Sunday, June 25, 2017

Flat Circle Interview With Philadelphia Podcast Festival Co-Founder Teagan Kuruna

The 5th Annual Philadelphia Podcast Festival takes place from July 14-23. Festival co-founder Teagan Kuruna (founded with Nathan Kuruna) answered a few questions about this year’s festival, podcasts, and her own podcast Teagan Goes Vegan:

The Philadelphia Podcast Festival is organized by the Philadelphia Podcasting Society. What are the goals the Philadelphia Podcasting Society has in mind when organizing the festival every year?
We know that Philadelphia is an incredibly creative city, and that lots of great independent media is being produced here. We created the festival as a way to showcase the podcasts that people are making and to give podcasters and their fans an opportunity to meet each other. We’re both big podcast enthusiasts, so we understand the really cool, intimate connection between the creators and listeners, and being able to facilitate interactions between the groups is really fun for us.

This year is the fifth edition of the Philadelphia Podcast Festival. Has the festival evolved since it first began? If so, how has it changed?
The basic structure is the same: podcasters do live shows, we record it for them so they can release the live show as an episode, and fans come out to see them record. The biggest difference is the scale. Our first year, we had twelve live shows at a single venue. This year, we have 60+ podcasts recording at nine venues. This year, we’ve also added some podcasts from outside the Philadelphia area that have a national following. We hope that having podcasts like Sawbones, Call Your Girlfriend, and The Flop House helps spread the word about the Festival and creates some “cross-pollination” that gets people who listen to the national shows to check out some of the great media being produced right here in Philly.

There are a large variety of podcasts that are being featured in this year’s festival. When organizing the podcasts for the festival is there an emphasis on creating a diverse lineup?
We do keep an eye out for diversity. The default assumption is that podcasts are all about movies and comics, or are just a bunch of white guys talking, or are really polished like RadioLab or Serial or This American Life. We know that’s not the case, and especially not in Philly. This year we have the most diverse set of podcasts we’ve ever had. Our 2017 lineup includes podcasts about art, history, sex, books, pop culture, sports, Philly culture, true crime, comedy, and more. 

There are also many Philadelphia-area podcasts that are featured in the festival. Do you feel that the festival plays a role in growing the local podcast community?
We certainly hope so! After last year’s Festival, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of Philly podcasters sitting in as guests on other Philly podcasts. We also run a Facebook group for local podcasters, the Philadelphia Podcasting Society, that’s pretty active.

Podcasts are one of the fastest-growing mediums in entertainment. Why have they become so popular this quickly?
In my unscientific view, podcasts are popular because they are almost always independently produced and are incredibly niche. If you’re interested in families playing Dungeons and Dragons together, there’s a podcast for that. If you’re into intersectional feminism, there’s a podcast for that. There’s a podcast about pretty much anything you’re interested in.
There’s also a real intimacy that comes along with listening to podcasts. Many people listen to podcasts while they’re commuting, driving, or are alone. Especially when podcasts are released regularly, spending that much time one-on-one with people, even if they’re just voices on an MP3 file, builds a connection. And podcasters are real people like you and me, not fictional characters, so it’s a different connection than you might feel watching TV or a movie.

In addition to working with the Philadelphia Podcast Festival, you also host your own podcast, Teagan goes Vegan. Why did you decide to become a vegan and why did you decide to build a podcast around being a vegan?
I became and stay vegan for ethical reasons. I think it’s wrong to make other beings suffer so I can have a cheeseburger. I created the podcast because the more I learned about being vegan, the more I realized how differently people approach the lifestyle. I wanted to learn from people--what motivated them, what was hard for them, what they love most about being vegan. Ultimately, I’m just really interested in people and this was a good reason to talk to people all over the world about their values.

You are a vegan. I am more in the “meat and potatoes” category. How would you advise someone on the other side of the food pyramid if they were looking into becoming a vegan?
Well, I myself was a “meat and potatoes” kind of a gal for almost all of my life. I never met a burger I didn’t like, so I feel uniquely qualified to answer this question! For me, once I learned about the ways that we torture animals--and yes, it is torture--to get our meat, dairy, and eggs, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I could no longer consume any of those items.
I think that anyone who has even an inkling that something might be wrong with the way we raise animals for food, you owe it to yourself to learn a little more about what it really takes to make buffalo wings and cheesesteaks. I appreciated reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Personally, I can’t stomach the videos of slaughterhouses (realizing how disgusted I was by the videos was yet another reason I knew I had to become vegan), but many vegans point to Earthlings or Mercy for Animals’ undercover videos as their primary motivators.
Also, if you really like the taste and texture of meat, try some well-made seitan! It’s shockingly meaty and really hits the spot. Blackbird’s cheesesteak is a great place to start if you’re in Philly.

As someone who hosts a podcast, how do events like the Philadelphia Podcast Festival benefit your show?
First of all, it’s fun to have a live audience. It’s a different energy than recording in the studio. Secondly, I can be creative with the content. Last year, I did a taste test of vegan cheeses and ice creams that was really fun and interactive, and a total departure from the standard interview format of my podcast. This year, I won’t be doing a live show (too many other Festival activities going on) but I’m thinking about next year already!

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