There’s More (or Less) to the Story

Live onstage, Ira Glass re-creates and remixes ‘This American Life’


“This American Life” host Ira Glass could, if he chose, hide behind his mic for the rest of his life. For his live show, “Reinventing Radio: An Evening With Ira Glass,” he comes out from behind the soundproof partition. Saturday at Strathmore, he’ll remix stories from the show (heard locally on WAMU) and explain how the broadcast comes together.

You don’t normally see the audience as they listen to “This American Life.” Does watching people react to you change things?
It’s my dream to play to an audience in Elizabethan England, where the groundlings throw stuff at me [if they don’t like it]. I hope the good people of Bethesda live up to that.

Strathmore is pretty fancy. They might not let people bring tomatoes in.
Yes, I understand they have a strict check-your-tomatoes-at-the-door policy.

Do you change up the stories for the live audience?
When I’m editing stories for the show, I’m basically just projecting my own reactions onto the audience. If it seems slow to me, it must seem slow to them, but you never guess perfectly right. There have been stories I’ve tried to do verbatim for audiences and, as I perform, I realize, “Oh, no, this really drags,” so I trim them back and sharpen the jokes.

Is that due to the nature of the stage show, or the stories themselves?
Every time I’ve changed [a story], I’ve wished I could go back and change it on the radio. One story I’ll tell in Bethesda is about this production of “Riverdance” where the dancers were so bored they all pitched in money for the Mega Millions lottery, and then they basically lived for that. On the radio it was 18 minutes. The version onstage will be 11 minutes and when we did a rebroadcast, we pretty much used that version.

Do you hate listening to yourself?
I was really self-conscious, but I now understand that’s what I sound like. I can now focus on more disturbing things, like, “Why did I ask that question? Why couldn’t I be more relaxed?”

Our Favorite Episodes

Stream these “This American Life” stories from thisamericanlife.org.

Episode 218: Act V: A group of inmates at a high-security prison rehearse for a performance of “Hamlet’s” Act V.

Episode 74: Conventions: The final segment’s fateful meeting will have you sobbing into your canvas tote bag.

Episode 246: My Pen Pal: A 10-year-old corresponds with Manuel Noriega.

Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda; Sat., 8 p.m., $38-$68; 301-581-5100. (Grosvenor-Strathmore)
Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Nevin Martell | June 26, 2013