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Play On Podcast: Shakespeare Reimagined

Your favorite Shakespearean plays curated for a modern audience

By Frank RacioppiPublished 3 months ago 5 min read

Friends can fill many important roles in people's lives, such as support, companionship, enjoyment, and sharing feelings. One contribution a friend can make is to guide you to TV shows, movies, books, and podcasts that are worth your time. I'm still upset at my buddy Gene for recommending Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

As a counterpoint to Gene (who also recommended Velma and The Idol), a business acquaintance -- Andreea Coscai from Tink Media -- recomended Play On Podcasts. What you have to know about Andreea is that she's never been wrong about a podcast she's recommended to me. It's automatic now. If Andreea recommends it, I listen to it. Sure, maybe I'm not that interested in a podcast about 12th Century footwear fads. But if Andreea recommends it, I know it's ear worthy.

Andreea Coscai is a digital marketer and podcast producer passionate about multicultural investigative reporting. Her latest podcast is titled Who Holds Up Half the Sky. In 2020, she founded the first NGO that promotes leadership and networking for young women, Her Time Romania. She spent her childhood in Romania, lived in China for two years, and moved to the United States in 2018.

The podcast she recommended, Play On Podcasts, is simply genius. It reimagines Shakespeare's timeless tales, featuring original musical compositions and the voices of extraordinarily gifted artists. It's remarkable that the podcast is superb in so many ways. The original music is delightful and enchanting. The acting bristles with emotive energy. The plays they re-enact are much more Laurence Olivier in Hamlet than Mel Gibson in Hamlet. The scripted plays facilitate Shakespearean humor, wit, and sarcasm to flow through them.

Most important of all, the plays are scripted in modern English verse for modern audiences. Therefore, the age-old excuse that you don't like Shakespeare because you can't understand the words has vanished.

My first play on Play On was Othello, which began in September 2023. The play was broken up into seven episodes of about 35 minutes per episode. Then, Play On releases bonus content, typically with the playwright who reimagined the Shakespearean classic in modern verse or one of the actors. The October 13, 2023 bonus content of Othello with playwright Mfoniso Udofia was inspired, with Udofia explaining how to handle the conversion of words from old English to modern language, especially the racial epithets.

Then, Play On released the full play of Othello in one episode, which lasted over three hours.

Their current series Romeo & Juliet was just released during the holidays. Play On is currently on episode two of Romeo & Juliet. I just finished listening to it, and I can't wait for episode three next week. I hope the couple finds a happy ending, like in a Hallmark Christmas movie.

In episode one of every play, Play On recommends that listeners use headphones or earbuds for the best listening experience. It's a recommendation I urge you to follow. The plays are rich in sounds that can captivate your ears. There is the dialogue -- crisp and understandable. The background sounds -- horses, wagons, merchants, nature -- can layer you into the play like being an avatar in a video game. The show has a voice and text consultant, an equipment and recording engineer, a sound effects assistant, and a production assistant. That's a lot of resources and a lot of money. As a listener, you hear that excellence.

The music strikes at your emotions, ratcheting up intensity, fervor, and excitement. In Macbeth, the show even has a bagpipes' musician.

As I've mentioned before, acting in an audio only format is incredibly difficult. Facial expressions, body language, and physical movement become irrelevant in an audio only drama. These actors from Play On are masters manipulators of voice -- intonation, insinuation, and implication reign supreme in their audio realm.

Play On podcasts began in April 2021 with Shakespeare's masterpiece Macbeth. It's a great play to begin with, and Play On's treatment of the classic is masterful. In my one and only foray into acting, I played Macduff in a high school play. I thought I was a solid Macduff. In Play on, an actor named Chinaza Uche played Macduff. Mr. Uche was a superlative Macduff, and I doff my hat to him.

Here are their own words about Play On: "Welcome to the Play On Podcasts from Next Chapter Podcasts. This is where theater meets podcasts, combining the modern-day audio phenomenon with the power of live performance. Play On Podcasts is an epic audio adventure reimagining timeless tales, featuring original music compositions and the voices of extraordinarily gifted artists. Past seasons included Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Love Labor's Lost.

Next Chapter is an independent podcast production house dedicated to original, authentic storytelling.

Next Chapter proudly informs us: "We are a progressive organization looking to make the world a better place, and lift up marginalized communities through the spoken word.

We are a team of producers and sound designers, engineers and artists with unique experience to excel in podcast production from concept to creation."

You can subscribe to Play On Premium to get exclusive access to ad-free episodes, full plays, merch, and hear full interviews with the artists, producers, and engineers who brought it all to life.

Check out Play On Podcasts. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, who once wrote in Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, "Friends, podcast listeners, and Shakespeare fans, Lend me your ears and listen to Play On Podcasts."


About the Creator

Frank Racioppi

I am a South Jersey-based author who is a writer for the Ear Worthy publication, which appears on Vocal, Substack, Medium, Blogger, Tumblr, and social media. Ear Worthy offers daily podcast reviews, recommendations, and articles.

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