After more than a year-long hiatus, the Best of Denver-winning podcast The Narrators is back. The podcast began in 2012 as a way to promote the titular group's monthly storytelling event, but it has since grown into its own entity, with 239 episodes currently available and more on the way.
“Some of these episodes that you're hearing now were pre-made up to a year ago, but we were never quite at a place where we could get a whole new season together,” says producer and co-host Ron Doyle. "We didn't want to start doing it until we were confident we had a sustainable plan to keep it going. Restarting it was something that haunted my mind every month, but we just couldn't quite get out of the funk to make it happen.”
The podcast uses content from its live storytelling show, which takes place at Buntport Theater on the third Wednesday of every month. Participants are invited to tell true, ten- to fifteen-minute stories centering on a central theme that is announced in advance.
Andrew Orvedahl in 2010 as an outlet for him to work on longer-form material. He initially would perform the show at the now-defunct Paris on the Platte in Denver, but by 2012, it had outgrown that location.
As a result, the live show relocated to Denver's Deer Pile community space above the vegan restaurant City, O' City. Robert Rutherford, a musician and writer, was brought on as a co-host during this transition, and Doyle joined as a podcast producer to help create the digital version of the live show.
“As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it immediately,” Doyle recalls. “There's something so special about watching it live; there’s just a kind of magic in the way people respond to the way people tell stories.”
They released their first podcast episode in October 2012, using two stories from the live show that month by writer Cory Casciato and comedian Mara Wiles. As they continued to release podcast episodes, word about the live show spread and led to widespread crowds at the Deer Pile.
By 2014, The Narrators needed a new spot once more. Luckily, the staff at Buntport Theater offered its space as a new home for the show, so the show-runners moved in and have been recording out of the theater ever since. That same year, Rutherford got an offer to move to San Diego that he couldn’t turn down; he left the podcast, and Doyle was asked to replace him as co-host.
The next year, Orvedahl left the podcast to move to Los Angeles, where he and fellow Grawlix comics Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Roy created the television show Those Who Can’t. The team asked Erin Rollman, a founding member of Buntport Theater, to co-host the show with Doyle.
And it kept growing. The podcast added its first intern, Sydney Crain, to the team in 2015. Crain had reached out to Doyle to see if the show needed any help, and has been his producing partner ever since. While Doyle and Rollman focus on hosting the live show, Crain takes notes about the performances to build a database of stories.
“I’m taking notes about the content and the tone of the story so that later, when we're building a season, we can search through that database and find stuff that fits together in a way that feels good to us,” Crain explains. “Ron and I select the stories together, and then it's just putting all the pieces together because I feel like a big part of the podcast is just holding up the stories that already exist from the live show. I like that we don’t edit or interact much with people’s actual stories.”
Though the live show never stopped — even during the worst of the pandemic, The Narrators would meet on Zoom or set up a PA system in the parking lot to safely meet — the team didn’t have the bandwidth to continue producing the podcast. So rather than exhaust themselves, Rollman, Doyle and Crain decided to pause the podcast while continuing to record the stories that people would tell at the live shows.
“The more time passed, the more the bank of stories grew,” Crain says. “We have over 1,000 stories recorded, and as time passed, there were just more and more stories that we didn't want to fall to the bottom of the barrel, just because of time. So it just took a while to figure out a way to dig back into the archive in a way that felt balanced to me, and not just reactive to the previous months.”
The podcast has officially ended its seventeen-month break, kicking off its sixth season with two episodes showcasing stories by Rollman and comedian David Gborie. The team intends to release three seasons in 2023, each with ten episodes and a six- to seven-week gap between seasons. This season also features new theme music from local musicians Gabby Gutierrez-Reed and Kevin Matthews, replacing the former method of finding local bands to play a song live at the end of each episode.
Denver Public Library.
The Narrators team recommends that those interested in telling a story at an upcoming show attend a performance first to get a sense of the show’s vibe before reaching out through the Facebook page or emailing [email protected] And for those looking for Narrators updates, Doyle encourages people to sign up for the mailing list, which sends out two emails a month with information about what’s going on and who’s on the lineup.
“I think that if you're looking for a connection, this is it,” Rollman concludes. “It’s a very human experience to share stories. Maybe you’ll connect with it, or maybe it’s wildly outside your sphere of experience — and both of those things are important. There are nights that you just have to have been in that room, and sometimes the best stories don’t translate to the podcast, so I like to think of the podcast as a tasting menu of the show that folks will listen to before coming to experience it in person.”
The Narrators is available on all major podcast platforms. New episodes release on Mondays, and the live show happens on the third Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street. Get tickets and find more information here.