Episode 0: Welcome Backstage!
Introducing a new podcast from our little corner of the University of Pennsylvania!
This season, we’re broadcasting conversations with local alumni at all stages in their journeys. This series of interviews, hosted by current students in the performing arts, will tell you what it’s like to be forge an arts career in the city of brotherly love.
In this episode: Amanda Labonte, James Grant, Laurie McCall, Megan Edelman, and Sara Outing.
Editing: Amanda Labonte
Music: “Holiday” – Yuriy Bespalov
[Cheery ukulele jingle]
LAURIE: And welcome to Episode 0 of Platt House Backstage podcast, by all of us at Platt Student Performing Arts House at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m Laurie, she, her, hers.
AMANDA: I’m Amanda, and my pronouns are she, her, hers.
MEGAN: I’m Megan, and my pronouns are she, her, hers.
JAMES: I’m James, and my pronouns are he, him, his
SARA: I’m Sara, she, her, hers,
LAURIE: And along with Michelle, a.k.a. PAC-Shop-Michelle, we make up the staff of Platt House and the PAC Shop.
MEGAN: First things first: Who? Where? And what?
JAMES: Right: if you happen to be a recent student, or current student, at Penn, in a performing arts group, you might already know the basics here. Or not!
MEGAN: Or not. [chuckles]
JAMES: But if you’re tuning in from elsewhere at Penn or just the wider world, here’s what you need to know: Penn has a fantastic music department, a fantastic theatre arts program, and a fantastic performing arts center that draws artists and audiences from all over the world. They all serve the local Penn community and the general student body of over 27 thousand, which, when you do the math are approximately a gazillion students that are involved in student groups.
MEGAN: Well the Office of Student Affairs website says there’s 470 groups, so if there’s maybe 10 to 20 students per group, that’s, yup, a gazillion.
JAMES: [laughs] And of those student groups, at least 60 of them perform something. Dance, or music, a capella, or instrumental, comedy, theatre, spoken word, or some combination of those arts.
MEGAN: And some of them are part of the Performing Arts Council, or PAC, which is a student council with guidelines, membership, meetings, and a constitution. PAC is very useful because it connects those groups to some awesome resources like, money. And rehearsal space.
AMANDA: And that’s where the PAC Shop gets its name!
MEGAN: Perfect segue. So, Amanda! The PAC Shop, what is it?
AMANDA: Well it’s where Michelle and I work. It’s a props, lighting, and sound warehouse, a costume design studio, and a scene shop, all rolled into one. And it’s a receptacle for stage tech knowledge and training.
JAMES: Okay, okay, okay. So for anyone who hasn’t been inside a scene or costume shop, what does that look like?
AMANDA: Sure! We provide materials, tools, and space to build all the sets and costumes, so that means saws, drills, hardware, basic furniture. Then we’ve got sewing machines, dressforms, scrap fabric, and closets full of built costumes and props. Michelle and I are there to make sure everyone knows what they need, how to use it, and provide lots and lots of guidance. We’ve got our own building, upstairs from a restaurant school, about a block off campus. Students come through in the evenings, usually about 4 days a week, to hold shop hours to put their shows together. So that’s the PAC Shop!
JAMES: [whistles] Wow.
MEGAN: Then, what is Platt House? What’s that about?
LAURIE: Right! So even though we work together a lot, Platt House is a whole different part of campus. We’re in a cozy basement under Stouffer Commons –
AMANDA: No one gets just a run-of-the-mill, first floor, walk-in office here.
LAURIE: I know! So anyway: in our cozy basement, we have some rehearsal spaces for all those dance and comedy and music and theatre groups to work on their shows. We have a cabaret stage, for open mics or smaller shows. We have a lounge, for group meetings and programs. And most importantly, we have a coffee machine, and free tea, and a Wawa directly upstairs. But really the main function of our staff is to advise and support all these performing arts groups. Like training them on how to use their funds, or mitigating conflicts, or connecting them to alumni, or helping them find more space for their rehearsals and performances. That’s kind of the bare bones version.
JAMES: There’s so much programming that happens throughout the year to involve students in learning, to find training, to connect them with mentors, and even to help them become mentors themselves.
MEGAN: And to support their audiences too! Groups not only create and perform; they also donate tickets to their shows and engage in community outreach. Plus, we offer Pre-Orientation programming for new students. There’s a lot going on, between Platt House and the PAC Shop. Never a dull moment.
LAURIE: So that brings us to this new podcast. We’ve got all this other stuff going on, what’s the podcast for?
SARA: So, this endeavor was born in the notorious spring of 2020. And it seems silly to explain what’s happening, ‘cause we’re all currently experiencing it – but the basic plot here is that everyone is figuring out ways to put their content online. So all over campus we had this abrupt halt to Plan A, which was live performances, and then this blossoming of Plans B-Z, including virtual orchestras, and internet plays, and live-streamed performances and fundraisers. Tik-Tok is on fire in a good way. People are just coming up with creative digital content. And we’re loving it. and by “we” I partly mean Platt Staff, but I mostly mean y’all, the students. If you are a student.
JAMES: We don’t know who’s gonna be listening to this. It could be anybody!
SARA: Anybody could find this podcast, and anybody could enjoy it! But the main reason we’re making it is for our students. We want everyone to feel connected again. And we want everyone to continue getting inspired and collaborating and talking and hearing each other’s voices. And if we could upload the actual Platt House lounge onto the internet for everyone to hang out, we would do that. But it’s only 2020, we don’t have the tech for that yet.
JAMES: Um, I mean, I think that’s what the new Animal Crossing is.
SARA: Yeah no, you’re right.
MEGAN: Also, it’s April, and there’s a whole new undergraduate class of Penn students who are experiencing their first glimpse of campus in a new way. You got the virtual admissions tour, you’ve got special content on all kinds of department websites and also on ours, that’s vpul.upenn.edu/platthouse, and you’ve got Pre-Orientation applications coming up. So if that’s you, consider this just another way to get a preview of the arts at Penn.
LAURIE: This semester we’ve been in touch with some creative alumni who had stayed in Philadelphia to practice their arts. And we loved the idea of putting those conversations online.
SARA: But instead of us hosting, we have a bunch of fantastic student artists hosting, and instead of like a group panel, it will be one-on-one interviews, and it’s a podcast!
MEGAN: So in case that was a little confusing, here’s a recap: it’s a series of interviews with alumni who are currently working in the arts. Literal experts who have been where you are now!
SARA: That was much better, thank you. So that’s the plan for this season! The next few months will be all about Philly Arts Alumni. And next season, honestly who knows? Anything could happen! That’s why you have to stay tuned.
AMANDA: Before we wrap up here, you may have noticed the intro music at the top of this episode. Sadly, that is not our theme music, but there will be theme music, because as of this week, we are accepting submissions from students, for some brand new custom theme music. If you want your music to be played at the top of every episode of this prestigious podcast, you should submit an original clip! Just go to our Facebook or Instagram page for submission guidelines.
JAMES:So on Facebook, that’s Platt Student Performing Arts House, and on Instagram, @pennplatthouse.
AMANDA: And for the PAC Shop , on Facebook we’re UPenn PAC Shop, and on Instagram we’re @pacshop4100.
LAURIE: That’s a wrap! Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss Episode 1! Stay safe out there, and see you next time!
[Cheery ukulele jingle]
SARA: Did we nail it?