Heartbreak, open relationships, bisexuality, celebrity crushes… much more than I ever expected from an evening of Shakespeare.

Los Angeles is not known for its exceptional theater, but on Saturday evening I attended the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ performance of “Twelfth Night“ and found the directing, staging, and all of the performances to be stellar, absolutely first-rate.

When I got home I googled some of the thespians to see what they did aside from Shakespeare and was intrigued to learn that Therese Barbato, who was wonderful in her portrayal of Viola/Cesario, also hosts a podcast on relationships from the female perspective. She conducts intimate conversations – literally recorded in bed, reminiscent of a teenage slumber party – with other women about how their romantic relationships have shaped their lives. Her interview style is extremely organic and her ebullient, childlike sense of wonder gently guides her participants to authentically share fascinating perspectives on their experiences in and out of love.

Therese told me, “The podcast is an opportunity for women to unpack and excavate their romantic lives – what their paths and patterns have been, how they learned what love should look like – and maybe most importantly how their sense of self intersects with their identity in partnership.”

She begins each podcast by asking about the women’s first crushes; this engenders captivating discussions regarding parental models of love, formative sexual experiences, first loves, surviving heartbreak, the viability of monogamy and each guest’s articulation of what they seek in romantic partnerships.

As a psychotherapist who models authentic sharing in my public workshops, I can verify that there is tremendous healing potential in hearing these bravely vulnerable women’s stories.

Therese said, “The meaning of the podcast is being revealed to me as I work on it, but initially I wanted to highlight how unique each individual’s needs and desires are, yet how we all still somehow feel like we are seeking the same archetypal story. Ironically the result of this exploration has led to many people reaching out to say that hearing other people’s stories makes them feel less alone in their own romantic journey. The aim of the podcast is really to illuminate truths that people otherwise might be inclined to keep close to the vest in the service of connecting us to each other.”

Deft, luminous, and engaging as Viola/Cesario in “Twelfth Night,” Therese Barbato brings the same vibrancy, joy and intrigue to her “that’s what she said“ podcast.