Department chair of music and theatre Carolyn Conover does even more than her long title hints. She also records a monthly podcast called “Investigate the History.” First published on Jan. 17 of 2019, she is now up to the second episode of season two. Under the Critshow Studios production company, the podcast is available for only $5 a month on Patreon, a website for supporting artists, as bonus material for another podcast “The Critshow.”
“The Critshow” is an actual-play podcast of tabletop role playing games, which means listeners can hear the plot unfold through real gameplay. Brandon ‘Rev’ Wentz runs the games as the game master. They play games published by the Evil Hat company. Each season they play a different game.
Conover changed from listener to podcaster after calling her old friend Wentz. They talked about differences between mythology of the real world and the mythology featured in the podcast. That call led to the beginning of “Investigate the History” where Conover explores the folklore and literary references made in the podcast, asks questions about the gameplay and decisions behind it and breaks down the story.
Her podcast that she co-hosts with Wentz mainly features what she describes as “super nerdy stuff.” She’s discussed wood sprites, gnomes, nymphs, fairies, elves, pixies, werewolves, ents, vampires and dwarves. Real world mythology is also often a topic on her show, such as Norse, Egyptian and Russian mythology.
Conover does her research mostly online, using the Stith Thompson Motif-Index of Folk-Literature and the Folklore Institute at Indiana University as resources. When putting her research into the episodes, she tries “to be really fair” and warns audiences that she is not a scholar of mythology. She also acknowledges conflicting stories and informs listeners there are other interpretations and meanings to many of the legends she finds.
The hard work has brought them many listeners and downloads. “200,000 downloads is a nice benchmark,” Conover said. The cast of “The Critshow” regularly goes to conventions where they cosplay characters and host live shows and games. Conover is going to be recording her first live show in April.
Conover said, “it’s really fun because we’ve known each other for so long.” She does the research because she enjoys it, though it takes her around 10 hours to research each episode. That hard work is appreciated by fans who recently sent her Christmas cards and gifts for the first time. Conover says that “it kind of exploded into something way bigger than what we thought it was going to be,” and is happy to continue the rewarding work.