EXCLUSIVE: Moonlight’s André Holland is the latest A-list figure to turn to the world of scripted podcasting.
Holland, who starred as Kevin in the Oscar-winning film, will feature in mordant comedy The MS Phoenix Rising alongside Anthony Arkin (Succession), Susan Blommaert (The Blacklist), Estelle Parsons (The Conners) and Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play).
Created by Trish Harnetiaux, the playwright behind Tin Cat Shoes and How to Get into Buildings, the six-part series comes from Playwrights Horizons Soundstage.
The show follows cruise ship The MS Phoenix Rising, which sets sail in six weeks, marking the relaunch of the cruise ship industry after a prolonged shutdown. Urgent, budget-driven planning makes for a tense front office at Dane Cruising while they race to secure their place in history with fast marketing ideas and a reckless social campaign. Whose idea was it again to hype the “Christopher Columbus Route” through the Bahamas? Whatever. Tuck in as the team finds themselves in uncharted waters by deciding to revolutionize the concept of on-board entertainment by premiering an avant-garde theatre production of Ionesco’s The Chairs.
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Wanting to heighten the distinct opportunistic timbre of the marketing and PR world to Fyre-Festival-esque extremes, Harnetiaux teamed with director Katie Brook to conceive the show as a podcast and workshopped it initially as a live theater show.
Jess Barbagallo, Eric Berryman, Johnny Gasper, Adam Greenfield, Mateo Hurtado, Haruna Lee, April Matthis, Emily Cass McDonnell, Keilly McQuail, John-Andrew Morrison, Katiana Rangel, Danielle Skraastad, Nidra Sous la Terre, Corey Stoll, Shannon Tyo, and Jacob A. Ware also appear.
Music comes from Riley Thomas, sound design and audio engineering by Ben Williams and casting by Alaine Alldaffer and Lisa Donadio.
Harnetiaux said, “Adapting the original script during the pandemic informed what it came to be, especially in our doubling down on the audio aspect—with so many conversations about Zoom fatigue and the ways communication has changed. We didn’t just want the listener to be a fly on the wall; we wanted to have a more purposeful relationship to the audio medium pushing the narrative forward.”
Brook added, “This isn’t something that would be better onstage. The first five episodes are all heard in calls or recordings or voicemails, so we’re experiencing the story in an audio-only way that’s also native to the media the characters are using. We recorded everyone remotely. If we were working with an actor who didn’t have a good audio setup, that was fine—that quality is exactly how they would sound on these calls.”
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