Ira Glass of “This American Life” takes new direction with show at State Theatre

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2013 - 6:09 PM

Ira Glass of “This American Life” hitches his gift for words with the vocabulary of dance in a new show coming to the State Theatre.


Monica Bill Barnes, Ira Glass and Anna Bass in “One Radio Host, Two Dancers” at the State Theatre.

Imagine Ira Glass’ voice in your head. The halting, self-deprecating cadence … of a man … who finds life amusing … amazing sometimes … but always interesting in its rhythms and narratives. Glass’ curiosities are the intellectual spine of “This American Life,” the radio magazine that airs on Minnesota Public Radio … on Saturday afternoons … when most people are out mowing their lawns … or buying that week’s groceries — anything but listening to the radio.

Well, that’s not entirely true. “This American Life” is broadcast nationally on more than 500 stations and heard by about 1.7 million listeners. Beyond that, it’s a popular podcast, and Glass’ ability to shepherd offbeat stories with his trademark forbearance and gentleness have resulted in awards and awareness.

Glass’ inquisitive nature and interest in “trying something new” have led him to create “One Radio Host, Two Dancers,” which lands at the State Theatre on Sunday for one night. It’s just what it sounds like. Glass telling stories with words and two dancers — Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass — telling stories with movement.

Glass, 54, took a few minutes away from his show recently to talk about his American life and this interesting side project.

Q: Can you throw a few more words onto the description of “One Radio Host, Two Dancers”?

A: It’s one of those shows that when you describe it, it doesn’t sound as good as it is. Much like the radio show I do. I tell stories, these dancers dance. Which sounds corny and awful but because of the sensibility of what they do, each element supports the other. This is funnier and more emotional than any of the other live shows I’ve worked on.

Q: Are you thinking about a stage career?

A: I know my job in public broadcasting is going well, but when Monica suggested this, and when I saw them work, I could see there was something they are doing that is very much what I’m doing, but without words. These are three-dimensional people who document these small movements of awkwardness. They are very funny and real.

Q: Do you have a theater background?

A: I was in “Guys and Dolls” in high school, but who isn’t in “Guys and Dolls” in high school?

Q: You must have lots of spare time to put these shows together.

A: Right. I work about 60 hours a week on the radio show, but I’m doing this for fun. The entire show is fun. The first time we did it was a 10-minute excerpt for a benefit at Carnegie Hall, and it killed. So now we have 90 minutes.

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    Who: Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass.

    When: 7 p.m. Sun.

    Where: State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $39.50-$64.50. State Theatre Box Office,, or 1-800-982-2787.

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