Growing up in Los Angeles, Dori Berinstein made countless trips to see live theatre with her family. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was a frequent destination. On one excursion, young Berinstein saw a production of “Hello Dolly,” starring the legendary Carol Channing. Channing’s performance made a huge impact, and from that moment on, Berinstein was a self-described “theater groupie.” She would go on to create the award-winning documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.
Today Berinstein is a Tony-winning Broadway producer, Emmy-award-winning film and TV director, and the CO-Founder/CEO of The Broadway Podcast Network (BPN). Its audience includes theatre professionals, industry leaders, theatre students, up-and-coming artists, and theatre fans worldwide.
A Parallel Career
Berinstein’s Broadway producing credits include “The Prom,” “Legally Blonde,” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She has also produced and, or supervised numerous TV, special f/x, animated, and online productions for worldwide media companies. Her work on Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3-D for Disney even made her an official Imagineer. She later joined Ryan Murphy as a producer on the 2020 Netflix adaptation of The Prom, starring Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman, James Cordon, and many others.
There were few females behind-the-scenes in either film or theater when Berinstein started her career.
“When I produced my first Broadway show in 1994, there were a very small number of women producing Broadway shows.” she said. “Any young woman back then, whether in the world of theater or any other profession, felt that they had to work harder than anyone else to be taken seriously…to be accepted as a real player.”
“Throughout my career, I’ve had a parallel life in film and through my work with Walt Disney Imagineering, I had the dream opportunity to immerse myself in special effects. At that time, special effects was also a very male-dominated field. I had such a deep passion for the work in theatre and film, that – to be honest – I paid very little attention to any challenges. I just did the work.”
In recognition of her accomplishments, Berinstein is a recipient of four Tony Awards, Broadway’s Robert Whitehead Award for Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Theatre Producing and the Jacob Burns Media Film Center’s Visionary Award.
The Broadway Podcast Network
Several years ago, theater podcasts were not that easy to find. This challenge was something Berinstein lamented with Alan Seales, who would become her co-founder of BPN. The duo met when “The Prom” cast appeared on Talks at Google, a global, internal talks series run by Seales.
“We both said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a home for all theatre-related podcasts?'” Berinstein recalls. “Pretty much then and there, we decided to launch a business together and create BPN, a home for digital storytelling. Ten months later, we launched with 15 podcasts. This was just a few months before COVID-19 hit. BPN became an excellent way to keep artists engaged and employed and to keep theatre alive for all. We grew from 15 to over 140 podcasts in less than 2 years.”
BPN now streams across every continent, including Antarctica, and adheres to the motto of offering something for everyone. Shows include radio plays, audio dramas, and even an original soap opera. Listeners can also find podcasts that offer rarified behind-the-curtain access to the creative process, advice on everything from how to break into the business to how to audition, theatre history, candid interviews with favorite stars, and more.
During the pandemic, in addition to growing BPN, Berinstein co-directed and co-produced the documentary, The Show Must Go On, with her daughter Sammi Cannold. Cannold herself is a successful director who has worked for both on and off-Broadway productions and major media companies. The film captures the epic efforts to keep theatre alive during the pandemic, focusing specifically on the “The Phantom of the Opera’s” world tour and “Cats'” South Korean Tour (watch on Apple TV or Broadway On Demand).
Advice for Storytellers
Berinstein says future creators should get as much experience as possible, working every chance they get on school or community shows and films. She firmly believes that knowledge and in-the-trenches experience is invaluable throughout a career. Moreover, Berinstein stresses that collaboration is an essential part of success and something she loves most about theater.
“I had no connection to Broadway or the entertainment business when I arrived in New York,” she said. “Most of the people I know in the community did not have a prior connection to Broadway. So many people come from all different walks of life, and the theater community is so welcoming. We are all so passionate to be part of this special world. That’s what unites us. At the end of the day, whether it’s podcasting, film, or television, storytelling is universal. It’s such an important way for us to connect. Just tell stories, listen to stories, go see a show, and it will impact your life in a million different ways you can’t even imagine.”
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by Berinstein