Lessons Learned in Launching Bringing Up The Lights

I have spent years producing radio shows and podcasts for other people, but I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to create my own projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with clients to make their ideas a reality. (You should definitely reach out if you’re thinking of giving podcasting a try.) It was really rewarding to finally make my own come to life.

Bringing Up The Lights is the first of what I hope will be many such projects. I have been itching to partner with people and organizations to tell interesting and underserved behind the scenes stories for a long time now.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with this project going into it. There are dozens, sometimes even hundreds of people involved in putting on a theatrical project and only a handful are ever on stage or even in the playbill. I wanted to tell the story of a production from start to finish and meet the people who make it happen.

Lyric Opera of Chicago was kind enough to give me a peek behind the curtain at their production of Macbeth. It was a little bit of a risk on their part. I only came with an idea and no finished product I could point to.

I had just completed working on The Fitz Files: Manhut Unabomber with former FBI agent James Fitgerald and Miss Holmes with Lifeline Theatre. Those were my first time dipping my toes into narrative projects. They both went so well it seemed like it was time to think about working on this long simmering idea.

It was a big project and felt a little overwhelming at times. I found it helped to break into into more managable chunks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time.

Identify the story I wanted to tell

This part was actually pretty easy. The first season has two storylines: The production of Macbeth & The COVID comeback. The COVID angle was unexpected, but it was sort of the elephant in the room. I devoted the first episode of the season to telling the story of how the actors, costume designers, set designers and everyone else involved in the production made it through the past year and a half. After all that, working on Macbeth would be a breeze, right?

Not exactly. Life had somewhat settled into something resembling normalcy by the time I was recording interviews in the summer, but COVID was still causing trouble. Key people involved in the production couldn’t get into the country. No one seemed to know quite what opening night would look like until the last minute. But they’re professionals and they made it through.

Wade Through Hours of Audio

Most narrative podcasts have a vast staff of writers and producers. In this case I was a one man band. So I had to listen and re-listen to the interviews, pull out the good stuff and figure out what wouldn’t make it past the cutting room floor. And by “Cutting Room” I mean the floor in our home office.

Most of the interviews were actually pretty short affairs. I knew the sort of information I needed to get out of everybody. We were able to knock them out in fairly short order. Still, that all times time.

Put it all together

It was pretty easy to figure out what order to release the episodes. After the COVID talk, I started with the business side of things, then casting, music, sets, costumes and finally the actors. Then it was a matter of telling the story of each of the players.

Overall it was a really fun project to put together, and also came together a lot more easily than I expected. I’m really happy the folks at the Lyric Opera of Chicago embraced the idea. That will certainly give confidence to agressively pursue the other ideas I have floating around my noggin, and also enough confidence to say that if any of you out there have ideas, I can help you make them a reality too.

Season two will drop in December and will be three episodes looking at the Joffrey Ballet’s yearly production of The Nutcracker.

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