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Ira Glass Tells Stories, This Time With Dancers

'This American Life' host Ira Glass and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass team up for a stage performance Nov. 1-2 at the Edison Theater in St. Louis.
Courtesy of Washington University

“This American Life” host Ira Glass describes his weekly radio show as “movies for the radio.” Now he’s bringing his radio and dance stage performance to St. Louis.

“One of the problems from the beginning of the show is that when you describe it, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be good,” Glass said of “This American Life.” “The easiest way to describe it, I’ve found, it to say it’s like movies for the radio. It’s like movies for radio where there’s characters and scenes and stories and plot and you hopefully get caught up in the characters and you want to find out what will happen. And they’re funny and emotional and that’s what we’re trying to do. And they’re true stories, so this is journalism, but presented as a drama.”

Glass’ “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host,” with dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, follows a similar format.

“I saw (Barnes and Bass) perform — I saw one of their shows,” Glass told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter. “And I had this experience that I’d never had at a dance show where I thought the things that we are shooting for on the radio show, they are doing exactly. There’s a documentary quality to their work where they’re capturing moments of everyday life, but they’re entertainers — they’re out for fun; they’re really funny; they’re really expressive. You really connect with them emotionally when you see them perform. Watching them, I really had this feeling of ‘Oh, this is just like what we do except they don’t use words.’ If people like our show, they’re going to like them.”

Barnes, Bass and Glass first collaborated nearly two years ago. Their first performance was at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“It was a crazy thing to do,” Glass said of that first performance. “It was sort of an amazing experience to be on that famous stage. It’s all been downhill since. Basically we’ve been going to lesser venues now for over a year and a half.”

Glass said “Three Acts” is “a real show.”

“There’s like lighting changes and costume changes and props and sets and stuff,” he said. “Sometimes I’m talking and they’re dancing at the same time. Sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes it’s just them.”

Whether on stage or in a studio behind a microphone, it comes down to telling stories, and that’s something Glass knows how to do.

“You need somebody you can relate to,” he said when asked what makes a good story. “Things have to happen to happen to that person, and things have to be surprising. And then, you know, it has to go somewhere — they have to learn something or change. At least they have to learn something. They have to have some new thought at the end of the story that they didn’t have at the beginning. And then it’s good if it’s funny at some parts and sad at other parts. I’m a particular sucker for that.”

Related Event

Edison Theatre’s Ovation Series presents “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host”

  • When: 8 p.m. Nov. 1, 2014; 2 p.m. Nov. 2, 2014
  • Where: Edison Theatre at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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