Ira Glass has perhaps one of the most recognizable voices in America. But, like most of us in radio, he is rarely visible to his audience. He decided to come out from behind the curtain for a special program, “The Invisible Made Visible,” which was on stage in front of a live audience, and broadcast live to movie theaters across the country.
And unlike on radio, this show is all about the visuals. There's animation, dancers, and backdrops that were individually designed to appear on a rear project screen during each story.
"Well we just thought like, we've got 70,000 people in movie theaters all over North America and Australia, and it would be fun to have everybody do something all at once that would celebrate the fact that there are 70,000 of us, basically in a very big virtual room," Glass says of one particularly cool stunt. Audience members were asked to download an app on their smartphones prior to the show, which was then used to create music with OK Go. The band is infamous for their humorous and playful music videos.
"Being on a stage in front of people is so dramatically different from being in a studio," Glass says. "You lose something, for sure, in the power and intimacy, but I think you also gain something." He gives the example of David Rakoff's story about getting cancer. Though Glass thinks it lost some power for not being in the silence of a studio, there was one moment where Rakoff broke into dance. Though Ira Glass described this on the radio program, it doesn't quite translate.
"That's the weird thing about radio, is you can just tell yourself how you did," Glass says. "There's no literal audience to contend with." But in spite of the nerve wracking experience of trying to synthesize so many different people, and cues, Glass says he enjoyed the challenge.
"I think if you're lucky in the work you're doing, in any kind of job, sometimes you get to try something that's really really hard, and you don't really know if it's going to work," Glass says. "And that's definitely what this show was… And that was the fun of it I guess."
The film, which features Tig Nataro, David Rakoff, OK Go, David Sedaris, and others, is now available online to stream or download.