90 Sondheim Songs

Stephen Sondheim turned 90 two weeks ago and to commemorate the event (and because he’s quarantined at home like all the rest of us), NYU MFA student (and Austin’s nephew) Andrew Moorhead compiled his list of the great lyricist/composer’s top ninety songs. Like all lists like this, it provokes lively discussion about such topics as teenage discoveries; being a great artist and a great teacher; the beauty of starting ridiculous arguments; an argument for the first ten songs from Sweeney Todd; a diatribe against some (well, one) terrible and unnecessary song; uncalled-for aspersions against Andrew’s friend Jordan; reverence both genuine and irreverent; what it’s like being a Sondheim savant; some frankly scandalous opinions that Mr. Sondheim definitely won’t like; and how there isn’t much blue in The Red and the Black. Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! (Length 21:57)

 

STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S TOP 90 SONGS
By Andrew Moorhead (as of April 6, 2020)

  1. Finishing The Hat
  2. Color & Light
  3. Losing My Mind
  4. Marry Me A Little
  5. Being Alive
  6. Could I Leave You?
  7. Worst Pies in London
  8. Send In The Clowns
  9. Another Hundred People
  10. A Little Priest
  11. The Miller’s Son
  12. Joanna/Joanna (Reprise)
  13. Move On
  14. Opening Doors
  15. We Do Not Belong Together
  16. Not A Day Goes By
  17. Sunday in The Park With George
  18. Sunday
  19. Everyday A Little Death
  20. Company
  21. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd
  22. No One Is Alone
  23. Pretty Women
  24. No One Has Ever Loved Me
  25. Take Me To The World
  26. Ladies Who Lunch
  27. Moments in the Woods
  28. A Weekend In the Country
  29. Franklin Shepard, Inc
  30. Beautiful
  31. Anyone Can Whistle
  32. My Friends
  33. Your Fault
  34. Buddy’s Blues
  35. Someone In A Tree
  36. Broadway Baby
  37. Putting It Together
  38. I’m Still Here
  39. Not While I’m Around
  40. Old Friends
  41. The Road You Didn’t Take
  42. Steps of the Palace
  43. Epiphany
  44. Getting Married Today
  45. By The Sea
  46. Loving You
  47. Any Moment
  48. Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You
  49. You Could Drive a Person Crazy
  50. I Know Things Now
  51. Sorry-Grateful
  52. Waiting for the Girls Upstairs
  53. Unworthy of Your Love
  54. You Must Meet My Wife
  55. Everybody Loves Louis
  56. You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow
  57. The Ballad of Booth
  58. Barcelona
  59. Everybody Says Don’t
  60. Into The Woods
  61. Agony
  62. Our Time
  63. Someone Is Waiting
  64. The Day Off
  65. Giants in the Sky
  66. Stay With Me
  67. Last Midnight
  68. Children Will Listen
  69. It’s Hot Up Here
  70. Children and Art
  71. God, that’s Good!
  72. It takes Two
  73. Now You Know
  74. The Little Things You Do Together
  75. The Gun Song
  76. Lesson #8
  77. Remember
  78. In Buddy’s Eyes
  79. Happiness
  80. The Glamorous Life
  81. That Frank
  82. It Would Have Been Wonderful
  83. Everybody’s Got the Right
  84. So Many People
  85. I Read
  86. Free
  87. Good Thing Going
  88. Now
  89. Hello, Little Girl
  90. In Praise of Women

Shakespeare And Plague

Dr. Katy Reedy, a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Lake Forest College who’s working on a book-length study of contagion and performance in the early modern era, discusses her research and what we can learn (and take small hope) from the plagues that forced the theaters to close in Shakespeare’s day. Featuring the importance of recognizing that this is a marathon, not a sprint; how her examination of early modern revenge plays led to research into plague and pestilence; spatial lexicons; scant evidence; scholarly suppositions; shout-outs to James Shapiro’s The Year of Lear, Stephen Greenblatt’s Will In The World, and Folger Shakespeare Library director Michael Witmore; temporal changes and the elastic nature of time; how playwrights became pamphleteers; the invention of social-distancing; and the dangers of calling attention to the pestilential potential of a communal art. (Length 22:10)

693. Phone Porn Voices

Playwright, actor, and musician Deb Hiett discusses one of her most interesting survival jobs, many years ago in the heyday of the 900 number, and how it allowed her to flex her storytelling muscles and skills as a character actress. Featuring writing and performing both audio erotica and Quarantunes; creating stories; involuntary gag reflexes; an arsenal of accents; crafting monologues; being co-lead singer in the band Orson Welk; an extensive resume of appearances in film and television; the limited imagination of Tower Records; and the profitable power of delaying gratification. A perfect tale for these times of social distancing and self-isolation! (Length (23:10)

692. J. Nicole Brooks

Actor, director, and playwright J. Nicole Brooks is the author and director of Her Honor Jane Byrne, which looks at the moment in Chicago history when its first woman mayor moved into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Just three nights after it had its official world premiere opening at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre, the rest of the run was cancelled due to the restrictions being imposed around the world in the midst of this global pandemic. Brooks discusses how the play came together and how love letters to Chicago can be complicated; the value of Shakespearean echoes and wise fools; a fascination with corruption; shining light on haunted communities; getting laughs when you least expect them; decolonizing the space; losing revenue streams; surprising shout-outs to Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure; and the brilliance of writing a dark comedy about kings and queens and guillotines. (Length 22:03)

691. Michael Morrow’s ‘Passage’

Michael Morrow stars in the Lifeline Theatre production of Middle Passage, Charles Johnson’s National Book Award-winning novel (“a novel in the tradition of Billy Budd and Moby-Dick,” according to the New York Times Book Review) adapted by Ilesa Duncan and David Barr III (and directed by Duncan). Michael discusses how he came to be cast in this epic production, and how he’s journeyed from the DePaul University BFA program to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, and beyond; how he learned to buckle swashes and paint pictures with words; what it means to Choose; the miracle of a deus ex Quackenbush; shout-outs to David Blixt and the late PJ Paparelli; and the incredibly important power of telling stories for those who can’t. (Length 20:08) (Pictured: Michael Morrow and Patrick Blashill in the Lifeline Theatre production of Middle Passage, adapted by Ilesa Duncan and David Barr III from the novel by Charles Johnson. Directed by Ilesa Duncan. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett.)

690. Alchemy Of Gender

Lisa Wolpe, currently playing Cassius in Julius Caesar at Playmakers Repertory Company, is an actress, director, teacher, playwright, and producer; the founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company; and the creator and performer of Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender, her solo show which explores the transformational power of empathy. Lisa, who’s “probably played more of Shakespeare’s male leading roles than any woman in history,”  talks about creating her show and exploring the masculine in Shakespeare’s plays; how this helped understand her father’s PTSD; reveals the true definition of ingenue; investigates a re-gendered Taming of the Shrew; and shares the urgency and importance of putting the quest in the question. (Length 23:59)

689. Seven Stages Shakespeare

Dan Beaulieu and Christine Penney are the co-founders and directors of the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company, New Hampshire’s only year-round dedicated to performing the works of Shakespeare or pieces that illuminate him. Seven Stages engages with Shakespeare in a variety of contexts, including performances, readings, workshops, and podcasts, and as Christine and Dan explain the company’s mission and objectives, they talk about swimming where the fish are, such as in in parks, bars, theaters (sometimes), barns, and warehouses; give shout-outs to influential professors; reveal how musical theatre performers are frequently excellent Shakespeareans; celebrate Shakespeare with a morning zoo/sports talk-radio energy; compare Brooklyn neighborhoods; and finally — beautifully — share what happens when you get to the sixth and seventh stages of Shakespeare. Recorded LIVE at the Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference in Dallas, January 2020. (Length 20:23) (Pictured: Deb Kinghorn as Lear in the 2016 Seven Stages Shakespeare production. Photo by M. Lavigne Photography.)

688. Sonnet Man Returns

It’s The Sonnet Man! Who, disguised as mild-mannered Devon Glover, fights for truth, rhythm, and the Shakespearean way. At the recent Shakespeare Theatre Association conference, Devon spoke about his recent vow, what he’s been doing, who he’s been working with, and where he’s been teaching; the beauty of finding your voice through verse; the challenges and rewards of finding your own individual swagger; early work with Flocabulary; inspiration from the movie O; the dangers of a stagnant Devon; possible epitaphs; unexpected inspiration from Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats; the difficulty of acting while rapping; a reduced abridgment of his fantastic article for Dramatics Magazine; and finally, what it’s like to duet and collaborate with MC Bard. Coming soon (probably) to a state near you! (Length 25:09) (Hear our first podcast conversation with The Sonnet Man here!)

687. Gary Andrews’ #DoodleaDay

Gary Andrews is an animator and single dad whose #DoodleaDay visual diary chronicles his life, particularly how it transformed several years ago with the sudden death of his wife Joy (left). Gary discusses the rules he gives himself and how his daily ritual became a major part of the grieving process and a meaningful balm to an increasing number of followers and fans. Featuring touching chords, the marvel of having both talent and bandwidth, a beautiful film made from his drawings, the power of unpacking the day, the hardest thing one ever has to do, the mystery of laughter continuing through grief, how you can donate to the UK Sepsis Trust, Shakespeare being a constant, shout-outs to Fireman Sam and Horrid Henry, and connections to RSC founding member Adam Long! (Length 18:14)

Livermore Shakespeare Festival

Livermore Shakespeare Festival is the thriving cultural center of the Tri-Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, and founder and producing artistic director Lisa Tromovitch talks about how the company began and how it’s continuing to grow. Featuring the journey from parks and vineyards to a brand-new building; how working with new plays and living playwrights is great training for collaborating with William Shakespeare; how Shakespeare and theatre acts as an economic engine; and finally, the greatness of being in the so-called center of the MegaRegion! (Length 20:21) (Lisa Tromovitch; Nicole Odell and Skyler Cooper in the 2019 Livermore Shakespeare Festival production of Othello, directed by Michael Wayne Rice. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com)

 

John Sutton’s Will

Terry Franklin is an estate and trust lawyer who in his spare time is chronicling the story of his antebellum ancestors, John and Lucy Sutton, and the discovery of the actual document that emancipated his fourth-great-grandmother and freed her from slavery. Terry discusses his journey and the story of his family, and talks about the dangers of destructive fires; contested wills; the luck of finding thoughtful paralegals; family connections to the Tuskegee Airmen; the thrill of the (paper) chase; how fact met fiction; a fateful fascination with red sealing wax; encouraging words from Amelia Boynton Robinson; the power of prayers for the ancestors; how Lucy and her children were able “to enjoy their full and perfect freedom;” and emerging understanding of what history actually is. (Length 24:30) (Recorded Friday, January 24th 2020, the 173rd anniversary of the day John Sutton’s will was written.)

Appreciating Viola Spolin

Aretha Sills discusses her grandmother, the legendary Viola Spolin, who invented an entire discipline and whose book Improvisation for the Theater is a fundamental text for generations of theatre artists. Viola’s son (and Aretha’s father) Paul Sills took Viola’s teachings “to the world,” where they became the foundation for more than sixty years of American acting and comedy. Aretha discusses Viola’s early training with Neva Boyd at the Jane Addams Hull-House in Chicago and with the Group Theatre in New York; early exposure to opera from her policeman father; how Viola’s work inspired the Playwright’s Theatre, the Compass Players, and Second City; the value of Spolin’s theatre games in de-colonizing authoritarian teaching methods; and the importance of understanding and honoring the origins of this work (play). (Length 22:47) (Photo courtesy of the Estate of Viola Spolin, www.violaspolin.org.)

Personifying The Muse

New York Times best-selling author Christopher Moore talks about his best-selling novel Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art, and how he weaved together the history of the color ultramarine blue, the rise of the impressionists, and the death of Vincent Van Gogh to create a wildly entertaining novel about the sometimes-comic sometimes-poignant dangers of invoking the Muse. Featuring tips from Famous Genius School; ideas begun from simple notions; misappropriating (and mispronouncing) French terms; secrets of surviving book tours; inventing more Earthly Delights; the truth of the arrival of the muse; and the joy of discovering — and then filling in — holes in history. (Length 22:38)

Comparing Twelfth Nights

To celebrate Twelfth Night, we compare different productions of Shakespeare’s great comedy with Dee Ryan, adjunct professor at Northwestern University and president of the North Shore Shakespeare Society, and actress Elizabeth Dennehy, who recently directed Twelfth Night at the Los Angeles County School for the Arts. Featuring shout-outs to productions at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company; the Stratford Festival (with music by Michael Roth & Des MacAnuff), the South Australian State Theatre with Geoffrey Rush, Chicago’s Writer’s Theatre, and the Amanda Bynes film She’s The Man; how Twelfth Night got its title (and subtitle); how and when to make sure scene transitions flow as well as the play itself; the virtue of outright theft; how the play is NOT the tragedy of Malvolio; inspiration from the musical Once; Lear-like Orsinos; cleansing rains; shout-outs to Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Oklahoma! and San Diego Repertory Theatre’s The Humans; valentine reviews; pairing Antonio and Aguecheek; the benefits of isolating your Olivia; shout-outs to Caitlin McWethy and Abby Lee (pictured above); the food chain of status-climbing; and, as ever, the promise of getting it better…next time. (Length 27:50) (Pictured: Abby Lee as Olivia, Caitlin McWethy as Viola, and cast of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night, directed by Austin Tichenor. Photos by Mikki Schaffner Photography.)

Advice For Actors

For the last podcast of the decade, we answer the two biggest questions we’re regularly asked: What advice do you have for young actors; and when will you tour the UK again?! Featuring advice both practical and philosophical; tips for auditioning; advice from Mister Rogers; Top Ten Shakespeare Monologues; the value of learning by doing; a tiny Twitter Q&A; what kind of people you should surround yourself with; and finally, what you can do to make a UK tour happen. Special thanks to Instagram follower Zach Gillam, and Twitter followers Liz Marsden and Bob Linfors for the questions. Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!  (Length 18:36)

The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas

Your new holiday tradition! The complete (unabridged) recording of The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas, produced by Connie Blaszczyk for Public Radio International in 1995, which has been unavailable for years and features Adam Long, Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor, and Matthew Croke in a special “live” recording from RSC HQ. Not to be confused with our stage production The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), the RSC Christmas features transmissions from Yule-Sat, Reed’s Happy Wholesome Holiday Poem, Carolers from Hell, just A Little Dickens, the incredibly helpful Carol Complaint Line, almost-25-year-old references, a very minor holiday apocalypse, 12 Tips of Christmas, our epic production of “The Complete Christmas Carol (abridged)”, an exclusive interview with Charles Dickens himself, and ultimately, inevitably, the True Meaning of Christmas. (Length 46:33)

Director Robert Falls (Part 2)

This week we continue our conversation with Robert Falls, the Tony-winning artistic director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. In addition to being well-known for directing classics like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bob has worked on such possibly surprising material as the Elton John and Tim Rice musical Aida, and that’s where we pick up our conversation. Featuring the joy of working with actors; collaborating with Elton John, Tim Rice, and David Henry Hwang; tales of working on John Logan’s Red, and Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and Measure for Measure; why and how we’re drawn to certain plays or genres; false distinctions; some terrible phrasing and important corrections; why, for all the comedies Bob directs, he may be more of a tragedian; and the dual pleasures of tearing plays apart — and an audience’s heart out. (Length 18:54) HEAR PART ONE OF OUR CONVERSATION HERE! (Pictured: (l-r) Disney Theatrical’s Thomas Schumacher, Elton John, and Robert Falls in rehearsal for Aida, 2000.)

Director Robert Falls

Robert Falls is the Tony-winning artistic director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and after talking with several actors from his productions of Death of a Salesman (left), The Iceman Cometh, The Winter’s Tale, and Enemy of the People, we finally get to talk to the man himself. Bob discusses how he approaches his work, and how ultimately passion decides everything, but along the way gives shout-outs to Mark Larson and his invaluable book Ensemble; talks about how he finds his way into the work; shares guest appearances by Winston Churchill; reveals one or two trials by fire; enthuses about amazing introductions to Shakespeare; and tells a great story about working with Vanessa Redgrave (though probably not the story you’re thinking of). (Length 24:55) HEAR PART TWO OF OUR CONVERSATION HERE!

Holy Land Hamlet

It’s a podcast bar mitzvah! The Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast became a man last week when it celebrated its 13th birthday while we were performing Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) in Israel. To honor that special occasion, we gathered in Molly Bloom’s, Tel Aviv’s traditional Irish pub, to talk about how Israeli audiences responded to the show. Featuring universal cultural references, slowing down the pace, dealing with the heaviest sword in the world, people surprised by the number of actors, miraculous costume changes, combining parodies in a The Court Jester/Hamilton mashup, and the pleasure of pleasing both Shakespeare nerds and neophytes. (Length 23:35)

Red Fox Theatre

Playwright Ellen Margolis (left )saw the Red Fox Theatre production of Catch of the Day (short-listed for Best Musical at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe) and the experience of seeing it was as wonderful as the show itself. Ellen discusses how all the extra-theatrical elements combined to make a magical evening at the theatre even more so, and shares insights into the nature of crazy fish stories, excellent marketing materials, local hand-held guidance, uniting the audience through the power of a Van Morrison singalong, tales of Fungie the Dolphin, kindred reduced spirits, worldwide Fringe experiences, and further adventures within the comedy industrial complex. (Length 19:09)

Romeo And Juliet

The current Chicago Shakespeare Theatre production of Romeo And Juliet completely reinvigorates Shakespeare’s most famous play, emphasizing frequently overlooked themes and giving events an intense urgency that accentuates both the comedy and the tragedy. Director Barbara Gaines (who’s also CST’s founding artistic director) talks about what finally drew her to the play and how she emphasized certain things while eschewing too much romanticization; how she underscores the dangers of cycles repeating endlessly; creates powerful final images: how every Shakespeare play can be improved by setting it in a high school; how she adds tension and comedy to the balcony scene; gives us a reduced history of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; and the wonderful but maybe not too surprising relationship between Chicago Shakes and Second City. (Length 24:02) (Pictured: Brittany Bellizeare and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, directed by Barbara Gaines. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Steadfast Tin Soldier

Standup Vs. Improv

Shakespeare Rocks Tonight

Doug The Time-Traveler

All About Ophelia

Creating Hamlet’s Adventure

Playing Historical Characters

Sharing Great Theatre

The Devil’s Work

Into The Woods

Man About Town

Completing The Canon

The Impostors Theatre

Glory Of ‘Ensemble’

Tales Of Edinburgh

Mary Magdalene Revelations

The Web Opera

We Debate ‘Shipoopi’

Weird Old Man

History of Vaudeville

Dueling Chicago Hamlets

Fighting Writers Block

Courting Mr. Lincoln

Shakespeare Cult Blueprints

The Winter’s Tale

Balancing Twelfth Night

Discussing Twelfth Night

Other Famous Prequels

High School Bard

Hamlet’s Big Adventure!

Shakespeare In The Shadows

Theatre Communications Group

Mary Poppins Kerfuffle

The Viola Project