UMN theater and dance students create podcast, bridging artistic divisions

“The Peercast” will feature arts-related news and conversations with Twin Cities creatives, intending to close the gap between programs within the UMTAD department.

by Nina Raemont, Associate A&E Reporter

It isn’t difficult to feel separated, physically or mentally, during a time of social distance. But for some departments on campus, this sentiment of separation existed far before the pandemic.
The University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance department (UMTAD), has witnessed a long-running divide between different arts majors, according to fourth-year theatre arts major Kyra Rahn. To mend this divide and foster a community within the arts programs, Rahn, along with other UMTAD students, created “The Peercast,” an arts-related podcast for communication, encouragement and connection within the UMTAD department.
“The Peercast” is slotted to premier on major podcasting platforms Sept. 15 and will feature arts-related news, conversations with campus creatives and much more. New episodes are slated to air every Tuesday morning,
The first episode will include a conversation with theatre faculty member Matthew J. LeFebvre. In her conversation with LeFebvre, Rahn said she hopes to discuss the transition to online learning, the challenges of the current arts world and the anti-racism training happening among faculty members.
Future episodes will welcome conversations with the UMTAD Artist of Color Coalition, Twin Cities voice actor Serena Brook, and other student and alum voices.
“In this time of separation, [“The Peercast”] is a way to remind us that we’re still a part of a greater community, and we’re here to support each other,” said fourth-year theatre arts major Katelyn McLane, the news curator for the podcast. With 30- to 40-minute weekly episodes, McLane also mentioned that the podcast aims to distribute arts-related news to students in a “palatable way.”

The UMN Dance Department’s Peer Cast members, from left, Clara Marsh, Hunter Batterson, Rachel Brees and Kyra Rahn pose for a portrait at the Rarig Center on Monday, Sep. 7. Their first podcast is set to come out on Sep. 15. (Emily Urfer)

Artists have said that that sense of connection is necessary — especially among the arts community — when live theater performance has turned virtual, meaning that dancers, actors, musicians and singers have all become distanced from their craft and their company members.
But, there has long been a divide between Bachelor of Arts students and Bachelor of Fine Arts students. Clara Marsh, a fourth-year within the UMN/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and co-host of “The Peercast,” explained how the BFA program creates exclusivity within the UMTAD department due to the intensity and rigor of each comparative program.
“The longstanding divide between BFA and BA programs is so incredibly toxic and unnecessary, so one of my goals [for the podcast] is making it so we respect each other as fellow artists,” Marsh said. “No one’s art is more or less valid than the others. So how do we support each other and make it so that we make space within each curriculum to make art together without the lines of BFA, BA and tech?”
“The Peercast” intends to bridge these gaps by putting UMTAD students in the same space and sharing the work they do.
“In this time of isolation and uncertainty,” Rahn said, “hopefully this will be a consistent update and source, shining a light on incredible people, bringing up pertinent discussions and uplifting voices to create a space that isn’t exclusive.”