Arts & Culture Maplewood South Orange

Mars Patel and the Totally Explainable Appearance of a Peabody in SOMA

When Maplewood/South Orange locals Benjamin Strouse, Chris Tarry, David Kreizman, and Jenny Turner Hall came up with the idea of creating The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, a scripted science fiction podcast for children, they wanted to use a podcast as a way to tell a good story for kids. Mars Patel the podcast was born. And recently, the team received the news their work won a 2017 Peabody Award.

Creators of Mars Patel: Benjamin Strouse, Chris Tarry, Jenny Turner Hall, David Kreizman

“When we started this we certainly did not expect to end up at the Peabody Awards, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. This thing we built from the ground up now has a life of its own,” says Kreizman.

And though Mars Patel can be enjoyed anywhere in the world, it was built almost entirely in SOMA. “Opportunities for creative collaboration in SOMA are so rich and plentiful, it almost seems as if Mars Patel could not have been born anywhere else,” says Strouse.

Mars Patel is a serial podcast for families, each lasting the length of a car trip or bedtime story. The group wanted to draw families together to hear good story telling, much as people used to gather around radios.

In the Podcast, Mars Patel and his friends are students at H.G. Wells Middle School. When their friends disappear, the group investigates through an evolving science fiction mystery.

Peabodys are awarded from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia for “stories that matter.” Mars Patel matters not just for its medium but also for its message. It explores themes of loyalty, friendship, celebrating differences, determination and empowers kids to be brave and be open to adventure. “It can be difficult to transition from childhood to adulthood,” says Mars Patel team member Jenny Turner Hall, “but it’s less scary if you have friends to lean on.”

Listeners are flocking in to listen to the artful storytelling, sound design and direction. Adults enjoy the series as much as their kids do. But even so, the team was surprised at the attention of the Peabody Committee.

“It was an honor to be nominated. But to win — that was a shock,” says Turner Hall.

“The Peabody is an incredible honor because it highlights exceptional work based entirely on the work itself (as opposed to sale figures). It says that you’ve put something important into the world. So to have our show be a podcast aimed at kids, it makes it all that much more special,” explains Tarry.

Kids of Mars Patel

“We are so indebted to all the people who worked on this show. There is a whole crew of people who made this possible,” says Turner Hall. Learn more about the cast and crew here and the creative team here.

The 76th Annual Peabody Award ceremony took place on May 20th, and will be aired on PBS and FUSION stations on June 2nd at 9pm EST.

And be sure to check out the Mars Patel podcast.

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