It’s always so much fun finding someone who shares your same passion for something. Geeking out together over things that only someone in the fandom would understand is such an underrated form of therapy and I’m so glad that I got to do it with the creator of ElsieCast, Rachel Ferat.
Note from Rachel: Hello. This is my first interview and I’m excited to see it out in the world. I started Elsie Cast, a fan podcast about Broadway, musicals, and most of all Elsie Fest, in October 2016. I’m proud to say I’m about to record my 40th episode of the podcast. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot, seen a whole bunch of musicals (yay!) and even made some friends. Most of all, I found out it’s a lot of fun to ask people about the things they love, and it’s always a good idea to tell someone when you enjoy something they made. I’ve been a fangirl of many different things in my life, notably Batman, horses, board games, dogs, Dirty Dancing, The Monkees, and Dan Savage. I think it’s great to celebrate what you love, whatever it may be. #MakeMoreArt
Podcast: https://elsiepod.wordpress.com/ | Twitter: @elsiepod
So let’s just jump right into the questions. If you can start by telling me about how you came up with the idea and what got you into Broadway and Elsie Fest.
Oh goodness. Well, Broadway goes all the way back. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love musicals. My mom is very interested in theater and film. And so I watched classic musicals, I remember being three and four. And back then in the 70s, you know, there weren’t rental videos and such. So my mom would find them wherever they were. We used to go out to Long Island, um, Friday nights I think it was, at the library, they would show classic films. We would watch Fred Astaire and Marx Brothers.
I saw my first Broadway show when I was in kindergarten, which was Peter Pan. I have a vague memory of standing at a booth, it might have been the TKTS booth and deciding between Annie and Peter Pan. I just madly fell in love and played Peter Pan like every day at recess and all of that. So the love of musicals goes all the way, all the way back.
Elsie Fest, I had watched the first half of the first season of Glee, when it aired. Then they had like a long hiatus in the middle. I think that must have been when we stopped watching television and started watching Netflix. So I just sort of forgot about it and moved on.
Then we decided to watch it with our daughter two years ago and talked her into it cause she liked Chris Colfer’s books.
Through that, I started getting interested in Chris Colfer and Darren Criss. When I first heard that Darren Criss was doing a music festival, I thought whatever. Like he’s into all kinds of music and I’m not that into music. So fine, whatever, that’s interesting. But then I heard there was a Broadway music festival and it sort of clicked into place.
I was like “oh okay, that’s that. I have to go!”
So I went in 2016 and there was this amazing energy in the room. It’s like that at any kind of nerd event you know. I’ve been to Star Trek convention and it’s that same kind of energy where people loving the same thing are all together. I think part of the reason Elsie Fest is nice is that it’s still new. So there’s no gatekeeper. There’s no like snobbery you know, like “oh you’re not a fan because you weren’t at the first one or something like that”.
I remember sitting there [at Elsie Fest] and the people I had come with had left. I was sitting there by myself like late in the day. Just way in the back looking around the room and they were so many different types of people there. Two guys kissing, like middle-aged guys, but like kissing in the aisle. And then there was like a four-year-old kid running around being chased by his father. There was a straight couple over there too. The performers were very diverse in 2016 and so the audience was diverse too.
I just loved it and I wanted more. I got frustrated that they didn’t have a podcast because that seemed like a no-brainer to me. Like they would announce who’s gonna be performing at Elsie Fest on it and then they should interview the performers on there. It didn’t even need to be a year-round podcast but like, it seemed really obvious to me.
I remember my daughter saying to me at the time, “you can’t just put something on iTunes and expect people to listen.” I was like, “no, it’s 2016. I can do that” and so I knew it was gonna happen. But I started out completely for free. So I said why not. You know?
Yeah. I mean it sounds like you’ve gotten a lot of great response so far.
Well, it’s still small. I think my biggest episode has 400 plays. But I’ve gotten over a thousand Twitter followers and it’s reached the point where it’s really fun. It’s like you know people know about the podcast. I mean, not like everywhere, but you go to, say, BroadwayCon and more people have heard of it. Like, last year at BroadwayCon, everyone was asking me, “oh are you Elsie?” And I was just like, “Um…no.”
I only got that once at this BroadwayCon so I feel like progress has been made.
That’s awesome. I mean, I did think, when I first heard about Elsie Cast and Elsie Fest, I was like, “is Elsie the person? Why is it called that?”
I know. Darren is terrible at naming things. Or brilliant at naming things, it’s one or the other. But like, everything he names is impossible to Google. I’m like, “Computer Games”? Seriously?
Cause it causes confusion really.
Like, what are you doing?
I think he just wants to confuse his fans really. I think he just takes joy in that.
But I mean, people have said, “well you know Coachella didn’t mean anything until, you know, they made it mean something”. But that’s part of my point too! It’s like unless you put Elsie Fest in people’s face every day and associate it with Broadway, it’s never gonna mean anything. So I guess I’m doing that for them. But at least somebody’s doing it.
I mean it’s very tough to start something from scratch. Did you find it difficult to get guests and viewers? And kind of put the word out there that you’re doing this podcast?
Yeah, it’s difficult. It’s still difficult but I have reached the point where I no longer panic about whether I will have a guest in two weeks. That was at the beginning. I just wasn’t sure I would be able to find someone within two weeks to even come on. Now, I actually a few people that sort of wanna come on but don’t really fit. And I may or may not get to them and but at least I know I can call them up. I’m just not worried.
Like right now, I’m working on a few things and you know they’re gonna pan out. I don’t know when, you know, exactly but, it’s yeah, I’m not panicking about that. But if it hadn’t been for the Darren Criss Army, I don’t know how I would have started. Because literally, the first four episodes would not have happened without them.
You know they have 16,000 followers which makes a huge difference and they help build my following too. So it’s really helped with getting people on the podcast because I can say, well, I now have well over a thousand Twitter followers.
And that’ll convince, I don’t want to say a certain level of people because that’s like … but you know what I mean … a certain level of fame helps to convince certain people by itself. But when I started, I only had 30 followers. So when Darren Criss Army retweeted my stuff it definitely helped.
Yeah, it definitely must have been so much fun interviewing and speaking with Joaquin Sedillo too because I actually reached out to him when I moved to LA and talked to him. He’s such a sweet guy and the interview was so so sweet.
Thank you. Yeah, he was incredible. We actually had some difficulty in scheduling things but he bent over backward to apologize to me and make it right. I don’t want to go into it too much and what not but yeah, he’s super sweet.
Yeah, it’s very cute. Speaking of Glee, you also managed to talk with Jenna Ushkowitz. Talk to me about that and that experience.
Jenna was incredible. I just happened to see her on Twitter, and like, you can tell when someone’s on there, you know, for a minute and not just not leaving one tweet and leaving. So I just threw it out there, which I do all the time, like, “hey, do you want to come on my podcast”? And I think because she’s a podcaster herself, she was like, “yeah sure, let’s do this”.
She followed me so I could DM her and you know, we’re DM-ing. We basically figured out that Sunday was the best time for her to talk to me. I think it was like 10 a.m. on a Sunday cause that was the only free time she had.
She just really gives you her entire attention. I don’t know, I felt like a lot of her heart was in that interview which was really nice of her. Yeah, the whole experience was amazing.
You know, I sort of dreamed about, as I said before, the initial idea was that there should be Elsie performers on the podcast. But I knew that was gonna be hard. I sort of thought that if I jump on it fast enough… like if they had announced Keala, for example, earlier than they did and I had jumped on it right away, I might have been able to get her attention because she was only Broadway famous then.
Now, she’s really busy. And like, if I had asked Corey Cott before 2016, then like, he might have done it. So it’s kind of like, all the people that are Broadway famous, maybe I can get to them. You know, Julie James came on and that was really cool. But Jenna was just like, “yeah. there’s no problem! Yes, like oh okay.”
Yeah, that’s really cool but it also sounds like there wasn’t even like any planning at all. Like just message and then like that Sunday.
There was some planning. Like, I sent her an outline and stuff. So there was something. Curt Mega, there was no planning. That was ridiculous. I mean, Curt Mega, because he’s so busy…you know, he just has so many projects going on and he teaches. And he just does all these things. So he kept saying, “yeah I’m gonna come on but we have to find a time”.
And then he just randomly tweeted on Friday afternoon, “like I’m sitting around in my underwear” or something and I’m like now would be a good time. I was like, “I’ll be home from work at this time,” and he was like, “yeah alright I can do that”.
So I like raced home from work and interviewed him with nothing. You know, we just talked and he wound up interviewing me for half of it because he had just done something for his own podcast.
Gosh, that’s crazy. I can’t imagine it’s easy to juggle all these different parts of your life. Like your podcast, your job, and you’re a mom as well…
That’s why I keep the podcast every other week. I did do it every week for four or five weeks but then, I just turned to my husband and said, “I can’t do this.” Like, it started impacting my family at that point. But every other week is doable without, you know, too much.
I mean, everybody has hobbies and things. You don’t have to be with your family every second. I mean, last weekend I took Friday off from work. And then there were three days of BroadwayCon and then I had a pretty stressful week at work this week. You know, so now it’s finally the weekend. It was a long week.
That’s basically it. It’s a lot of fun to talk to people about what they love, it really is. Well, that’s what you do too so you know.
I’ve met all these cool people and like, to be at BroadwayCon and see Julie James walking around doing on-the-spot interviews, and then get to say hi to her. She gave me this big hug because I had interviewed her earlier, and that’s pretty cool.
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So you know, it’s fun. And I guess I had never been a Broadway fangirl before because when I was a kid, there was no BroadwayCon. And there was no Elsie Fest. So you could be a Broadway fan and you could go to every stage door but it didn’t necessarily feel like you were a part of something. Not like it is when you’re at BroadwayCon or Elsie Fest. I must have talked to hundreds of people, which is not my natural style. But it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and meet people so that’s really cool. I think I got off topic of the question.
Well, you’ve actually segued into another question because I was going to ask about how doing this podcast has kind of changed you as a person. Not like your life but you personally as a person.
So yeah, that’s the thing. I always say, when people ask me, one of the reasons I went ahead and started this podcast, even though I knew it’d be a ton of work, is that I had lots of goals in mind.
Sometimes people say, “what is your goal with the podcast?”
I’m like well, who knows. Maybe Darren will hire me and pay me less get Elsie Fest finally organized. Then I’ll run the whole thing and we’ll be best friends and I’ll get to sit on the Glee couch. Like I don’t know what’s my goal.
But I’m terrible at calling people and asking for things. I get really shy about it. So I thought, if I have this podcast, I will have to constantly ask strangers for things and that’s really good practice.
I think I have gotten somewhat better about that. I’ve learned a lot about running a small business. Even though there’s no money in this, it’s all the other stuff. I’ve definitely made friends which is really fun. So yeah, those are the things I guess.
I don’t know… like… I accomplished this thing, you know? And I continue to accomplish this thing. I’m almost at 40 episodes. I was just thinking about that last night. That’s crazy!!
Yeah, that’s huge. Like even if no one listens to it, just to do it like 40 times is a huge accomplishment in itself.
Like, I made a thing once or every two weeks. I make this thing and that’s cool, you know. So it started out like, since nobody was listening, just that I made a thing. But now, yeah, you know what’s nice is… I was at BroadwayCon handing out Twizzlers with my Kid. We were handing out Twizzlers that had information about my podcast. Usually, I hand them out and people are like, “oh what’s this” and I tell them. But there was this woman who saw me and said, “You’re ElsieCast. Can I give you a hug? You have saved me from so many boring bus rides.”
No yeah. I feel like that’s something that people don’t really think about when you think about fans or fandom. Like making things you love or talking and sharing with others about things that you love is just really neat. I wanted to actually talk a little bit about what it means to be a fan versus a fangirl versus like being in a fandom. Does that make sense?
Because I think you kind of touched on it earlier about how Broadway, you kind of could be a fan of it, but up until recently with ElsieCast and BroadwayCon, there wasn’t this whole community that came with it. Like you’re just kind of in it alone and internalizing it. I’m not sure if that makes sense.
In some ways. I mean, there always was a Broadway community but it was people that lived nearby. Yeah, there were people who went to Sardis and there always were, you know, Broadway hangouts around the city. So there were things like that but you had to be physically right there. Also, most of it happened after theater, like, that’s when you hung out with theater people. And I am NOT a late night person. So that was not gonna be my scene.
It’s why BroadwayCon is kind of awesome for me because I don’t often stagedoor. It’s just because it’s late and we’re tired. So I don’t get a lot of autographs except at BroadwayCon because they’re there during the day. Plus, it’s nice to be able to tell someone, “I’ve loved your work for a long time.” Like I met Donna Lynne Champlin and got to tell her about my podcast. My latest episode was about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and I got to tell her about it. I don’t know if she’ll listen or tell anybody else but at least I was able to tell somebody associated with the show that I made this thing and it’s out there.
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Mm-hmm yeah. I think for me personally, I really loved BroadwayCon and just like conventions, in general, because they’ve become a lot more, not mainstream per say, but popular and accepted. I remember growing up scared of sharing or telling anyone that I was a fan of Broadway or that I was a huge Harry Potter nerd because it always felt stigmatized. To me anyway. I don’t know if you can relate to that.
No, I definitely can. I mean, I don’t know what the word is, but I’m such a nerd that I’m not good at realizing when I’m being stigmatized sometimes anyway. But no, I always was weird as a kid. And that’s the thing.
I don’t know if you’re into Star Trek at all … No, I’m not…
But Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek Next Generation, he is a huge nerd, and obviously spent his entire adult life going to Star Trek Cons. It was really him that brought me into the fandom lifestyle or whatever you call it because … he writes about it so well. He did this great speech about being a nerd and he said, “being a nerd is about loving what you love and that’s it”.
Like, he is really anti-gatekeeper and you know in Star Trek fandom and the gaming he’s generally into, there’s a lot of sexism and elitism. He’s been really battling against that and you know the whole term fangirl itself is very …there’s a lot of issues attached to it.
But he basically just says that:
if you love this thing and you love it really hard then you belong here. That’s it. That’s the only qualification that you need. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what gender you are or how long you’ve been loving it. If you love this thing then that’s it.
I really like that as a philosophy and it’s something I definitely feel at both Elsie Fest and BroadwayCon. Like you’re there because you love it. And, you know there’s so much on Broadway that someone who loves Phantom of the Opera may not have much in common, or anything at all, with someone who loves, I don’t know, Kinky Boots. But they can hang out together and enjoy what they love next to each other because it’s all just Broadway.
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I mean, the theater community has always been really accepting of people who are different, that’s part of what it is and so that’s cool. I think it translates well into having a con and into this sort of modern fandom lifestyle or whatever you want to call it.
Yeah. I don’t know what your thoughts are on this but I actually really love the fact that now there are these live musicals on TV. I feel like it’s bringing more people into the fandom. Because sometimes you can be a fan or a fangirl but feel like you’re not really part of the fandom because you don’t have the money or you can’t go to these conventions or go to the shows.
Yeah and that’s something I found while interviewing a couple of people from this one Facebook group. There’s a lot of young people on there and of course, they’re around the world because it’s Facebook. But a lot of the conversation ends up focusing on bootlegs and whether they’re okay.
I’ll just say I don’t think they’re okay. Artists should be paid for their work and I don’t think we all necessarily deserve or are entitled to see a Broadway show. It’s expensive sure, but it’s also the best of the best in terms of production. You know, people get paid to perform and people get paid to design those sets. I always try to say to people that there’s actually no difference between going to a show on Broadway and going to your community theater down the street. Yes, I guess Broadway’s probably more commercial, which is good and bad, you know, it just is.
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What I do love about this resurgence of musicals is that they’re everywhere. It’s amazing and I’m trying to cover this on the podcast. I personally love that there are musicals on television and that you have these televised live musical events.
Plus, there is now Elsie Fest, which you know, is still not cheap particularly if you don’t live around here but you can get in for 60 bucks.You know, for a live show that’s pretty good.
But I got to say I saw him live. Plus, Alan Cumming and Lea Michele, Darren Criss, I mean it’s insane. So yeah, I love all of it. I mean some [musical events on TV] are better than others and so forth but as a phenomenon. Yeah. I think it’s great.
People get into these arguments over whether they like one better than the other and they get at each other’s throats but like, even the bad stuff is good. Because that means people are trying new things and it’s getting out there.
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And the other thing is, it’s more jobs, which means more people are getting a chance to show what they can do. More people are able to make a living in this crazy industry and that’ll just get more talent and more people. So yeah, I think it’s all good.
So let’s say you are a closeted Broadway fangirl, or maybe you’re not but you’re just completely broke or like you’re living at home with parents who don’t share your passion for musicals. What kind of advice or tips do you have for these people who want to embrace this fangirl lifestyle but feel like they can’t for one reason or another?
Oh goodness, all the way in the closet is hard but without money, there’s still a lot of stuff you can do. If you have access to a computer, first of all, Spotify is amazing. Like so many cast recordings are on Spotify. I also like checking things out that way. Like, I don’t know if I want to buy it but let me listen to it on Spotify and see.
There are also movie musicals going all the way back. You can go to your library and rent some of older musicals. Like all of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers stuff, all of the Marx Brothers stuff is amazing. James Cagney, people don’t realize how amazing he was in musicals. I mean there’s just so much. If you go through Glee, you can pull out all of the references in there and go back to the source material.
What’s really cool about watching older movies is that people have already sorted out the crap. So the stuff that’s still around is all pretty much good. You know, when you’re going to a new movie, you’re taking a chance. But when you’re watching something that’s 50 years old, you can find out what it is and what people think of it.
So I definitely recommend that. Um, I mean there’s tons of Facebook groups and a lot of, for some reason, Twitter seems to be the place for Broadway. I don’t know why but it does. I mean and podcasts. There are endless ways to get involved.
One of the really cool things about being a Broadway fan is that it’s a smaller fandom. So you can often get a response on Twitter from your favorite star. Again, not if they’re also a TV star because then they get, you know, they get bigger. But if you just tweet somebody who is only known for Broadway, there’s a really good chance you can actually have a little Twitter conversation with them. Like, whenever I tweet a show, sometimes they retweet it which is always fun.
And I do giveaways on Twitter all the time. Sure I do it to get followers, it’s not like some secret thing, you know. I’m trying to build up my brand but then it turns out I love doing it. Because you mail a playbill to someone in Egypt and they say, “this is the first piece of Broadway I’ve ever touched”. And like, to me, it’s any other magazine, you know. I read it and then it floats around my house. Eventually, it gets recycled but then it becomes another person’s treasured possession and that’s a wonderful feeling.
So um, yeah, those are things that you can do to feel more included I guess
No yeah, those are some great suggestions. My last question for you is… how would you describe the “fandom lifestyle” and why do you personally choose to embrace and live this lifestyle?
Okay, so fandom lifestyle, I guess, is doing things specifically designated to connect with other fans who love the same thing. So that can be a huge variety of activities like interacting on Twitter or Facebook. Um, when you connect with certain people by writing or reading fanfiction. Like, if you’re actively reading and commenting and participating in it. Going to cons, certainly making and consuming podcasts… really anything where you’re actively pursuing other people’s opinions, other people’s imaginations and thoughts about a particular thing, I think would constitute the fandom lifestyle. Um, what was the second part of that question?
Why do you personally engage in this lifestyle?
Well, it’s because I always over thought everything. So if I watched a TV show and connected with it at all, I would begin to think about it nonstop. And then I would get really frustrated.
You know, when I was young and really into soap operas, I would get really frustrated when they would change a character in a way that felt unnatural. Almost like they broke their own rules. Because you know, if you set up a character, you can change them, sure, but they have to go through a process that’s realistic.
They can’t just, you know, change overnight otherwise you have to explain it. Because people can change overnight if they have like a brain tumor or something but you have to explain the sudden change. So I would get really frustrated with those things and then came to find out that there were other people who do that too.
I actually got into an argument on Twitter this morning about why Burt never made a get a ring on it joke and Blaine put a ring on it twice!! But the fact that I could talk about that with people who knew what I was talking about, whether they agreed with me or not, it’s fun.
I also love seeing the things people make. Like, I took my daughter to a Star Trek Con because she started making a comic strip of Deep Space Nine and I was like, “oh you have to go meet these other people who do this”. She was, I don’t know, maybe, ten at that time?
But I was like, you need to know that there’s a long history of making stuff about Star Trek and you’re now part of it. Even though it’s just a doodle. But yeah, I just love being around that level of enthusiasm and passion. I love knowing too much about something and I love that there are a number of ways to love something.
I was walking around BroadwayCon and saw that somebody invented a machine to teach people to sing harmony. That’s really cool!! I’m not gonna buy one but it’s really cool that somebody made that and it exists. It will help people be better at what they want to do.
Yeah, I completely agree with everything that you’ve said. Thank you so much for doing this interview. Do you have any like last minute thoughts or anything to say to readers?
I mean, I’m selling stuff on Zazzle which helps me pay for shipping. Because all of my giveaways are free, anywhere in the world. I want to keep those giveaways free. But I need money to pay for the shipping so if people have money to spare and they like something in my shop, that’s where the money goes so anyone can take a look at that.
Other than that, just follow me on Twitter and of course, keeping listening to ElsieCast.
Awesome! Well, thank you so much. Definitely, keep in touch and keep making ElsieCast, because I love it.
Thank you! I’m glad you do. I’m excited about this interview. It’s been fun.