Phindie’s in Town: New Website Covers Philadelphia Independent Theater
There’s a new place to go for Philadelphia theater coverage: Phindie! Phindie (www.phindie.com) is a website that features reviews, articles, reflections, and the like on theater arts and performing arts more generally. At the helm of Phindie is Christopher Munden who has been covering theater for a number of outlets over the past few years–and been a theatergoer all of his life. He wanted to have a site that coalesced his work, and that of others, and where he could showcase some new projects, like a podcast series with local theater artists. We caught up with the British born, but Philly suburb-raised Christopher to get the scoop on Phindie.
FringeArts: What made you start Phindie?
Christopher Munden: I started Phindie for a few reasons: to get more editorial control over theater and arts writing in the city, to house a new conversational podcast series, and yes: to help address the dearth of coverage of theater and arts in Philadelphia.
The site launched with a backlog of 120 articles by me and other writers, drawn from often-defunct websites, covering theater, dance, writing, and museum exhibits. For now, my focus is on independent theater, with occasional and growing coverage of other arts. I want to bring contemporary and fresh voices to this coverage, writing that acknowledges it is 2013 and it’s the internet.
FringeArts: How has it been going so far? What’s been the reaction?
Christopher Munden: With anything like this, it’s a bit like throwing a snowball into a snowstorm, it’s hard to know what mark it made, if any, but the small reaction I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. I have a slow-burning strategy for the first few months, but I was surprised at the immediate reception. I had a soft launch, posted a few new articles, and told a couple friends, and with a day or two I had PR people contacting me for coverage, theaters putting a Phindie credit in their promotional emails, and over 100 visits a day. Also, I was in a bar after a show and two young actors told me they’d listened to and liked the podcasts. So the snowball is hitting something.
I was also surprised and happy to have some negative reaction to pieces by other writers. I was reviewing a play and my neighbor saw me taking notes. He turned out to be a retired theater professor, a huge theater fan, but old and world weary. I published some reactions he had to local plays—more visceral than critical—under a series Grumpy Professor Reviews, and these got some awesomely grumpy responses. An old guy seeing violence onstage and thinking “what the eff is this crap” is a perfectly reasonable response to a show, and sometimes that just needs to be said. I’d love to send totally unsuitable reviewers to some dance or classical or musical or absurdist pieces and capture that unfiltered reaction. I think it might be illuminatingly positive in some ways.
FringeArts: What’s coming up that you are looking forward to seeing? Any current recommendations?
Christopher Munden: I’ve seen shit-tons of Shakespeare productions, and I sometimes think companies should be banned from doing his stuff until they can prove they aren’t incompetent, but there are some great productions of his on stage right now, by the Lantern, Philadelphia Artists Collective, and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. The best of the bunch is Philly Shakes’ Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Dominick Scudera, which is a very funny show. Like, actually funny, not just your usual “Shakespeare comedy funny.”
Upcoming, I have a bunch of plays on my schedule and every single show I go to I go to hoping it will be good. I’m looking forward to Theatre Exile’s premiere of the new Bruce Graham play North of the Boulevard, which should be solidly Philly. Also to Glass: Shattered, a take on Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie by the Renegade Company, who always do interesting and challenging work.
I’m also anticipating work by a couple friends: The Gambling Room by John Rosenberg, who has an awesome ear for conversation and really captures characters within specific recent historical times (this one is set in Vietnam, but not in a way you’d expect). And Return of Confessions of a Plate and Shoe, by Josh McIlvain, whose plays are much funnier and more likable than the person*. Also, not to be fawning, but I always look forward to seeing the Fringe line-up.
Thanks Chris, and keep up the good work! We look forward to reading more Phindie.
*Ed. correction: We have on the best authority that in fact he is utterly charming in person as well.