Written by Daniella Litvak
Ashlee and Tim Espinosa are active members of the Southern California theater scene. They’re actors, directors, and educators. Orange County audiences might be familiar with Ashlee’s performance as Alison Bechdel in Chance Theater’s production of Fun Home in 2020, and Tim directed Fullerton College’s 2017 production of American Idiot. (The Orange Curtain Review has reviews for both shows). They’ve taught at UC Irvine and Fullerton College. They have also turned their talents to Podcasting.
Breaking The Fourth Wall With Ashlee And Tim Espinosa (“Breaking The Fourth Wall”) debuted in 2019. Is it intended for artists and educators? Yes. It’s also intended for anyone who wants to hear stimulating conversations about making positive change in musical theater. With a premise like “stimulating conversations about making positive change in musical theater,” it is a given that the topics covered are related to current events.
The first season spanned from August 2019 – April 2020. Consequently, there is a lot of discussion about how the pandemic affects musical theater in the later episodes. I won’t go as far as saying the pandemic talk makes those episodes outdated. Still, it did feel surreal to listen to discussions about the challenges of teaching remotely back when those challenges were new almost a year later.
I have heard many stories about remote education from family, friends, and mainstream media. However, the focus on musical theater education Breaking The Fourth Wall provides in the episode “An Equitable Environment” gave the topic a fresh perspective. Even as a non-educator, I found it interesting, inspiring, and heartbreaking to learn how educators and students cope with this new reality. Although the situation provides unique challenges for musical theater educators and students, their struggles (finding a quiet space to work in, for example) were relatable.
Episodes of Breaking The Fourth Wall usually run between 18 – 29 minutes. It is shorter than most other podcasts I listen to. On the one hand, I appreciate Breaking The Fourth Wall’s short episodes because I can listen to them in one sitting. On the other hand, the short length might be one reason why some of the discussions come across as generic.
Out of all the episodes I listened to, my favorite was “Using Her Platform for Change.” The episode was about inclusivity in casting. It’s a broad topic, but because the episode used Diane Paulus’ upcoming Broadway revival of 1776 as the basis for the discussion, the episode was more focused and analytical than usual. As a result, I was more engaged.
Season 2, which just started to air, promises to feature guest stars, and I am looking forward to it. Whether I am watching TV or listening to a podcast, I’m always excited when shows or podcasts use second seasons to shake up the formula and expand its world. Bringing in new voices is almost always a guaranteed way of shaking things up. Even more so, I hope the guest stars will allow for more focused and personal discussions.
Finally, I cannot discuss Breaking The Fourth Wall without mentioning “The Puzzler” aka the musical theater trivia segment. I agree with everyone who says “The Puzzler” is their favorite part of the episode. Should there ever be an episode devoted entirely to puzzlers, I would listen.
Link to Breaking the Fourth Wall :