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How to…Create a podcast

Be passionate, but keep it simple

When Assistant Professor Gerritt VanderMeer had an epiphany as a college sophomore and switched his engineering major to theater, he knew he’d go on to teach acting. But he didn’t foresee that he would create a long-running, successful podcast.

Called “The State of Shakespeare,” the podcast continues today with downloadable audio files in which Fort Myers-based VanderMeer and his New York business partner, Jim Elliott, use Skype to interview notable actors, directors, scholars and lovers of the Bard.

“It’s our geek fest,” says VanderMeer, an Indianapolis-raised professional performer who received a B.A. in theatre from Purdue University and an MFA in acting from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.  His professional acting experience includes – you guessed it – lots of Shakespeare, Broadway productions and TV shows such as “Law & Order” and “The Good Wife.” Currently he’s with the Florida Repertory Theatre PlayLab2017. VanderMeer also serves as Theatre Program Leader in the Bower School of Music & the Arts; he joined FGCU in 2012.

The monthly podcast started in 2010. “I knew I wanted to be a professor. Scientists produce research, historians write books, I wanted to talk to people who took 400-year-old-words and turned them into living, breathing things.”

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Gerritt VanderMeer’s podcast tips:

Be passionate about your topic: If it’s a niche topic, all the better. “When the hosts’ enthusiasm for the subject matter becomes infectious, that’s when listeners keep coming back.” You will meet others who are equally as passionate.

Don’t overspend: The “State of Shakespeare” duo invested too much on digital equipment initially. Today they spend about $100 a year to maintain their website, use a $30 headset with a microphone and depend on a multi-track voice recorder. They use the Internet to book interviews, do research and Skype with subjects. They edit the 60- to 90-minute sessions down to 20-minute podcasts and upload them.

Count on a small audience first: Things grow organically, he says. They started out interviewing friends who were Shakespearian actors. Then literary agents and theater media handlers began contacting them.

Enhance your podcast with educational extras: At stateofshakespeare.com, listeners find learning-enrichment materials and a link to the podcasts. Elliott and VanderMeer select a passage of text each month to explore and offer links to resources. Students, teachers, directors and scholars frequent the site.

Enjoy it: “We get a lot out of it – we are interested in the subject matter and have access to some people we probably never would have had access to. It’s a niche audience. We are not on anyone’s Nielsen (ratings) radar. But on Facebook and Twitter we hear from listeners.” Plus, he added, it’s nice to receive a “thank you” complimentary ticket or two to a New York show occasionally, too.

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