If ever there were two forms of expression less likely to be paired together it would be live radio and dance, yet that's exactly what Ira Glass has done in his latest project, Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.
Glass is the creator of This American Life, the most popular podcast in The United States. To put it into perspective, it receives 75,000 podcast downloads per week in Australia alone. Serial, the first spinoff show from TAL, currently receives downloads 305,000 per week, with 7.2 million downloads over the course of the show.
Touring the United States in some capacity since 2013, Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host will venture overseas for the very first time when it hits Sydney in July. Performed by Glass and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, the show is a three part story of performance, life and love.
"The combination of dance and radio is really unlikely. The show is a variety and offers a combination of dance and storytelling. There's some moments when Ira is just telling a story, there's some when Monica and I are just dancing, and there are a lot of moments when there's a combination of stories and dance," Bass told The Huffington Post Australia.
Bass came to be one of the performers in the show after working with Barnes on theatre projects in the years prior. Bass also performed in Glass’s two most recent This American Life events.
"Each of the three acts have a different theme and a lot of the stories and dances were pulled from the past 15 or 20 years of both Ira's work and Monica and my work together, too. A lot of the material is from all of our former shows that we pulled to see if they would sync up -- and they did," Bass said.
"When we started making the show it was originally stories about other people, but at a certain point we realised that something needed to shift. It's the three of us on stage the whole time having personal moments, so we realised it needed to incude us.
"Ira decided to bring both us dancers into the radio studio to interview each of us. There's two interviews in the performance, one from myself and one from Monica, and they are about us and our relationship to each other and to dancing. Then Ira talks in a separate part about getting into radio and that affecting his personal relationships," Bass said.
Commenting on working with Glass, Bass says what you see (or hear, more precisely) is what you get.
"Ira is exactly what you think he would be like. He is such an amazingly hard worker and he's such an amazing performer, too. It's been such a pleasure to be on stage with him and to see him work the crowd and work the room. Every show Ira beautifully shapes things and things shift because it's a live performance based on the audience response."
Performed close to 60 times over the past three years all over America, Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host came together from an initial collection of popular radio snippets and treasured dance moves.
"At the start of rehearsals Ira brought a list of his favourite stories and we brought a list of our favourite moves. From there in the first two weeks the first story of the show came together really magically.
"Right after we had realised 'oh my gosh, this 10 minute chunk actually works!' Ira called us up and told us he had received an invite to be part of a benefit performance at Carnaby Hall in New York. He asked if we wanted to show this thing that we'd just made up. We were terrified! But we decided to try it out and see if it stood up in front of people. So that was our first test for the show in 2013," Glass said.
Fans of This American Life support Glass through all of his creative endeavours, and this show is no different.
"A large part of the audience that comes is a public radio audience who support and adore anything that Ira is a part of. He's really doing some news things in this show and they are so warm and supportive everywhere we go.
"Audiences can expect one and a half hours of what feels like an episode of Ira's radio show, combined with dancing, consume changes, lights, props and a theatrical circus," Glass said.
Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host: Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, Anna Bass is appearing in Sydney on Sunday the 17th July at 8pm and Monday 18 July at 6.30pm at the Sydney Opera House, and then Melbourne on Thursday 14 July and 15 July and 8pm at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, presented by the Wheeler Centre and Arts Centre Melbourne.