The play’s the thing … you listen to on a podcast

Launched in 2016, PlayME podcasts of contemporary Canadian works have since had over 600,000 downloads in 90 countries.

Maev Beaty records the play Bunny for a PlayME podcast. (JEREMY SALE)

It’s what makes theatre unique, but also its Catch-22: the performance happens in the moment and then it’s gone.

But what if it doesn’t have to disappear, thanks to digital technology?

This is the gambit of the PlayME podcast, the brainchild of Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley, co-artistic directors of Toronto’s Expect Theatre.

PlayME audio-records productions of contemporary Canadian plays and releases them in a series of 20- to 30-minute episodes, followed by an in-depth interview with the playwright. And by contemporary they mean up to the minute: podcasts of Hannah Moscovitch’s Bunny dropped on iTunes and other digital platforms while the stage production was still playing at Tarragon Theatre last month.

The success of the enterprise has taken Mullin and Tolley by surprise. Launched in 2016, PlayME podcasts have since had over 600,000 downloads in 90 countries. And the reach is international: more than eight out of every 10 listeners are based outside of Canada.

“People all around the world are listening to Canadian stories,” says Mullin. “There’s a hunger out there.”