When Jad Abumrad first picked up Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth, Craig Childs' book about the extinction of dinosaurs and reptiles, he was totally uninterested. "I figured I had learned this in eighth grade like everybody else," said the co-host of WNYC's Peabody Award-winning program Radiolab in a recent interview. But he was surprised by what he read. "The extinction may have been way more violent and sudden than we expected."
Abumrad and his co-host Robert Krulwich generally explore topics related to science, philosophy, and the human experience using storytelling and music, and the book got them thinking about the subject of how things end. They began searching for stories around that theme and "kept attracting things that were really visual," said Abumrad. "Most of the stories we do are very radiophonic and play to the eyes in your head, but we actually wanted to show people this."
So, for the fourth time, they decided to take their program on tour. Titled "Apocalyptical," the show is stopping in 21 cities across the country, including Oakland, where they will perform at The Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway) on Tuesday, November 12, and Sunday, November 17.
Beginning with an extended re-envisioning of the moment when the dinosaurs died, complete with giant, dancing puppets, video, and music, the show goes on to explore endings of all kinds from many different angles, including an examination of when death entered the world, chemically speaking. Featured performers include comedian Reggie Watts, Brooklyn-based composer and filmmaker Sarah Lipstate, and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.
Abumrad himself has usually shied away from the spotlight. "I'm perfectly comfortable to sit in a little booth and talk to people that I can only imagine in my head," he said. But he finds the live shows exciting because he loves saying something and instantly knowing how it's landing. "When you feel 3,000 people leaning in to what you're doing, it's amazing," he said. "This is the closest we'll ever get to that classic campfire thing, the most primal beginning of storytelling."
He also enjoys having the opportunity to see who his audience is. One time he met someone who had listened to the show while flying an F-14 fighter jet. "It's a cool thing to meet the people on the other side of the box," he said. "You understand how this stuff is living out in the world, and it's never the way you expect."