If you've ever heard a convicted murderer spout Hamlet, an impassioned Jerry Springer deliver a speech as a young Chicago politician or Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra's phone reconciliation with longtime rival and ex-prosecuting attorney Michael Guarino, you're likely a This American Life fan. Since it began in 1995, this nationally syndicated Chicago Public Radio program, and now Showtime TV show, has sucked in weekly listeners with its strikingly honest portrayals of the intersection between human triumph and weakness—always with an unexpected twist. For many, the show has become as much of a Sunday ritual as a pot of hot coffee and The New York Times.
Luckily for TAL fans, host Ira Glass' spectacled mug will soon be beamed into more than 400 theaters across the country for a special live performance on Thursday, April 23, with an encore showing in some cities on Thursday, May 7. Boise's Edwards 21 is the only joint in the state of Idaho where you can catch a screening of the show.
"This American Life does a live show a few times a year, and this time, they're filming it to show people what it looks like," explains Ele Ellis, director of programming at Boise State Radio, the local NPR affiliate station that broadcasts This American Life every week. "They're going to film the show live how it happens, which I'm really excited about. I haven't seen this before and I'm psyched about it because This American Life is one of my favorite programs."
The show's regular cast of contributing characters—including Portland, Ore.'s, syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage, Post-It Note Reading Series co-curator (and Phil Collins fan) Starlee Kine, comedian Mike Birbiglia, essayist and filmmaker David Rakoff and comedian Dave Hill—will all be ready to entertain in front of a live audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Cartoonist Chris Ware will debut a new creation and Arthur Jones will provide additional visual stimulation. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is slated to sing.
"The loose structure of the event will be very much like the loose structure of the radio show," says Ellis. "They always pick a theme, so 'Return to the Scene of the Crime' will be the theme, then they'll do a series of stories on that theme."
Known for his meticulous attention to detail, Glass will have the entire show scripted and ready to record with radio gear splayed out before him on stage. "It'll be edited—it's always edited—and played on the radio later this year," explains Ellis.
Though this is the second time TAL has done a live movie theater broadcast—last year's show featured a behind-the-scenes look at the Showtime TV show—Glass admitted candidly to the Chicago Tribune that this event is as much a fundraiser to patch up a $120,000 budget hole as it is a cool offering for the show's fans. Locally, Ellis is confident that this year's turnout will be much higher than last year's because more people are now familiar with the event—and it won't happen to fall on a First Thursday.
As of last Friday, April 17, Edwards 21 manager Lori Willison confirmed the theater had already sold 120 seats out of 400.
Thursday, April 23, 6 p.m., $20, Edwards 21, 7709 Overland Road. For more information or to buy tickets, call 208-377-9603.