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New Podcast Melds Holiday Traditions With Hope For Diverse Local Theater

Lamar Perry is The Old Globe's artistic associate and cohost of a new podcast...

Credit: Jeremy Cohen

Above: Lamar Perry is The Old Globe's artistic associate and cohost of a new podcast, "Gather Round," which launched Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.

The Old Globe is set to launch a new short-form podcast this week to share holiday traditions among communities across San Diego.

Lamar Perry, the Globe's artistic associate and the podcast's cohost, said he wanted to expand access to the theater during this break in standard programming — particularly for holiday programming.

"It’s really beautiful to watch the community coalesce around the physical space of the theater," Perry said about their 23-year history of producing "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!". "At this juncture of our journey with the production, folks are now bringing their children to a show that they saw when they were a kid. And we've really been trying to answer: how do we capture that same magic in this moment?"

Perry said the pandemic is also an opportunity to reach audiences who previously did not have access to the Globe, and to tell stories that otherwise weren't being told. In that way, they're increasing the community's exposure to and understanding of new traditions.

"There's such a robust community here in San Diego. Christmas is not the only tradition that's celebrated and particularly, how the Globe highlights Christmas is such a singular and specific entry point into that holiday," Perry said.

The search for new entry points drove them to audio formats. The Globe's new KPBS radio play version of the Grinch follows this access trajectory, and Perry said that "Gather Round" is an addition to this new and growing canon, bringing in more people and more traditions.

Pandemic screen fatigue is real, too, and Perry noticed that a large portion of the Globe's remote programming has been screen-dependent. Podcasting and audio ramp up accessibility for audiences because less is riding on technology barriers.

"It also gives you this agency of choice. You get to choose the moment when you sit down and quiet the rest of the world around you to take in this podcast," Perry said.

A key decision for the podcast was whose stories would be shared. Perry described the guests to generally be "elders" in their communities, though not necessarily by age. They're considered to be the storytellers or the respected people in the community, from grandmothers to teachers to rabbis.

Ms. Billie Greene, a retired teacher and active member of the 4th District Senior Resource Center, will appear as a guest in an upcoming episode. "She is just a joy to listen to. And those are the folks that we're talking to. So it was less about talking to the who's who of San Diego and more about getting into the homes of the everyday people of San Diego and really making space with the Globe's platform for them to tell their stories," Perry said.

Each episode is unique, as Perry and cohost Laura Zablit (the Globe's arts engagement programs manager) let the guest, the stories and the shared traditions shape the conversation. They'll feature veterans, members of the immigrant communities, the Black community, the Chaldean community and more.

"I think the thing that unites us in all of the storytelling collected over the series of podcasts and interviews is the joy of celebrating with family, the joy of community. And I mean family in a way that is both biological and chosen," said Perry.

Music, gatherings and — of course — food are some common threads Perry saw in talking to guests. Some guests will even share recipes or sources for specific food items.

"We all have to eat. We all have traditions, we all have rituals, we all have histories around food." Perry said. He hopes listeners feel both a real and figurative hunger — to want to try something new and engage with a neighbor's culture. "That kind of engagement is paramount in a moment like this where we're all just trying to find ways to connect."

He added, "There's more that actually brings us together, and more things we actually do that are in common than there are things that differentiate us."

Perry was a producing associate at the Classical Theatre of Harlem in New York City before taking the job with The Old Globe in 2018, and has spent his career working towards authentic diversity in theater.

As a young actor, he took note of whose stories were being told.

"So many of the people who were directing or producing didn't look like me, weren't advocating for me — in the way that I needed to as a queer Black man, as a queer Black artist in the world," Perry said. He left acting to focus on producing and directing stories from marginalized communities, which ultimately led him to The Old Globe.

For Perry, this podcast is partly a way of replicating and honoring the traditions of spending the holidays with his family in a year they can't be together in person — in particular, with his grandmother.

"She’s turning 91 and we're not going to be able to spend Christmas together this year," Perry said. Instead, the two have spent a lot of time talking remotely, sharing stories, memories and moments of joy — stuff that has kept him afloat during difficult times. "And I think that's the thing that I was hoping to share with other people."

"Gather Round" will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and The Old Globe's website and social media platforms every two weeks beginning Friday, Dec. 11.

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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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