On July 15, Ruthie Fierberg, in association with the Broadway Podcast Network, launches the new podcast Why We Theater.
The premiere episode will be available July 15, with new episodes released every subsequent Thursday for a limited season. Find it now at BPN.FM/WWT.
An intersection of theatre and social justice, Why We Theater digs into today’s most thought-provoking and urgent onstage works with the artists who made them and real-world experts who advise us on how we can create impactful change in our offstage lives. “I like to think of ‘theatre’ not just as a place or a presentation but as an action,” Fierberg says. “‘To theater’ is to engage with art presented onstage. The curtain call of a play or musical is not the end of the experience; it’s the beginning.”
Each episode begins with a one-on-one discussion between Fierberg and the artist behind the theatrical piece at hand and then opens up to include real-world experts in that field to offer advice and steps to help us all take actions (re-wire a thought pattern, sign a petition, donate to a related charity, volunteer for a related organization, etc.) and manifest progress.
In the premiere episode “School Girls… and Colorism, Beauty, and Self-Esteem in Women, Girls, and Femmes,” Why We Theater welcomes playwright Jocelyn Bioh and experts Afia Ofori-Mensa (author, upcoming How to Win a Beauty Contest (Not an Instruction Manual)) and Maryann Jacob Macias (senior director, National Crittenton) to discuss Bioh’s breakout play School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play. In addition to dissecting the work itself, this group of women engage in a powerful discussion about the manifestations and consequences of colorism, who determines beauty ideals, and how to empower women, girls, and femmes. Plus, listeners learn the personal biases to reexamine, organizations to support, as well as how to demand change from beauty product companies and magazines that sell beauty.
The idea for the podcast came to Fierberg years ago. “In 2014, I saw the Broadway production of Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced. The play rocked me,” Fierberg explains. “That night at the theatre six years ago is when I realized artists start the conversation. We, as an audience, have a responsibility to do more than witness the reflection of society when artists hold up that proverbial mirror. It’s time to continue the conversation.
“Over the past eight months, with the generous support of BPN, these theatre makers, and experts, my idea has finally come to fruition as Why We Theater.”
Future episodes dig into such works as The Lifespan of a Fact as Fierberg addresses truth and integrity in journalism with director Leigh Silverman, This American Life host and creator Ira Glass, and Director of Research at The Parents Network Barbara Brandon-Croft.
Fierberg also tackles Octet and internet addiction with the musical’s Drama Desk-nominated director Annie Tippe, USC Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Education Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, co-founder and Chief Clinical Director at reSTART Dr. Hilarie Cash, and Senior Software Engineer at Niantic Inc. Daphne Larose; Soft Power, democracy, U.S.-China relations, and Asian-American culture with three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist David Henry Hwang, director Silverman, author and “Asian Pop” columnist Jeff Yang, and senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign Jake Sullivan; and Pipeline, education inequity, and the school-to-prison pipeline with Obie-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau, Director of Integration and Innovation Initiative at NYU Metro Center Matt Gonzales, and Executive Director of Camelot Education Tyree Booker.
A New York City-based journalist, Fierberg is the current Senior Features Editor at Playbill, creating innovative and engaging content through in-depth written, multimedia, and video pieces focused on the arts. She is also the co-host of Playbill's Live From the Red Carpet specials from Broadway's opening nights.
To listen, subscribe, or for more information about Why We Theater, visit BPN.FM/WWT or WhyWeTheater.com. Follow the podcast @whywetheater and follow Fierberg on Instagram @ruthiefierceberg, Twitter @RuthiesATrain, and subscribe to her newsletter at RuthieFierberg.com.