Podcasters Board The Dream Train
Aija Covington and Ziani Boone are linking arms at the top of a wall when they decide to jump for it. They are wordless, exchanging wide-eyed glances, weighing the chance of falling. Each has short legs, not made for wall-hurtling. But if they don’t do it, a whole future may be at stake. They close their eyes and bend their legs.
“It’s a long way doooowwwwn!” they cry in unison, bodies dropping several stories. Somewhere, in another not-so-far-away universe, their feet squarely hit the ground.
So unfolds one chapter of Dream Train, a new-old podcast by Imaginary Theater Company (ITC). After writing, workshopping and producing the play earlier this year, ITC Founder and Director Starry Krueger has transformed the show into a radio play, to distribute it to wider audiences and give it a longer life span.
Dream Train was originally written as a somewhat visual play, with bright costumes and flower-crowned heads punctuating a minimalist set and musical interludes. It’s a play that brings forest magic, folky, homespun vocals and an otherwise straight-talking script to life, passing on a powerful moral about walls, xenophobia and environmental preservation.
But after the show premiered at the New Haven Free Public Library and Lyric Hall last July, Krueger kept hearing from families who hadn’t been able to see the show, either because their timing wouldn’t allow it or they were far away. One of the young actors, Duha Yeroz, has extended family in Turkey. Krueger started thinking about how to get it to them and others in similar situations.
That form, she realized, was audio. An educator by day, Krueger uses podcasts to unwind; she said that Brian Reed’s viral series S-Town is a recent favorite. Late last summer, she sat back down with the script, adding new lines and new ways to illustrate certain characters’ motions. She reached out to Baobab Tree Studios as a possible collaborator. As Kevin Ewing jumped onboard, she reassembled the cast and got them ready to go into the studios.
“I felt really, really excited about it,” she said in a recent interview. “It was a new medium for the kids, so they got to work with characters that they already knew, but in a way that was new for them.”
Ewing was excited to work with them, she said. She recalled the moment they made it into the studio to record, and how Ewing calmed the actors, then congratulated them when they'd delivered a line just-so. He also rolled with some last-minute changes, like the scene where Allen and Yeroz give a preface to their act of jumping. Or a different narrator where actor Nicole Dankowski had done a quick change of clothes to transition from one character to another. No one could see that on radio, Krueger said. So she had to get a little more inventive.
Now, Krueger said she feels that it’s almost meta—she too has moved far away from New Haven, to support her partner’s nursing career in San Diego. The couple left in September, just as recording was coming to its end. Now, she said she’s thinking of taking ITC on the road—at least until she and her partner move back here next May, when his contract has ended. In the meantime, having Dream Train close at hand has inspired her to think of scripting her own radio drama.
“I don’t know what will come next,” she said. “I'm trying to build Imaginary Theatre Company up to have year-round programming, and this [podcast] is part of it."