Close your eyes and put in your earbuds. The sounds and voices of various locations come to listeners through radio theater in Gather by the Ghost Light.
The playwriting podcast, developed by North Augusta resident and CSRA native Jonathan Cook, continues to share the arts with the community.
Cook got into playwriting in college by submitting work to summer stock events. Over a decade later he decided to try writing again and submitting to local short play festivals. Since then, Cook has continued to send in work to festivals across the country.
In 2019, Cook decided to record several of his short plays with local actors.
“I started recording them, just having friends come over and record performing a play and I just kind of sat on the recordings and never did anything with them,” he said. “And when 2020 came around and COVID was having to stay at home and theaters had to close down, I thought that it would be cool if these recordings I made if I just put those on as podcasts so people could kind of have theater at home.”
During the pandemic, he decided to unleash his vault collection of short plays online in a podcast format.
“I released my first episode and it got a great positive response and listening back to these recordings, I was like man these could be so much better. So I started going to a studio and using better equipment,” Cook said. “...The listens and positivity, it builds up every month and it is growing tremendously and much more than I thought they ever would.”
Giving artists a space to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic was important to Cook.
“I was giving them something because the casts were always small, we weren’t in big groups and so they would just come over and record these little audio plays, kind of isolate it and so they were still able to act without having to do stage work,” Cook said.
Cook found success in his podcast, with almost 70% of his listeners coming from Georgia. He continued to reach out to other budding playwrights to perform their work.
“Emerging playwrights, like me, and getting their work out there and it’s just been picking up momentum,” Cook said. “The listens and positivity, it builds up every month and it is growing tremendously and much more than I thought they ever would and I think getting other playwrights involved and just spreading the word has really helped that out.”
Cook recently won the short play category of the Porter Fleming Literary Competition for 'Marigold'. The play, which is available to listen on Gather by the Ghost Light, is a dark comedy about mistaken identity and murder.
“I’ve never gotten 1st place before so that was a pretty big deal when I got that letter,” he said. “I was very surprised because I submit to it every year and it’s been seven years since I’ve even placed and to get first place this year was a little overwhelming, very exciting.”