insight and interaction is beyond worth it. For info about the series and tickets, visit www.theaterppl.com/summer-series.