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.)

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.)

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.)

All About Ophelia

The Web Opera

Weird Old Man

Dueling Chicago Hamlets

Fighting Writers Block

Episode 611. Burbage to Burbage

Episode 607. Getting To Edinburgh

Episode 606. Composer Michael Roth

Episode 605. The Actors Gymnasium

Episode 603. Value Of Limitations

Episode 602. Broadway’s Fight Guy

Episode 601. More Lauren Gunderson

Episode 599. Coming And Going

Episode 597. Lady Macbeth Herself

Episode 596. Nicole Galland’s D.O.D.O.

Episode 594. ‘Caged’ World Premiere

Episode 590. Serious Actor Clown

Episode 588. Resurrecting The Bible

Episode 584. The Comedy “Plantation!”

Episode 583. Short Rehearsal Process

Episode 581. Reagan And Gorbachev

Episode 579. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries

Episode 573. Heminges & Condell

Episode 570. Book Of Will

Episode 569. Playwright Lauren Gunderson

Episode 562. Reframing The Shrew

Episode 556. Abridged Too Far?

We premiered our one-hour version of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last week, and RSC UK cast members Joseph Maudsley, Matt Pearson, and James Percy discuss the ups and downs of further reduction. Featuring problems with pacing, riding over slumps, totally different experiences, 30-year anniversaries, terrific venues, Fringe memories, swan songs, retained poignancy, the challenges of dealing with audience volunteers, and also the challenge of being an audience volunteer. Puckin’ Ariel! (Length 20:29)

Episode 555. The Improv Nerd

Episode 543. Editing Pop-Up Shakespeare

Episode 542. Writing Pop-Up Shakespeare

Episode 539. Encouraging Young Writers

Episode 536. Discussing ‘Much Ado’

Episode 534. Writing About ‘Veils’

Episode 531. Thinking Shakespeare’s Text

Episode 529. Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation

Episode 516. The Q Brothers

Episode 515. Baby Wants Candy

Episode 514. Streamlining ‘Julius Caesar’

Episode 501. Thaddeus And Slocum

Episode 500! Playwright Ken Ludwig

Episode 456. Broadway’s “Something Rotten!”

Episode 444. The New Pages

Episode 393. Multi-Tasking Actors

Episode 363. ‘Comedy’ Opening Weekend

Episode 339. Joss Whedon Shakespeare

Episode 322. Auditioning in London

Episode 201. Endings Are Important

Episode 175. Playwrights Who Direct

Episode 165. We Reduce ‘LOST’

Episode 134. Our Writing Process

Episode 95. Reduced Rehearsal Process

Episode 83. Notes For Dustin