Show Spotlight: Stray Theatre


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The host of Radio Boise‘s “Stray Theatre,” Wayne Birt, is like a lot of other folks at the station – he wears so many hats that it can be easy to forget that he hosts three shows each week in addition to everything else he does. “Stray Theatre” is unique in our local media landscape in that it is the only weekly show devoted to airing local performing art – from live radio theater to readings and recorded plays, it is a celebration of local talent and arts. Here Wayne tells us about how he came up with the idea and his long love affair with community radio as well as tries to rationalize his taste for Burt Bacharach.

What can you not stop listening to these days?

Being a hopeless crate digger, I’m pretty keen on digging deeper into the ’70s German music that came out of free jazz and the great, weird, shelved soundtracks that seem to be just getting their first day in the sun. I’m digging Ciao! Manhattan right now which is a terrific (if not slightly terrifying) glimpse of the last days of Edie Sedgwick and the general decay of the sixties, punctuated with beautiful pop songs. On the podcast side of things, Maron’s WTF, Everything is Stories and S-Town have been catching my fancy lately.

What is going on in the Treasure Valley that you’re excited about?

The sheer volume of music and creativity. Literally any night you can see a band that blows you away, experience something literarily or visually astounding. On the word-based side, that abundance is what Stray Theatre is trying to capitalize on.

Do you have a ritual surrounding your show? You know, a ritual meal or a certain artist you have to play?

The ritual is called ‘editing.’ Editing, editing, editing. Field recordings have plenty of post-production to them and in that we try to hone the focus and reinforce whatever themes emerge. When the broadcast is ready, then I breathe a bit.

How long have you been doing Stray Theatre? What drew you to take on this show?

We began in January 2016, when Jan Lindner, our Underwriting Manager, introduced me to the Playhouse Performers of Boise. I blame her powers of persuasion. They had just finished performing a public domain play by George M. Cohen called Seven Keys to Baldpate. We recorded a live work-up at the Radio Boise studios, literally spent 60 hours post-producing and adding foley to it, and, boom, a theme-based, weekly show was born.

For those who may not be familiar with your show, how would you describe Stray Theatre’s sound?

It’s more the community’s show than my show. I would call it bric-a-brac, but in a more gathered way. I really do hope the show is beginning to capture the breadth of the valley from a performance standpoint. One week you might hear an author reading at The Modern Hotel’s Campfire Stories, the next week you might hear a recording from Storyfort or Story Story Night, the next week an original radio play by Metamorphosis Performing Arts Studios or Greg Hampikian. Truly a potpourri of all things literary, performative and dramatic that are going on here in the valley, as the show promo itself (mostly) says.

Wait – aren’t you Radio Boise’s Programming Director, too?

Whaaa? I never heard that. The rumor mill is quite ferocious out there.

Okay. Yes. It’s a fun and demanding job.

How did you discover Radio Boise?

Oh man. Pathology. Pure pathology. I was a student DJ at the old KBSU before it became an NPR affiliate. Not a darned thing wrong with NPR, but the loss of freeform radio stuck with me. I saw the website for the fledgling Boise Radio Community Project and showed up at the next meeting. This was 2004. I’ve been with Radio Boise ever since.

What other shows do you listen to?

As, yes, Program Director, I have to be a little politic here. One thing I will say is the sheer range of programming and great show execution simply astounds me. From the eerie cathedral of Strange Feeling to the mesmerizing electronica of Toast ‘n’ Jam to the deep Bedouin jams of Global Grooves, I think there’s a sanctuary for almost everyone. Every day I’m increasingly proud of what our programmers accomplish. They’re rock stars.

What other kinds of things do you do in your life?

Against my better judgment perhaps, I’m increasingly drawn to longer backpacking treks. 20 miles a day with a 25 pound pack or thereabouts. I also try to climb one largish rock face a year–sort of like extended jams, like a long Ash Ra Tempel song. It’s freeing somehow, pure lizard brain. Seems to bring me back into balance. Lots of reading and writing the occasional short story as well.

Why do you believe in volunteering for community radio is important?

I don’t think there is any niftier medium in existence. It’s receptive, light on its feet, has a completed infrastructure and continues to be a platform for all kinds of communities. Its leanness and meanness is precisely what keeps it relevant, and without volunteers it can’t fully function. Plus it feels good and you meet the most interesting people there are out there.

What sounds do you find yourself inexplicably drawn to?

My ears elude even me sometimes. I will tell you that I love a certain intersection between guitar and electronica, throbbing bass and motorik beat. German rock has a lot of these qualities and much of the Sunday show I do, Drift Correction, draws from this. But I’m no less susceptible to an irresistible earworm, either, which takes me back to Bacharach or some of his international contemporaries. New music has plenty of this too. Newer bands are so utilitarian it sometimes borders on genius.

You can tune into “Stray Theatre” every Sunday evening, 5:30 – 6:00 p.m., or stream anytime!

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