Most people have a basic working knowledge about subcultures. They may know someone who’s involved in a subculture or believe in some stereotypes attached to the subculture or simply be fascinated by a certain subculture and want to learn more. For Stephanie Glass, Sidney Gantt, and Simon Joseph, widening people’s worldviews on these so-called strange communities is essential for fostering communication and appreciation between different types of people, leading them to creation of their new web series, Practitioners.
The show, which premiers on YouTube on June 15, centers around practitioners (enthusiasts) of different subcultures and the artists who design a piece for them. As the show is filmed in and centers around Philadelphia, the three cast members also focus on supporting Philadelphia artists and local businesses. They even film some of their episodes in Amalgam Coffee & Coffeehouse, where they can build a community for their show in the city.
“Each episode, we film both our interview with a practitioner of a specific subculture mixed in with clips that show the audience what they actually do and how they flourish in their element,” Gantt said. “We then bring an artist onto the show, who asks the practitioner questions about their subculture in order to gain a better understanding of the community, resulting in them creating a final art piece to be presented at the end of the episode.”
While Gantt and Glass are the interviewers in front of the camera during the show, Joseph films and directs. All three of their positions on the show help each of their best traits come through – and allows them to capture the highlights of each subculture to the best of their abilities.
“We filmed an episode about a man and his child who cosplay and, after our initial interview, we accompanied them to Comic-Con, where they were surrounded by other cosplay enthusiasts,” Glass said. “We found that being around other people who shared the same passion helped them better display their love for cosplaying than when we were simply asking them questions.”
Like with the cosplaying episode, Gantt stated that every episode of Practitioners has a unique feel – even dictating parts of the show such as the cinematography. Because of the wide range of subcultures covered in the show, this definitely doesn’t come as a surprise. The episodes this season have covered communities from cosplay to zentai to kink exploration – even things like balloon fetishes – on their show. However, besides the common element of finding joy in one’s passions, the cast has also discovered people’s inclinations to be more open about their subculture when they’re around likeminded people.
“It can be hard to find that person willing to talk about [their subculture],” Glass said. “Most people usually have one event a month where they can be themselves, a place where they can express their joy and passion. They haven’t exercised the muscle to talk freely outside of their safe space, and it’s why we need to film both an interview and at the event.”
Oftentimes, people feel ashamed to talk about their subcultures with others because misinformation leads many people to view subcultures as weird or abnormal.
“We wanted to dispel the myth that these subcultures are inhuman or unnatural,” Gantt said. “It’s important that people see others that aren’t like them and learn to be okay with that. You can’t learn anything about others if you don’t ask questions, and you can’t inform people until you answer those questions.”
Glass explained how the episode about zentai portrayed this exchange of knowledge perfectly. When the artist asked the practitioner to provide three words to exemplify their subculture, the practitioner included the word “humiliation.” The artist was then able to use this information as inspiration for the final art piece – something they wouldn’t have been able to do without having an open-minded discussion about the subculture first.
She also sees Practitioners as a way to introduce people to interests they never knew they might enjoy.
“Because it often takes a lot of vulnerability and risk to talk publicly about your subculture, we hope those people’s bravery can help others feel more comfortable trying [the subculture] out,” Glass said.
This isn’t just true for Practitioners’s audience, though: the cast members have also explored the worlds of the different subcultures presented on their show after a practitioner sparked their interest. They’ve been able to experiment with things like fire massaging and the balloon fetish community and, while their interest in some of these subcultures may not have lasted past the initial curiosity stage, the fact that they were able to try new interests out is enough of an accomplishment.
Outside of the show, each cast member also has a variety of subcultures they’re invested in. Joseph’s interest in flags remains one of the subcultures he’s most invested in – he even has his own podcast called The Vexillogicast.
“[Flags] are a piece of fabric that people die for…It’s fascinating that people care so much and that something so ordinary can cause so much controversy,” he said.
Alongside vexillology, Joseph also runs Philly Nerd Nite, plays the accordion and the piano, and has an interest in voting systems. Gantt and Glass also have hobbies and subcultures that they’re invested in – Gantt is a stand-up comedian who also loves martial arts and understanding human nature while Glass loves performing, dancing, and doing her own research (especially about other subcultures).
For the three of them, subcultures aren’t something weird or unusual – not only are they all involved in their own fair share of subcultures, but they also want the rest of the world to see the connectedness in people’s happiness regardless of their interests.
“We want Practitioners to be an educational show that displays how people with different passions can share in a similar joy,” said Glass. “I know that, for me, creating this show has really shown me how little I really know about other people.”
And, like Gantt said, open communication with other people is the best way to broaden your understanding of different cultures and find value in other people’s passions – the ultimate goal of Practitioners.
Check out The Practitioners’ Season 1 promo below: