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Popular NPR show Radiolab comes to Utah this week

Published: Tuesday, April 3 2012 2:17 p.m. MDT

Jad Abumrad, left, and Robert Krulwich host the popular NPR program Radiolab.

Courtesy of WNYC

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Radiolab, a popular radio program distributed by NPR and produced in New York by radio station WNYC, is bringing its new live show "In the Dark" to Salt Lake City for performances Wednesday and Thursday at the downtown Capitol Theater.

Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, and produced in New York by radio station WNYC, Radiolab is technically about science. But it's also much more than just a show about science — last year, for example, the New York Times called Radiolab "a public radio show that breaks from public radio sensibilities, not least in its striking sound." The program reaches 1 million listeners during on-air broadcasts and another 1.8 million via podcast.

Despite the significant success of their radio program — including a 2010 George Peabody Award for broadcast excellence — Abumrad and Krulwich are eager to explore new ways for innovation with a live performance like "In the Dark."

"The whole of idea of going on-stage, for us it's a grand experiment," Abumrad explained in a phone interview. "Our whole (radio) show grew out of this idea that we don't really know what we're doing, but let's just mess around and we'll figure something out. We didn't have a strong vision for (Radiolab) beyond just, 'Let's try stuff.'

"Now that we've made a show and we can stand back from it and say 'This is a show' and 'It has a sound' and 'This is what we do,' it's fun to go on-stage and just be complete kids again, complete beginners. The stage show came out of the sense of, 'Let's just invent something like we did at the very beginning.'"

"In the Dark" consists of three segments offering unconventional looks at blindness, the experience of being an astronaut and the evolution of the eyeball. It features the talents of comedian Demetri Martin, modern dance troupe Pilobolus and composer Thao Nguyen.

"We put out the word that we were looking for partners, and then various different kinds of smart people showed up," Krulwich told the Deseret News. "So the (Pilobolus) dance company turns out to be this ridiculously smart group of people — and I guess they dance for a living, but what I think they really think they're doing is they're telling stories. And the more complex a story is, the more interested they get.

"We said, 'We would like to build an eyeball across hundreds of millions of years of time, and we want to do it in about 11 minutes. Could you help us?' And then they invented a way to do that."

In reviewing "In the Dark," the University of California, Berkeley's Science Review (somewhat loquaciously) noted the show possesses "a profundity that surpasses the glorified press releases that often pass for popular science."

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