by Eleni Hagen
In a surprising feat of meta-casting, Around the Sun, an audio drama created by playwright, actor, and producer Brad Forenza, embarks on its third season—an existential odyssey surrounding a family in mourning at Christmas—with not one, but two Angels in its ensemble: Wilson Jermaine Heredia and Jai Rodriguez. (For those Broadway babies who weren’t around in the 1990s, that’s “Angel” as in “Angel Dumott Schunard,” from Jonathan Larson’s legendary rock musical Rent.)
Forenza caught up with writer Eleni Hagen (whose credits include articles for the Kennedy Center’s Digital Learning resources) to chat about ATS, Season 3: Pinecones and how the former Angels got attached to the project.
EH: So, give us a brief rundown of Around the Sun…
BF: Around the Sun is a labor of love that was born in the early days of the pandemic. I found myself desperately wanting to connect and to create, and it occurred to me an audio drama in podcast form could help me do just that. We’ve had so many theater and musical luminaries lend their voices to it, and now we’re about to launch Season 3.
EH: What’s in store for Season 3?
BF: For the first time in ATS history, our season traces just one story arc, featuring a group of interconnected characters. It’s set around the holidays, which can, of course, be a very fraught and tension-filled time. But I wanted to pair some of that raw, bittersweet emotion with the beauty of transition, of evolution. Much of the season was actually inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life.
EH: Is that why you decided to cast two genuine “Angels”?
BF: Ha! Not exactly. One of the biggest joys of producing independent content is getting to create with artists whose work you admire. Rent was such a game-changing theatrical experience for thespians of a certain age (like me!), and Angel always seemed like the heart and soul of that show. I’ve wanted to work with both Jai and Wilson for quite some time, so I approached them—through professional channels, of course—and was delighted that they were both available for the project. That they’re both former Angels was inspired, given the Wonderful Life connection.
EH: What made you think of Heredia and Rodriguez for their ATS roles?
BF: Both Wilson and Jai possess a talent for helping audiences transcend a singular moment. The characters they play in “Cold Snap” (Episode 3) are equal parts endearing and prickly, and I wanted actors who could convey both moods while also giving the audience hints as to why they behave the way they do. An episode starring two Angels inherently comes with a wealth of compassion and introspection. The fact that they hadn’t previously starred together was truly serendipitous!
EH: When and where can listeners hear the two Angels in action?
BF: “Cold Snap” premieres on November 1, and Around the Sun: Pinecones debuts on the Broadway Podcast Network starting October 18, available wherever you listen to podcasts.
The celebrated voice acting ensemble of Around the Sun: Pinecones includes François Clemmons (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), Robert Funaro (The Irishman), Judy Gold (Kill Me Now), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Rent), Terry Hu (Zombies 3), Cady McClain (All My Children), Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde), Jai Rodriguez (Rent, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), and Brad Forenza (series creator, Around the Sun).
While Heredia and Rodriguez appear throughout the season, their principal episode (“Cold Snap”) premieres on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, via the Broadway Podcast Network and can be heard wherever you listen to podcasts. A trailer for the current season—and the entirety of previous seasons— is available here. Photo provided by Eleni Hagen.
Eleni Hagen is a writer based in Boston who specializes in providing new audiences with gateways into the performing arts. She served as contributing writer and assistant for the Around the Sun:Pinecones marketing and production team. (email@example.com)