Arts and Entertainment Theater

A theatrical podcast makes its stage debut Oct. 21

(Featured photo: Actors rehearse for the Gather by the Ghost Light stage debut. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News)

Ghost light – a singular light, illuminating from an otherwise darkened stage.

In 2020, as COVID shut down theaters across the world, ghost lights were the only presence in some theaters. And that theatrical void gave North Augusta’s Jonathan Cook an idea. He created the Gather By the Ghost Light podcast harkening back to the days of radio plays, where actors’ voices and sound effects carried the production.

Cook, who has written multiple award-winning plays, started with his own works and brought in friends he’d acted with or directed at Le Chat Noir, the Augusta Players and Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre.

On Saturday, he’ll try something new – record a podcast live at Le Chat Noir 304 Eighth St., beginning at 8 p.m.  Called Kingdumb, the play is one of Cook’s older works.

Sound effects will be added on stage. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

“It’s about a new king who imposes a mysterious tax,” he said.

 And the residents of the kingdom try to figure out ways to get rid of the king, so they don’t have to pay the dumb tax.

“In 2013, we did a table read-through, and I read the same part. I thought it was funny then and it’s still very funny,” said Michael Fortino, who plays the king.

Those who can’t make it to the live event can listen to the finished product later.

Since it began, Gather by the Ghost Light has expanded to includes the works of multiple playwrights including short play festival award winners. The Gather by the Ghost Light podcasts feature a play, usually between 10 and 30 minutes long, followed by an interview with the playwright. Plays come in a variety of genres.

 The longest podcast was a special one featuring an hour-long play by Cook and an interview by Robb Smith, who is also in Kingdumb.

Smith said he’s looking forward to doing the show because having an audience will provide a different dynamic. Lines actors think are funny sometimes fall flat with an audience, and audiences sometimes find humor in lines that the actors didn’t necessarily think were funny.

Cook recently created a non-profit called Gather by the Ghost Light, and his podcasts will soon be carried on the Broadway Podcast Network.

Cook said he was always in the podcast for the long haul, but what has surprised him is the reach it has seen with listeners coming from multiple countries. The new partnership should expand that global audience.

Saturday’s event isn’t the only live production he has planned for this year. In December, he plans to do a short play festival.

For tickets to Saturday’s production, go here.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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