InterviewHow Audible Is Disrupting the Theatre Space—For Good
September 02, 2019
With live production, recordings, and its Emerging Playwrights Fund, Audible has incited a wave of new works Off-Broadway and beyond.
Kate Navin had been working for a decade as a theatrical agent when she decided it was time for a change. Not quite willing to step away from theatre completely, she was looking for ways that she could continue to work with and support her playwright clients. Then, in 2017, Navin was asked to lead the burgeoning theatre initiative at Audible, a role that allows her to continue to elevate artists while ushering in a new era for audio drama.
Founded and run by Don Katz, Audible serves millions of listeners and offers thousands of downloadable audio books, audio editions of periodicals, and now, thanks to Navin’s department, audio plays. As the artistic producer of Audible Theater, her role encompasses leading the company’s commissioning program, the Emerging Playwrights Fund, the production of audio titles, global strategy, and programming at the Minetta Lane, Audible’s Off-Broadway home for live theatre, which is eventually recorded as audio titles.
What excites Navin most about the audio platform is its reach. A play like Dennis Kelly’s Girls & Boys,which Audible produced in a limited Off-Broadway run starring Carey Mulligan last summer, has now reached a global audience via Audible that is equivalent to 26 sold-out weeks at Broadway’s Booth Theatre. Her goal of supporting playwrights has taken on new meaning; she’s now able to give them opportunities to build audiences anywhere in the world.
“In dialogue with the artists, it’s been really exciting to see the reactions that they’re getting,” says Navin. “Our members are really loving the work and want to see more from playwrights they previously hadn’t heard of.”
Her time as an agent has also proved invaluable. “My role was that of mediator between artists and producers,” explains Navin. “When you cast yourself in the role of problem-solver, you can really listen to what the needs of the artists are, and the needs of getting a production on.” Her insights have allowed Navin to think outside the traditional boundaries, and even definitions, of theatre. A look at Audible’s summer and fall slates is emblematic of this spirit of innovation: alongside plays like Isaac Gomez’s the way she spokeare shows like Tom Morello at the Minetta Lane. For three nights at the Minetta Lane, the musician and political activist will draw from his life and music to reveal a deeply personal journey. Thousands of listeners will later be able to experience the show via Audible.
Above all, running the theatre initiative has been an opportunity for Navin to give back to an industry she cares about deeply. “People have told me that because they’ve listened to an Audible theatre title, they checked out a show at their local theatre,” says Navin. “That’s thrilling to me.”