Ira Glass pairs radio with dance at the State Theatre

Ira Glass
Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host
Historic State Theater 
Sunday, November 10

What happens when you combine radio with dance, two art forms that have no business being paired together? That was the question that spawned Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, a new live show starring This American Life host Ira Glass and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass. Glass confessed in the opening moments of the evening that the three performers were scared out of their minds for what would be their fourth show.

So, was the performance as ludicrous as the concept?

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Not at all. Proving that all art forms share a common ground, Three Acts successfully bridged the gap between a very visual art and its aural cousin. While known for his radio work, Glass proved to be an entertaining host with a strong stage presence and a flair for going off script, and, best of all, he showcased some of this own passable dance moves during the roughly 100 -minute variety show.

The night was built around his radio show, taking snippets and stories of interviews and weaving them into a larger narrative. Each piece was accented with interpretive dance, courtesy of the talented Barnes and Bass. The performances could feel distracting during some moments, but at others the spotlight was rightfully on the movements and expressions of the dancers, pulling away from the words.

While remaining serious about their art, distinguished dancers Barnes and Bass were clearly having fun, which is what a radio/dance variety show is all about. Glass later emphasized this idea, presenting recorded interviews of the dancers themselves. The bit took a look inside artistic creation while simultaneously displaying those ideas onstage.

The tone of the night was direct and personal. Glass spoke of his co-workers, his mother, and his marriage. He also discussed Three Acts' concept, specifically referencing the challenges of live performance and the dangers of repetition, unifying the live show with the themes explored in the radio segments. While primarily known for his recorded radio program, doing the live show seemed to be a welcome change for him. "Some moments never come around a second time," he noted shortly before the big, baton-twirling, confetti-cannon close. "This is probably the only time we're going to do this."

It was clear that Three Acts isn't just a moonlighting gig. Glass imbibed in some dance steps himself, and the lighting team did a phenomenal job in casting shadows and matching his off-script moments. The sound on a few dance numbers had a touch of radio hiss, and one can only dream of how the show would be with live musical backing, though part of the charm of Three Acts is the minimalism. It was just three artists onstage, sharing a common voice through different means of communication.

Onstage, as in life, the moment comes and goes, living in memory and changing along with the viewer's recollection. For those in the audience, Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host will hopefully be remembered as a successful romp.

The Crowd: What do you think a sustaining member of NPR looks like?

Overheard In the Crowd: (tie) "My Scrabble Dictionary sometimes won't let me use words that I know are okay." "I don't think I've been here since David Sedaris."