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R.I.P. C.A.S.H.

December 1, 2008

Arts organizations are always among the first to feel the pinch when a recession hits. My heart is sickened on a daily basis by the endless news headlines about organizations and individual artists facing full on bankruptcy, financial straits or cuts of various degrees.

I was particularly saddened over this weekend to receive an email from Michael Rice, the founder and producer of the Cool As Hell Theatre (CASH) podcast, telling his fans that he's decided to bring his long-running series of casual and informative interviews with theatre community, many of them local to the Bay Area, to a close.

"It has been an absolute pleasure serving the community and posting over 180 interviews. I have learned a lot and met some really cool people," wrote Rice in his email. "But all good things must come to an end and while I have enjoyed providing this free service, it has taken its toll on me financially. I can no longer afford to offer this service for free so I have decided to pull the plug."

Over the years, Rice's guests have included the playwrights Paula Vogel and Naomi Wallace, and the actor Brian Copeland. He also had the misfortune to interview yours truly way back in 2005.

Rice attracted quite a bit of local attention for his show, which he delivered in an exuberant, homeboy-on-acid style, starting each segment off by addressing his listeners with a cheesy, though memorable mantra: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Pimps, Players and Hustlers of the Theatre World." CASH was cited as a Top Ten News Source by top10sources.com and was nominated for a 2006 Pubby Award by the San Francisco Bay Area Publicity Club. The Bay Area NPR affiliated station, KQED picked up the show and ran it as part of its arts offering over the past couple of years. Public radio is perhaps one of the least recession proof institutions in the country, so it's sad, but hardly surprising that Rice failed to stay financially afloat via his connection with KQED.

The Bay Area theatre scene will be all the poorer without the CASH podcast. I, for one, am mourning the loss.

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