Tim Fulton  00:08

Welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week. As Columbus sites we examine the evolution and identity of the city from a singular point of view. That’s not a bad thing, but an outsider’s perspective is always helpful. Today we hear from Mark Schneider, a former Columbus resident, whose journey through writing and theater has woven a tapestry of experiences both in and out of the capital city. Mark reflects on the essence of Columbus, the kindness scrappiness and the collaborative spirit that defines its culture. And he shares his journey of rediscovery in the city that continues to evolve and challenge its own identity. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Mark Snyder, writer, former Columbus resident Yeah, Flynn nor

Mark Snyder  01:17

Flynn nor I think that’s a good word, a wanderer a wanderer a podcaster of Yes,

Tim Fulton  01:23

I’m sorry, your podcast as well. Please give an introduction to yourself.

Mark Snyder  01:28

Hi, well, first of all, I’m really thrilled to be at Columbus center grounds offices for those that have for the first time in forever. And beyond the confluence cast with my friend, longtime for we’ve been friends a long time, Dr. Tim Fulton, I’ve known you since you were like in high school.

Tim Fulton  01:43

I think our relationship can rent a car. Oh,

Mark Snyder  01:47

I will, I would hope so. I have. So that’s a wonderful feeling. I’m a podcaster. And I write plays, and I write essays and I, I’m a personality, I guess that’s what I do. And I I’m a fluid nor, which means that I wander around and make observations and have adventures and write about them and talk about them. And people are always asking me what I think about things and so I I share it freely with them. And I think

Tim Fulton  02:16

the thought today is a little bit of a love letter to Columbus. Yeah, right. You’re from here. Not originally. Yeah,

Mark Snyder  02:22

I have. So I grew up. I’m really happy to be here. Tim. I grew up about three hours north of here in a town called Warren Ohio named after Warren G. Harding, our President and I, my dad was a buckeye. He was an Ohio State alumni. And so we came to Columbus a lot when I was a kid to go to games. And then I moved to Columbus specifically to Westerville, Ohio in 1995 to go to Otterbein College and the time now University. And part of the reason I went to Otterbein was because Columbus was so close and I, I don’t I didn’t think I was ready for a huge big city. But I’ve definitely ready for something bigger than Warren in Youngstown, Ohio fair, and it was a good place to come. And there was so much to so much trouble to get into in Columbus, but then go safely back to the quiet peaceful village of Westerville. Ohio,

Tim Fulton  03:20

indeed. But we didn’t know each other before that. But we really, you would actually just graduated but we pledge to the same fraternity. Yes, we did. Pi Beta Sigma, Amen. O FF, O, fa, shout. You left and went to New York.

Mark Snyder  03:36

I did. I did. I was. So I wanted to be a writer and a playwright and, and go to New York. And that was always my dream. That was always my dream. And I was lucky because everybody in my class at Otterbein, we all either went to New York or LA and it was pretty much down the middle. So I went with a whole group of us and never, people are always like, Well, how did you how did you get the gumption to go to New York? I’m like, there was never a question of of going. And you know, I was cashing in my childhood savings bonds for the cash and friends were working at Bath and Beyond at Easton mall to get money that summer. And then there was a September one we were all headed headed beast. Well, and a

Tim Fulton  04:20

little bit of context, right. Otterbein is very well known, not necessarily in the city, but nationwide. Yeah. Or at least it was at the time I believe it still is for having a fantastic BFA acting BFA musical theater. Ba I think you got to be a in theater. No, I

Mark Snyder  04:36

got a BA in English because I wanted to be able to do a bunch of things do radio do newspaper journalism, you were around sort of that I was around Well, I’m a theatrical being I

Tim Fulton  04:46

think we can all tell ya, but and in addition to that, so you’re surrounded by those folks. And in addition to that those folks did. Part of their program was an internship correct one for all semester, yeah away,

Mark Snyder  05:02

and then they would come back with all this kind of Intel. So we kind of all came and there was a great particularly like, and I have to say, you know, being in a fraternity like Pi Beta Sigma was great because there was already a network of apartments and places to live and things like that to kind of go into when you got to New York, so none of it was ever intimidating. Right. And the money the money was really, yeah, I

Tim Fulton  05:26

remember like, going to visit a story. Like it would just be like, Oh, this is the house were like, oh, yeah, that’s now the girl’s apartment. This is the boys environment and like how everybody just sort of congregates pretty quickly. Yeah. And you’re right, like goes out for Intel has some experience. Like, I think the most interesting part of that internship that I was told, I think this was right after I left was, you go and you work in like a casting agency? Yes. But your, your training is in like vocal performance. Yes. And the purpose of the internship is actually forget I’m gonna date us a little bit is to learn how to use a fax machine. Yeah, is to do like the little menial office stuff that like, Hey, you got to be able to do that to be helpful.

Mark Snyder  06:09

Well, exactly, exactly. And I think, you know, getting a liberal arts education at Otterbein, specifically in English because I was able to take so many different kinds of classes, and I was doing so much on such a small campus, that when I got to New York, I really was able to pivot and do all kinds of jobs to survive, and and still have time to do my make my plays and do my art and do all of that stuff in a way that I think some people really struggle because a lot of people just think they go to New York and get a job as a waitress or in a restaurant or a waiter like a service job. They do. Correct. But there were all these other things. I could also we could also do, and a lot of that was through these internships and also through just kind of like the word of mouth of our network. Yeah, that kind of came. So we kind of came and conquered. Yeah, it was good. It was fun at you, though.

Tim Fulton  07:03

I think more than some other folks. Yeah. Have sort of identified Columbus as like, that’s the home base. And that’s what I go back to or that’s what I care about. Yeah, I think I was you romanticize it?

Mark Snyder  07:17

I? I think I do. That’s a really interesting observation. I think I do. I love Columbus when I was when I was here. When I lived in Westerville. I did so much down here. And, you know, I was gay. I was going to the gay gay bars for the first time, many of which are gone now in downtown and it was downtown Columbus. Yeah. So I was coming down at least two or three times a week to go out with my friends. And, and also there was just so much going on and the short north and there was there was a bustling energy, but still a kind of grittiness that didn’t intimidate any of us. You know, there were places like there was my first gay bookstore I ever got to go to was the open book, which was on the corner. I don’t know what’s there now. But it’s I think

Tim Fulton  08:09

it’s what Rue is now it’s an Indian place. Yeah.

Mark Snyder  08:13

And, and also, like, there were coffee shops, and there was the the nursing home for the elderly across the street from that, that that closed down. And, you know, there was reality Theater, which was a theatre company, I did a show with them when I was a senior in college because I wanted to do a play downtown. And we were this big hit all all year, and, and all summer, and it was so much fun. And so I really, I really have it was a very magical right before the internet kind of took over everything. Nobody had cell phones, none of that was happening. So it was kind of the last little moment of that. And then when I could finally afford to come back to Columbus around 2001 2002. I found a lot of things that changed but the feeling and the vibe that I got from Columbus was there. So I always I always make a habit of coming back. And I come back pretty consistently. I’m back at least a couple times a year, if not more, depending. I also have a wonderful sister and her family, her husband and my niece who’s now 11 They live in Dublin. And they’ve they’ve been here this whole time too. And I had a I have cousins in Hilliard. I have a cousin in Westerville for a long time. So I had family here to the could kind of also justify the trips. But as I would come back, I would toggle between family time and then the artists and the people I knew in Columbus and as as that kind of went on in the 2000s in the 2000 10s more and more of my friends were in Columbus doing really interesting work and creative work all over the place

Tim Fulton  09:57

well and you’ve had work produced by like available I yeah, I’ve had connection with those folks. Yeah.

Mark Snyder  10:02

And that was through Otterbein. I had a lighting design teacher named Dana White, who was at Otterbein, and he’s since retired, but he hosted a he was co teaching a class with Matt with Matt slay BA, who was the artistic director and one of the founders of available light. And they invited me to come speak at the class. And it was about collaboration. The class was because he was a designer, Matt was a director, how an a theatre maker, how do you? How do you do that? together. And so they had me come in to talk about being a playwright and being a writer in that process. And so what was really cool about it was it was one of those things where I met Matt and I was like, huh, and I clocked him when I walked in, and then right after he was like, Could we go get coffee? Right? Which in New York, it just doesn’t happen that way. It’s like, yeah, available in three weeks, so we can make an appointment. I gotta rush off to my next thing now. But we had an hour after Tang, and we went up and we got a coffee and just talked and it was like I and he’s gonna he would blush if he said, he said this, but like, I felt like I’ve known him forever.

Tim Fulton  11:14

Yeah. Well, and he is for for longtime Columbus sites. He is Steven slay Boz. Brother, Steven, slay by being the longtime music critic of Columbus alive. Yeah. And so like, he is sort of, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying this

Mark Snyder  11:32

one of ours. Yeah, right. And pretty much he is a Columbus eight. And I think that you know, and it’s getting to, and then from that conversation, I started, every time I came to Columbus, I was spending time making time to spend with Matt and his wife, Acacia Duncan, who’s an actor in town, and amazing. And they’re both such creative, dynamic, wonderful people that chose to stay in Columbus and build their lives here. And as I met the available light company, the theater and their ensemble, I was meeting other people like that are like these people could work all over the country, and they’re choosing to make art for their community here. And that was the thing that was a real lesson when I started spending time and working with them. And I did a couple of plays in their new play festival, we did, you know, readings and workshops. And it was, it was so fulfilling for me. And they treated me like royalty, which I love to be treated like. And and and you know, when I would I would get Matt would give me a random record he picked up and be like, Hey, I just was thinking of you, I brought this along and seeing the level of talent, it was a real lesson to me to see how people were choosing to stay in Columbus, and and build lives around art and creativity here, that could only really happen here in the way that they wanted it to happen for their community that was here, not the community that they were trying to make, but the community that existed and needed them. So it became a it is an act of service. And I think that that was what was really attractive to me about coming back and being with them. And

Tim Fulton  13:22

I guess so one thing I want to hone in on and emphasize is the first of all the collaboration, right? The ability for people say it all the time I end every podcast interview with what do you think Columbus is doing? Well, congratulations, you’re gonna get asked that too. And one of the things that is a very common refrain is, collaboration is so much easier here. And it is because of folks is willingness to sit down for that coffee or, and I guess what I want to push back on sort of is like, is that our kindness? Is that our availability? Is that just the culture?

Mark Snyder  14:06

I think it’s a combination of all of that and a kind of scrappiness still, that people aren’t afraid to get in the, in the dirt here. So I don’t think anybody is is there’s a potential lack of pretension here. Yeah, that still exists and in a real way, and so I do think it’s a kindness. I do think it’s the Ohio nice Yeah, buddy that I always get accused of having in in any city I go to, I go everywhere and I make eye contact everyone and I smile openly. And they’ll Yeah, but you can’t be from Ohio. Mark, that’s

Tim Fulton  14:49

not necessarily. I don’t know that we gave that to you. I don’t want to take credit. But I will say just coming on to another point that you had like when I was growing up and still doing creative work and producing theater producing arts events. Yeah. There was always a fear before the House opened or the doors open that no one would come. Yeah, I cannot think of any crazy thing I did that week, but weren’t people were there? And like this, I don’t think I can depend on Facebook for the entire, like,

Mark Snyder  15:26

the Dating Yourself. There

Tim Fulton  15:30

are very early Facebook like that’s some of my show. What Yeah, use it. Yeah. But like doing The Laramie Project 10 years later, or exposing folks to visual art through live music. Yeah, maybe that’s some of the curation. But a lot of it is like, Oh, here’s this thing happening?

Mark Snyder  15:51

Well, I think, to your point, I think that there’s a curiosity here as well. So I think it’s the kindness, I think it’s the scrappiness of getting your hands dirty, and do rolling up your sleeves and moving the boxes and doing the work. There’s not that hierarchy that exists in a lot of other places here, everyone’s kind of in it together. And then there’s a genuine curiosity from our audiences here, across all spectrums of art, and, and sports, food, everything, everyone is genuinely curious to try things out and form an opinion about it. And I think that’s partly because we have so many academic institutions around the area, I think a lot of people come here with a value system that they want to shake up a little bit. They’re coming from another, another smaller city, or a smaller town a lot, we feed so many of the small towns and small cities in Ohio and around the region, that people want to come here and be like, I want to see things I’ve never seen. So I can respond to them where I want to see and they’re open in a way and curious in a way that I think, certainly in a in a city like New York, where I live, there’s so much noise and so much coming at you all the time, you almost have to wait for like critics and reviews and things to validate or help you make the decision whether or not to go and see things where the first two weeks of an event, if you’re doing a show, you’re giving away tickets, and then the reviews come out and then you can’t get a seat for the rest of the run, right. Or vice versa, the reviews come out and then you’re giving away tickets. So I mean, and here it’s it’s a lot, the stakes aren’t as high. But the work is so much more thoughtful and authentic. And you can take more risks. I think particularly in the visual art scene here. There’s so much more the art scene here is so vibrant and so alive. Also, because you have a lot of space, because you need space as an artist and you can’t. It’s so much it’s so expensive to rent out studio space. And if you’ve got an extra room in your house here in Columbus, you can make your art in your home, right and still close the door at the end of the day and like have dinner with your kids.

Tim Fulton  18:20

Right. Let that be separate. Exactly. What else are you coming back for?

Mark Snyder  18:24

I come back for so many things. I come back for the local businesses that I love. I come back for the food. I come back for the ease of life here. I breathe better here. I finally find that so I’ve been a runner for God how many years 30 plus years. And I finally found the alum creek running trail after 20 years of trying to find it. I finally found in sort of a whole new writing path through Columbus. So I love to do that. I love places like I’m just gonna write a lot like spoonful records is my favorite record store in America in America and I’ve been to every record store in America in every major city spoonful, they are the to the couple that run it are the nicest people the most knowledgeable, the most open about chatting with a weird dude who wants to talk about Deep Purple and also about a tween who wants to like talk about the Taylor Swift re recording that’s coming out and they just their their taste is excellent. Their curation is like MA and and I love spending time in the store and I always find something I wasn’t. I come in always with a list because I get very overwhelmed. And often I’ve called ahead to be like can you pull this and this and this and then I’ll be in I always find something else to take with me from that. And I think that that’s a great, I love them dearly and I’ve I’ve followed them in multiple moves and they’re amazing. And then $2 radio, the fact that $2 radio is in Columbus is a miracle to me, and that Eliza and Eric are choosing to stay in Columbus as they build this amazing publishing imprint that they have now. It’s it’s the and they’re the, again the kindest people. And you know, I just was you picked me up at $2 radio I did at the headquarters and Eric the owner and the founder of the view of serving coffee, serving coffee and talking to people and I just there the ideal of what you want a book publisher to be and I I’ve been lucky enough on my podcast, all I want to do is talk about Madonna we have a highlight layer that is the name of that is the name of the podcast, it’s called All I want to do is talk about Madonna right and and we had sat one of their writers on just recently to talk about his book I sing for the waiting to use the waiting and all the writers I know who worked with them are just elated and honored and thrilled with how they’re treated how the books come out. Their books are just amazing. And then I you know Jenny Britton power baby Jenny Britton power. Every time I try and flirt with another ice cream I’m talking about use salt and straw in LA. I go to their and I’m like, maybe salt and straws, my favorite. And then I come back to Columbus and Jenny Britton Bauer and her Jenny’s ice cream just, you know, gets get wet my whistle once again, with one of the flavors and I love coming back for Jenny. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  21:51

Let pivot a little bit and tell me what how you think Columbus is perceived? Obviously, we know how you feel. Yeah, you love it. You are back here. It’s your, your your home away from Yeah, right. But what when you talk to folks who are familiar with Columbus, maybe they’ve been here? Maybe they haven’t, but they certainly have may have a perception. What do you think that perception is?

Mark Snyder  22:19

Um, it’s interesting because Columbus continues to be this in a lot of places in the country, a kind of secret secret. Still, because there’s multiple Columbus’s in the country. There’s Columbus, Missouri, there’s Columbus, Georgia, there’s all these different places that are called Columbus. And we do not yet and I see this as a big asset. We don’t evoke an instant image when we save the name Columbus, Ohio yet. Thankfully, it’s not always tied to Ohio State and the buckeyes think much to my dad’s chagrin. Though he’s very happy he gets to still come and see take his season tickets at the at the stadium. But it’s not like Austin or Nashville or Portland, or any of these cities where you are Atlanta, where you say the name and it conjures up an image or TAGO even has, it conjures up an image, we’re still our kind of our own thing. So it means different things to different people. I think it’s very much a city of doers. I think a lot of people that I know, who are working in Columbus, from other places in common, oh, I’m going to Columbus, I’m gonna get a lot done that week. There’s a lot of doing here. There’s not a lot of taught sitting around talking about doing stuff with your arms folded people, like get down to it and start moving on stuff here in a way that I think, is both overwhelming sometimes, especially when you’re used to kind of the quietness and the the quote unquote, sleepy town. But there also it also is a very, like, exciting thing, because every time I come back, something is changing something new is developing. So it’s an evolving, I think that’s also the perception that Columbus is ever evolving. And it’s not going to I asked her friends, you know, like if the you know, what their sit when their city that she was from Portland, Oregon, and when she felt the city plateaued, right? Because there was a point when Portland kind of hit an apex right in the culture Portlandia all of those kinds of things and, and she said, Do you think Columbus has plateaued? And I think I don’t think Columbus will ever plateau. Because and I think that’s the perception because it continues to re define what it is over and over again. And I think that that’s what’s so interesting about it and, and dynamic in this way. and you’ve got so many people here that are lifers. And that’s a very exciting thing for people that choose to make their lives here and stay. And and and do and are invested in their communities and do the things that need to be done within that community. Fair.

Tim Fulton  25:19

Okay. I’m sorry, lots of thoughts in my head about like, is that leaning in by virtue of how easy it is to lean in? And is the Yeah,

Mark Snyder  25:34

I will, I think, I think you can also, it’s very easy to know your neighbors and know the people and know the people you’re working alongside. I mean, if I need to talk to somebody in leadership at any organization, it’s usually, and I don’t live here, right? I can make a phone call or send one email, and I’ve got them on the phone, like, everyone’s so approachable. And if you know, your niche, it’s much it’s very easy to jump in when you’re helping your neighbors out. I mean, that sounds kind of pollyannish. But it can be a very rare thing.

Tim Fulton  26:05

Ya know, it’s certainly a virtue. Absolutely. I guess what, what negative perceptions Do you think there are?

Mark Snyder  26:14

Um, I think that it’s a drinking town, okay, that it’s a city of Midwestern cars. Our freeway system is very dramatic. And I think people know, the 270 loop and like, Oh, you’re just driving around 270 all the time, like, well, not really. I think also, I don’t know to be political. I think the the elections of the last few cycles have kind of painted Columbus as like, aren’t you supposed to be holding up the blue status of Ohio, right. And I think it’s done an amazing job in the last couple of years with a definitely rebuking the the ban on abortion in the state and things like that. I mean, these are smart, educated, engaged, voters and citizens here. So I think that is not necessarily true. But I know that when the state turns the other way, from wherever your political leanings are, people are always like, Columbus, what happened, because it can literally be Columbus that decides the state in surroundings. Correct. So I think that those are kind of some of the knocks it gets. But you know, I don’t listen to those.

Tim Fulton  27:35

So, personally, yeah, you have recently quit your job.

Mark Snyder  27:40

It’s true. It’s true, I’ve quit my job. Now, I left my life, which included it, we concluded our time together. Um, I, I loved my job, I was the, I was the executive assistant to a CEO of a global communications firm. And we did so much in six and a half years of growth, and, and navigating the pandemic, and all of that. And there came a time about a year ago, or a little over a year ago, where I felt that we had kind of concluded what we were doing together, and in a great way, and in a warm, wonderful, beautiful way. And, and we spent about a you know, six months to almost a year talking about how to conclude and to find a replacement and do all of those things. And, you know, I really like to build things and grow things, and help people with visions, realize and realize those visions and make space for more growth, which I think is really important to me. And I felt like it was time for a new adventure. And so I kind of and I’ve never stopped I mean, I’ve been somebody who’s worked and worked and worked and worked and never really taken a moment. And so right now I’m just kind of like the plan take a moment take a moment and just chill for a while and see what comes up because I don’t I think this culture is so loud and fast and responses are expected immediately. We think how many text messages we send in a day to something that doesn’t need to be responded to today, right? But we feel this need to and I feel like I really need to I’m trying to step back and just like let the river run and let the river run let the river run in front of me and just see what comes up for me because I’m not doing this doing this doing this doing this doing this doing this doing this right to see what

Tim Fulton  29:42

step out of the river and see what comes up. Yeah,

Mark Snyder  29:45

yeah. And allow the river to keep going like everyone else is swirling around me doing everything they need to do, but I don’t I think it’s very it’s it’s a very uncomfortable position for someone like me to be in to just sit there Don’t be like, I’m hanging out. I’m chillin, which, you know, it’s a it’s a privileged position to be in, but I’ve worked really hard to get to have that opportunity fair. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  30:10

What do you think Columbus does well, trying to depart from the cheerleading that we were doing before. But from your perspective,

Mark Snyder  30:22

I think Columbus make space very well, for diversity, for difference of opinion, for different kinds of human experiences, for different ways of moving through the world. And it allows for all of those to coexist, not always peacefully, sometimes there’s a lot of conflict, but in its best moments, it is all allowed to coexist in one space together, and that everybody is mindful of each other’s space, and their experiences in their kind of ways. They’re going about their lives, and allowing that all to be together in one place. And

Tim Fulton  31:14

what is Columbus not doing so? Well?

Mark Snyder  31:20

Dun, dun dun. I think I would love to see more opportunities in film here. I’d love to see more movies shot here of national like perfect and national big movies. I wish there was a way to highlight the the many landscapes here I mean, if you want to do a haunted house movie in the middle of a field, you can shoot that in Columbus. If you want to do a skyscraper chase in a Batman movie, you could do it in Columbus. And so I I’m hopeful that that will change over the next few years where people can find a way to highlight the geographical benefits here because there’s so many different terrains and different ways to make more stories happen out of Columbus.

Tim Fulton  32:14

There you go. Yeah, Mark, thanks for your time.

Mark Snyder  32:17

Thank you, Tim.

Tim Fulton  32:28

Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite playwright. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast calm. Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producers felt Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.