Kate And Petruchio

Friends of the pod Alejandra Escalante and Daniel José Molina are playing Kate and Petruchio in the five-actor American Players Theatre production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Shana Cooper, until November 14, 2021. Alejandra and Daniel discuss how they decided to do the play; how they approached their characters; what the play is about now; how the language defines the play; the advantages of seeing many previous productions; how it’s a play about navigating relationships, the various worlds of the play, marriage; and, ultimately, two misfits in a patriarchal, transactional society. BONUS: Here’s where you can watch this production online! (Length 26:27) (PICTURED: Alejandra Escalante and Daniel José Molina in Taming of the Shrew at American Players Theatre, directed by Shana Cooper, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Troubador Theater’s ‘Lizastrata’

Matt Walker (left) is the founder and artistic director of the Troubador Theatre Company, the LA-based ensemble that combines classic texts with classic Top-40 songs to create such astonishing mashups as Much A-Doobie Brothers About Nothing, The Comedy of Aerosmith, Fleetwood MacBeth, Santa Claus is Coming to Motown, The Little Drummer Bowie, Julius Weezer, Abbamemnon, As U2 Like It, A Christmas Carole King, Hamlet – the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark, A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream, and It’s a Stevie Wonderful Life. The Troubies’ most recent magnum opus, which just closed its sold-out run at LA’s Getty Villa, was Lizastrata, which combined Aristophanes bawdy political comedy with music associated with Liza Minnelli. Matt explains how “The Troubies”, after more than 18 months, finally made the show go on; hired a COVID Compliance Officer; got advice from classical scholars; received letters anyway from “concerned” patrons; held a funhouse mirror up to nature…and hung it over the bed; and were visited by royalty: the Divine Miss Liza with a Z herself. BONUS! Austin reveals how Kander & Ebb’s “New York, New York” became the official anthem of New York City. (Length 25:29)

 

Fan Fiction Finn

Dr. Kavita Mudan Finn is an independent scholar (late of Georgetown University, George Washington University, and most recently, MIT) who is both a creator and scholar of Fan Fiction Studies, and who recently filmed an hour-long interactive conversation with Austin Tichenor on The Shakespeareance. In this excerpt, Dr. Finn discusses how “fan fiction” might be best defined; how fan fiction is a surprisingly new field of study, despite it being a centuries-old practice; some of fan fiction’s earliest examples, including the identity of two OG slashers; the distinctions (such as they are) between performance studies and fan studies; what the actual opposite of fandom is; ridiculous casting uproars; and how the shows of the Reduced Shakespeare Company – including the RSC name – are forms of fan fiction themselves. (Length 21:17)

Adrian Scarborough Masterclass

Two-time Olivier Award winner Adrian Scarborough returns to the podcast to give a masterclass in learning to love Shakespeare, studying him in drama school, and performing him professionally. Adrian shares experiences of learning Shakespeare at his mother’s knee; playing Shakespeare’s clowns; getting direction from Sam Mendes; occasional rush-hour trains going by; the advantage of dance training in performing Shakespeare; an auspicious debut (playing young doomed Macduff as a child); an intensity of intention; how to root one’s self in rehearsal; the importance of heading for the full stop and the dogged pursuit of an idea; and the value of going for the truth instead of going for the comedy…because going for the truth gives you better comedy. (Length 22:51)

#TheShowMustGoOnline In Person

LIVE FROM LONDON, ENGLAND! The Show Must Go Online – the international phenomenon that performed Shakespeare’s uncut complete works once a week during the pandemic on Zoom – had an in-person reunion at the Globe Theater in London on September 22nd and 23rd, and Austin Tichenor and Elizabeth Dennehy (who each performed in three of the shows) were there to surprise co-creators Rob Myles and Sarah Peachey, and the several dozen alumni who came from all over the world to celebrate this community born of lockdown. Enjoy the surprise, the fear of anti-climax, the possible double surprise, the excited reunion, the loving testimonials, and revel in the possibility and hope for the future The Show Must Go Online represents. (Length 22:18)

Flatwater Shakespeare’s ‘Unshaken’

Flatwater Shakespeare Company is hosting its first (and hopefully annual) “Unshaken Festival,” five solo pieces that engage with Shakespeare comically, poignantly, and powerfully (including Dee Ryan’s Broadguess, featuring actor Fred Vogel, left). Summer Lukasiewicz (also left) is Flatwater’s outgoing executive artistic director, and she shares how these new pieces were selected; how the festival came to be, and how it’s a reaction to the pandemic; the importance of getting changes to the tech crew; the differences between working with living playwrights (as opposed to dead ones), including why the royalty line-item suddenly has numbers in it bigger than zero; whether (and how) the “Unhaken Festival” will continue; and why seeing Shakespeare through difference lenses and from different perspectives is one reason why Shakespeare continues to live. (Length 20:25)

The Steppenwolf Story

John Mayer – actor, director, and chair of the Theatre Department at Cal State Stanislaus – has written Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago: In Their Own Words, the (so far) definitive chronicle of Chicago’s groundbreaking theatre ensemble. A high school friend of two of the company’s founders – Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry – John interviewed dozens of artists and administrators who were instrumental in Steppenwolf’s evolution, and reveals such tidbits as Sinise’s early fundraising efforts (which involve a hubcap); the greatest summation of Steppenwolf ever; shout-outs to amazing influential teachers; what an MFA really gives you; tensions between art and commerce; memories of John Malkovich’s landmark production of Balm In Gilead; and, most importantly, how passion, chutzpah, drive, and the ability to adapt and change creates long-term artistry. (Length 21:31)

The False Exit

Barbara Wallace, who, along with her writing partner Thomas R. Wolfe created the TV series Welcome To New York (starring Christine Baranski and Rocky Carroll), talks about one of her biggest pet peeves, an almost indefinable bit of stage business that always feels forced (and is not to be confused with an actual exit). Barb also discusses her creative journey from sketch comedy in Chicago to writing and creating TV series in both Hollywood and New York. Featuring: whether or not actors should be allowed to breathe; conflicting definitions of “hugely successful;” the importance of writing the best thing you can, not what you think people will like; fighting for gender parity at Second City in the early 1990s; the mixed benefits of multiple streaming platforms; getting close enough to the glass ceiling to fog it up but not break it; the joys of working with TV legend Christine Baranski; and finally, the ABCs of surviving in showbiz – Always Be Creating your own content. (Length 21:15)

Cutting The Plays

If you’ve ever wanted to cut down a massive Shakespeare play – or indeed any epic already in the public domain – but wanted a more sophisticated understanding of how it could best be done, directors and dramaturgs Aili Huber and Toby Malone have done that work for you. They’ve written Cutting Plays for Performance, a practical guide on how to go about…not reducing, but…shortening your play for any and all kinds of reasons, from the practical to the craven to the artistic. Featuring: the open secret that almost every Shakespeare play is for performance, every single time; how an initial argument led to a great partnership; tricks and philosophies for cutting and focusing; how these tips work for everyone from high schools to New York’s Shakespeare in the Park; why there’s so little pushback; what plays you emphatically cannot cut; and what The Complete Iceman Cometh (abridged) might sound like. (Length 23:45)

Star Trek Shakespeare

Elizabeth Dennehy discusses how teaching Shakespeare intersects with her experience playing Lt. Cmdr. Shelby on the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “The Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 & 2”. Elizabeth shares behind-the-scenes stories about how she got the role and shot the episode; how her theatrical training (warp) factored into her ability to memorize sci-fi technobabble; how she and co-star Jonathan Frakes planted the seeds for any direction the narrative could take; how she prefers different kinds of costume fantasies; how her experience as an actor fuels her teaching; which Shakespeare characters and scenes resonate best with her students; how to measure photon torpedo hits; the further adventures of Sir Patrick Stewart: Matchmaker; and how she utilizes “The Price Is Right Guide to Shakespeare.” NOTE: This is edited from a longer conversation on The Shakespeareance, which you can watch here. (Length 23:01)

Stephano & Trinculo

Adam Wesley Brown (left) and Ron E. Rains (right) played Stephano and Trinculo in the 2015 Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of The Tempest directed by Aaron Posner and Teller, and for no reason other than we’re huge fans, they discuss the rewards of playing Shakespearean clowns (these two in particular). Featuring the wonder of immediate connections at the auditions; the occasional difficulty of calling it ‘work’; shout-out to Zach Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee from Pilobolus Dance Company, who played an eight-limbed, two-headed Caliban; the beauty of being a bit factory; the dramaturgical importance of clowns, and realizing that if the most memorable character in Hamlet is the Gravedigger you’ve done something wrong; how it behooves young actors to get some musical skills, and how a knowledge of music helps particularly with speaking Shakespeare; how you must always fight for the biggest flask; how we didn’t even discuss Ron also being The Onion’s Film Critic, Peter K. Rosenthal; and the importance of learning that, when in doubt about a joke, make it sexual. (Length 23:05)

Translating ‘Uncle Vanya’

Alexander Gelman has created a new translation of Anton Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya, and the director, translator, and outgoing director of the School of Theatre and Dance at Northern Illinois University, discussed how it came about and why he waited until now to write it. Our discussion features talks about Alex stepped in where others have already succeeded; the relationship between directing and translation; how Chekhov discovered people whose stories were worth telling; how great plays frequently don’t read well; the tantalizing possibility of a pantomime dame Lady Macbeth; how writing plays is more akin to writing music than novels; how we speak in order to hide, not reveal; the importance of one’s “envelope of truth;” how actors are translators, too; and how there are worse collaborators for a playwright than Anton Chekhov. (Length 23:17)

Living In “Schmigadoon”!

This week, we continue our conversation with Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured professor who has been fired from, and is now filing a lawsuit against, Linfield University, which would prefer to try to silence its critics rather than address the serious accusations of sexual misconduct against current and former members of Linfield’s board of trustees. Featuring: a special appearance from Washington Post theatre (and “Shipoopi”) critic Peter Marks; comic bestiality, William Goldman’s observation about what the real drag of a story can be; nostalgia for ancient things called “video stores;” shout-outs to In The Heights, Brigadoon (and its modern counterpart Schmigadoon!), Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Ben Franklin in Paris, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Leowe, Cabaret, and Sweeney Todd; and most fundamentally, important childhood connections to great musicals of the past. PART ONE OF OUR CONVERSATION CAN BE FOUND HERE. (Length 16:00)

Firing The Messenger

Cultural observer and embattled professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner (who has appeared on the podcast before discussing Mary Poppins‘ racist imagery and the queer narrative of West Side Story) discusses his $4 million lawsuit against Linfield University, which fired him for publicizing the serious accusations against…four members of the Board of Trustees at Linfield University. Featuring the disgusting nature of “himpathy;” how the helpful acronym “DARVO” articulates the process by which institutions betray their trust; the risks of telling truth to power; Shakespearean (and musical theater parallels) in real-life social justice dramaturgy; the dangers of boards of trustees who account to no agency; whether we’re in a Tragedy, Comedy, Romance, or Musical; the possibilities of a happy ending; and why the people who shine a light on the problem are never the problem. PART ONE OF OUR CONVERSATION CAN BE FOUND HERE. (Length 25:54)

King Lear’s Edgar

Daniel José Molina (who’s appeared on the podcast discussing his performances of Hal in both parts of Henry IV and Henry V), discusses playing the even more difficult role of Edgar in the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival production of King Lear starring Andre De Shields. Daniel reveals the challenge of playing a purely reactive character; the value of recognizing that Edgar only realizes when it’s almost too late what play he’s in; the trick of honoring Shakespeare’s intent to make ‘Poor Tom’ a crude performance, not a Daniel Day-Lewis transformation; the tricky irony of when performed mental illness meets genuine decline; gives a shout-out to Leland Fowler, who played one of the best bastards ever; a special appearance from Netta Walker, one of the stars of the upcoming CW series All-American: Homecoming; a preview of Daniel’s next Shakespeare challenge; and, ultimately, how Edgar is actually four or five characters in one. (Length 24:18) (PICTURED: Standing (l-r): Mark Larson, RSC Podcast guest, author of Ensemble, and arranger of the tickets (thank you, Mark!); Mary Larson; Andre De Shields; Netta Walker. Sitting (l-r): Jack Lancaster; Daisy Tichenor; Austin Tichenor; and Allen Gilmore, who played – magnificently! – the Fool.)

The Historical Gap

Gaps in the historical record are treasure troves for playwrights and novelists, and this week we talk to novelist Louis Bayard (Mr. Timothy, Courting Mr. Lincoln) about two of his historical novels, The School of Night and The Pale Blue Eye. Lou discusses how he stumbles into these historical gaps and how he excavates what he does or doesn’t find there, and he reveals the pain of eliminating unnecessary characters; the difficulty in finding the heart of your mystery; meditations on both Dupin and Lupin; fan fiction about artists, scientists, and thinkers; the delight of dropping Easter eggs; the rewards of going on Google crawls; finding the balance in his promiscuous mix of fact and fiction; and what’s coming next down the Bayard pipeline. (Length 23:30)

760. Some Broadway B.S.

Abbey Harris is the co-creator and co-host of Broadway Bullshit, the seasonal weekly podcast that examines Broadway musicals and discusses whether they should “fly, die, or retry,” and strives to provide contextual analysis, while also reminding fans why they love Broadway. FEATURING: bleeding edge hot takes; looking at classic material in new ways; the power of being a double threat; the importance of editing; some recording tips; and addressing the danger of running out of musicals. (Length 19:18)

Protest Too Much

Stephanie Crugnola (left) is the creator and host of Protest Too Much, a Shakespeare Showdown podcast that pits Stephanie against performers, educators, and scholars in a weekly battle of Shakespearean comparisons, challenges, and ‘best ofs’. Recently, Stephanie debated with Austin Tichenor the question of what is “Shakespeare’s Funniest Non-Comedy,” a conversation that lasted 45 minutes, and a 15-minute abridgment of which you can hear below. Featuring: Shakespearean pet peeves; the danger of sleeping on the Histories; how Shakespeare is all about contrasts; backup from Samuel Johnson in 1765; the comedy of ‘sad-off’s; comparisons to Monty Python and The Death of Stalin; and how Shakespeare is the king of tentpole media! (Length 20:38)

Drawing On Shakespeare

“Bill” by Gary Andrews, @GaryScribbler, © 2021.

Drawing on Shakespeare is a 16-episode webseries hosted by Austin Tichenor and the ridiculously talented Gary Andrews, where we talk about Shakespeare with witty, wonderful, and wise people while Gary draws what we’re talking about. As a possible second season/series gets closer, Gary and Austin remember how Drawing on Shakespeare began, discuss how different actors bring new meaning to a character; how every conversation leads to new insights about a play; how Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be like Keith Richards; and how audience figures are staggering into the several. (Length 17:40)

Emily Carding’s ‘Quintessence’

Our friend Emily Carding performs their solo show Quintessence this week at the Brighton Fringe Festival (where it won the “Outstanding Theatre Award” in 2019) and talks about how the show was inspired by their love of Shakespeare, science-fiction, and Frankenstein. Featuring the embodiment of an artificial intelligence onstage; starting out life as a commission from the London Science Museum; influences ranging from Shakespeare’s Ariel to Star Trek’s Data; the power and profundity of silliness; the elimination of barriers provided by Fringe performing spaces; upcoming pub garden performances of As You Like It with the Open Bar Theatre; and real-life warnings about how humanity will ultimately be destroyed — and possibly be reborn. (Length 20:22)

Teaching During Quarantine

Two Northwestern University professors — Cindy Gold (above, right) from the Theater department and Dee Ryan (above, bottom left) from the Radio, Film, and Television department — talk about how their classes and teaching methods changed and evolved over the fifteen months of the COVID pandemic. Featuring the reinvention of mask work; cancelled performances and career opportunities; being an adorable drunk; how many students got COVID (surprisingly few); being paralyzed by fear (not of COVID, but of technology); spectacular threshing metaphors; a mention of and appearance by Jill Talley (the voice of Karen from SpongeBob SquarePants; right); and the incredible value of Zoom’s Chat feature. (Length 20:58)

Writing Like Shakespeare

Our last two scripts — William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) and Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) — have been written largely in iambic pentameter, and this week we talk to lecturer and playwright Richard O’Brien (who, as his very helpful Twitter handle @NotRockyHorror explains, is not the author of that legendary classic) about what that all means. Featuring essential differences between poets and dramatists; the only problem with doing a surprisingly good Fletcher impression; how formal poetic structure can deepen character; how verse pulls off the wonderful double act of lending gravitas and making jokes land; showing off the precision and pyrotechnics of language; the floated possibility of guest lecturing (let’s make this happen, Shakespeare Institute!); and how one of the pleasures of writing (and watching) verse plays is how much they resemble musicals (but without the expense and difficulty of getting them on). (Length 21:08)

My Favorite Hamlet

John Vickery (above, as Antonio in The Tempest at the Stratford Festival in 2010 and Orak the Klingon on Star Trek: Enterprise in 2003) starred as Hamlet in Richard E.T. White‘s (left) production at the California Shakespeare Theater (then the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival) in 1982, and it remains, almost 40 years later, Austin’s favorite performance of that role he’s ever seen live. Richard discusses how that production came to be; how returning to Shakespeare allows such powerful explorations of class, wealth, and power; what favorite scenes we share; the danger (and rewards) of rewriting copyrighted material; the frustrations of college drama departments everywhere; how the streets of New York City became Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley; interesting collaborations and treasures discovered in the second quarto; how Shakespeare is open and available to any culture and any society; and who Hamlet’s final climactic sword should really be with. (Length 21:27)

Doing. Teaching. Learning.

Director and outgoing chair of the Cornish College of the Arts Theatre Department Richard ET White returns to discuss the reciprocal nature of directing and educating: about how creating art leads to the ability to teach the art, and how both creating and teaching leads to much unexpectedly wonderful learning. Featuring the value of simple acts of necessary communication vs. mad conceptual skills; the sting of painfully truthful recommendations; the advantages of them paying you vs. you paying them; an historic season at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco; how using theatre to teach English in Japan opens up whole new worlds; the pomposity of holding forth; and the incredible universality of Marowitzian deconstruction. (Length 14:29)

Everything Is Theatre

Richard ET White (left) is the former artistic director of the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago, and the outgoing and longest-serving chair of the Cornish College of the Arts Theatre Department in that institution’s 103-year-old history. Richard was also an acting and directing teacher at the University of California Drama Department where many RSC members got their early training. RSC co-artistic director Austin Tichenor talks with his former professor about how theatre can be anything and everywhere; how comedy about serious issues from the San Francisco Mime Troupe became life-changing; the influence of Richard Schechner and the Performance Group; sneering at prosceniums; what people forget about Brecht; the value of immaturity; the immediacy of improv; the storytelling and performance art of stand-up; being both expansive and inclusive; the value of sharing your lived experience; and how you want theatre to have the visceral impact of a great rock concert. (Length 24:06)

Introducing The Shakespeareance!

There’s a reason this week’s episode is shorter than usual, and it’s because Austin’s special guest is…himself! Austin talks about his new project — The Shakespeareance — a new monthly web series that talks about Shakespeare in our life and culture and features live Q&A conversations that you can be part of. He also shares how he offers private monologue coaching and play or novel manuscript review, and how you can become a Patreon supporter and get exclusive free content. If you’ve ever wanted to work with Austin, this is your chance! Join the Shakespeareance! (Length 13:39) (Shakespeareance Flag & Banner by Jennie Maizels.) 

Depicting William Shakespeare

It’s William Shakespeare’s Birthday Week! On this milestone 750th episode (!), Nicole Galland discusses the fun and intimidating challenge of making Shakespeare a character in her new novel Master of the Revels, and the chutzpah required to put words in the great poet and playwright’s mouth. Nicole shares which parts of the novel are autobiographical (and to what degree), and how even a genius like Shakespeare had gatekeepers; how Edmund Tilney (Queen Elizabeth I’s master of the revels) was both censor and showman; understanding metrics of success (and then ignoring them); how even the greatest writers — maybe especially the greatest writers — walk around in a daze, lost in thought, figuring out story elements and language choices; and how her novel is, ultimately, a celebration of the countless unsung behind-the-scenes champions of playwrights and artists. PLUS: A special appearance by Gary Andrews, author of Finding Joy, and the artist behind the extraordinary portrait above. (Length 20:26)

More Shakespearean Biofiction

Shakespeare’s Birthday Month continues with Part Two with our conversation with Dr Edel Semple (bottom right, left) from University College in Cork, Ireland, and Dr. Ronan Hatfull (bottom left, left) from the University of Warwick, talking about Shakespearean Biofiction onstage, screen, and this week on the page, too. We share love for both Hamnet the novel by Maggie O’Farrell and Hamnet the play (by Irish companies Dead Centre and the Abbey Theatre); brushes with greatness (in the forms of playwright Edward Bond and comedian Eddie Izzard); and we discuss all the big questions: how intimidating it can be putting words into Shakespeare’s mouth; how biofiction can speculate realistically or fantastically about where Shakespeare’s genius comes from; whether Shakespeare is, in fact, worth it; how Shakespeare compares to Leontes in The Winter’s Tale; how we can avoid spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; what’s amazing about Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will; and, amazingly, the good things in Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous. PART ONE OF OUR CONVERSATION CAN BE FOUND HERE. (Pictured, clockwise from top left: Laurie Davidson as the title character in the miniseries Will; Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell; Austin Tichenor as Richard Burbage in Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will at Northlight Theatre, photo by Liz Lauren; and Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True.) (Length 22:31)

Analyzing Shakespearean Biofiction

Dr Edel Semple (bottom right, above) from University College in Cork, Ireland, and Dr. Ronan Hatfull (bottom left) from the University of Warwick convened a seminar entitled “Shakespearean Biofiction on the Stage and Screen” for this year’s annual conference of the Shakespeare Association of America, where we discussed the how and why of, among other things, we made William Shakespeare a character in William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) (left). Edel and Ronan discuss how the seminar went and talk about the similarities between academic seminars and RSC performances; how incredible planning goes into making things casual and relaxed; what red leather pants really signifies (in both their American or British meaning); how adaptation is also a form of biofiction; shout-outs to all the contributors; layers of irony; what our version of Shakespeare might look like as played by teenagers; how the Shakespeare in Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow is and isn’t like Homer Simpson; climbing up on high horses; and, as always — the importance of the craic! PART TWO OF OUR CONVERSATION CAN BE FOUND HERE. (Length 28:57)

Hamlet’s Prequel Adventure!

Dramaturg Kate Pitt joins us for a deep dive into the creation of the script for Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel), on which she cast her dramaturgical magic (and which we’ll finally get to tour once this stupid pandemic is over). Kate discusses HBA’s intertextual conversation with Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, its biofictional elements, and reveals the identity of the most confusing Hamlet ever; how a prequel can (and should) reveal insights into Shakespeare’s play; how old Hamlet is; the importance of double confirmation; how both Ophelia and Hamlet have All. The. Feels; the value of deploying random skills; the question of how old Hamlet is, anyway; how the gravedigger is an unreliable narrator; the struggle of theater as a career and what to say about it to your kids; and finally, possible spoilers (especially if you know anything at all about the career of UK comedian Tommy Cooper). Plus: jokes for everyone! Poster Art by Lar DeSouza. (Length 32:01)

Supporting Independent Bookstores

Robert McDonald is the director of special events at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, and tells us exactly why supporting independent bookstores — and all small businesses, including theater companies! — is not only a good but an important idea. Featuring changing landscapes; romantic notions of bookstores, and the ways in which those notions are true (and not); ways to pivot; the importance of learning new skills and finding individuality; parental warnings and regrets; who the true essential workers are (aside from the obvious ones); important social niceties; who Bookshop.org is genuinely helping; and finally, how to measure convenience, and how Amazon is really not convenient and is probably doing more harm than good. (Length 21:39)

Remembering George McFly

“Beware the Ides of March…” because March 15 is also the day in 1973 that George McFly was killed by Biff Tannen in one of the darkest timelines of Back to the Future. Actor Jeffrey Weissman, who played George in Back to the Future II and III, tells the unreduced story of how he got the role; shares stories from the film’s set and lessons learned from roles in Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider and Twilight Zone: The Movie; the importance of actor diversification; giving subtle and nuanced performances in The Show Must Go Online; and a return to our shared Shakespearean and comedy roots. Great Scott!! (Length 19:44)

Advice For Writers

Pat Verducci is a screenwriter, writing coach and consultant, and old UC Berkeley classmate and collaborator, and this week offers the encouraging wisdom that most of us are storytellers even if we don’t know it! Pat discusses how training in different disciplines can help a writer; the importance of barfing out that first draft because you can’t edit a blank page; the benefit of a routine; the wearing of different hats and writing like a director (while directing like a writer); the value of images vs. words in different media; the merit of constantly trying new things; life-changing college collaborations (left); and ultimately, the tricks of finding the right voice, both for your characters and you. (Length 20:45)

Something Wonderful Now

Jeffrey Sweet’s Something Wonderful Right Away, an oral history of The Compass Players and Second City was first published in 1978 and it’s arguably still one of the definitive works about the rise of Chicago improvisation and maybe the defining actor training method of the second half of the 20th-century. Jeffrey discusses how the book came to be and talks about his encounters with such greats as Barbara Harris, Sheldon Patinkin, Jules Feiffer, Mike Nichols, Anne Meara, and Elaine May; how specific movies and plays revealed to him a specific style; reveals the joy and wonder of shared realities; what it means to have gotten a B from Martin Scorcese; gives a shout-out to oral history pioneer Studs Terkel; how poverty can be theatre’s friend; how the only two essential elements to theater are actors and audiences (not playwrights!); the devastating truth that playwriting is not literature; and finally, further proof that following your passion can frequently lead you to a career. (Length 20:45) (PICTURED: Jeffrey Sweet in his one-person show You Only Shoot The Ones You Love. Photo bu Dixie Sheridan.)

Truth In Silliness

We tell our RSC actors to always ask themselves, “Yes, it’s silly…but is it Truly Silly?” This week, we talk to the man who taught us that: film editor Doug Purgason (left), an alum of the University of California, Berkeley, Drama Department (along with Reed, Austin, RSC founding member Jess Winfield, and RSC performing alums David Letwin (UK), John Tichenor (US), and Phil Abrams (US, Israel).) Doug explains how he came upon this youthful wisdom and discusses the dangers of short-changing the audience; the importance of spelling and punctuation; committing to the extreme belief and behavior of what you’re saying; how the truly silly “ethos” applies to his current work; the importance of not rejecting absurdity; and finally, the fundamental understanding that, if the actors don’t care enough to invest in the truth of what’s happening, then why should the audience? (Length 20:59) (PICTURED: Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor in their first onstage appearance together, in Eugene Ionesco’s Jack, or the Submission, University of California, Berkeley, Drama Department, Room 7, December 1981. Directed and choreographed by Douglas ‘Zip’ Purgason.)

Meet Kamilah Long

Kamilah Long is the new managing director of Play On Shakespeare, the company dedicated to exploring the world of Shakespeare by commissioning living playwrights — many of them women, many of them playwrights of color — to create new translations and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Like all of us, Play On Shakes is changing and evolving through the course of this pandemic, and Kamilah discusses how they’re continuing the meet the needs of its audiences, both now and in the future. Featuring the looming presence of Shakespeare’s shadow; biblical comparisons; a commitment to doing no harm; the consequences of the pandemic, both good and bad; the wonder of playwrights getting paid and being in the room; a soon-to-come exciting new podcast; and the unfortunate demise of Shakespearean phrases like “jive turkey.” (Length 17:53)

The Revels Master

Master of the Revels is Nicole Galland’s sequel to her New York Times best-selling novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., and picks up right where that fast-paced adventure takes off. It’s a thrilling tale of time-travel, witchcraft, and Shakespeare, and Nicole describes how the novel came to be; how she dipped into Shakespearean fiction before with her memoir I, Iago; some twisted love letters; how characters evolve from one novel to another; a climax at the very first public performance of Shakespeare’s Scottish Play; and how a years-long passion for Edmund Tilney has resulted in an extraordinary new novel. With a special appearance by (speaking of Shakespeare’s original productions) Ben Crystal. (Length 19:42)

Remembering Christopher Plummer

The “grand old man of the theatre” energy of the late Christopher Plummer lives on in our production of Completely Hollywood (abridged), through our old friend, actor and Broadway fight director Thomas Schall (left), who, in this special bonus podcast episode, remembers the extra-close encounter he had with the legendary actor while appearing in the ill-fated (is there any other kind?) 1988 production of William Shakespeare’s Scottish Play. Featuring: rehearsals with Mr. Plummer’s golden retriever; a revolving door of actors, directors, and designers; bon mots from Lady M herself, Glenda Jackson; old-school grandness; immense charm; some unfortunate emergency dentistry; and how the story has both grown in theatrical legend, and — until now — mercifully been forgotten. (Length 16:51)

Alli’s Great(x30)Grandpa Duncan

RSC company manager Alli Bostedt has just discovered (through the genealogical detective work of her husband, RSC web dude Davey Naylor), that she’s the 30th great granddaughter of Scottish King Duncan I, the one slain by Macbeth in both real-life and Shakespeare’s tragedy. Alli and Davey share how they made this very cool discovery and it how it will radically change their lives (SPOILER ALERT: It probably won’t); some minor confusions with Hamlet; how Shakespeare changed history like the Tarantino of his day; a reminder of Davey’s great love for British Kings and Queens; and how royal etiquette demands some pretty goddamn more respectful behavior backstage from now on or heads will roll. (Length 19:50) (Pictured: King Duncan I’s 30th great-granddaughter Alli and 31st great-grandson Arthur.)

Another Day’s Begun

Author, journalist, and theater advocate Howard Sherman talks about his new book, Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century, a fascinating oral history featuring conversations with over a hundred theater artists talking about productions of this seminal work from Chicago to Miami, from off-Broadway to the UK, and from students to professionals to Kate Powers‘ transformative production at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Featuring the two plays that framed World War II; how Howard’s opinion of Our Town changed during the writing of this book; how every production is telling its own story to its own community; how the play prompted dramatic reconsiderations about the American criminal justice system; and how the community of Grover’s Corners is always populated anew by the community of actors and audiences coming together at every performance. (Length 28:07)

We Remember ‘Balto’

The animated film Balto celebrated its 25th Anniversary last month, and RSC members Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor played the sidekick sled dogs Nikki, Kaltag, and Star…until they, like most of the cast, were replaced with different actors. Their voices stayed in the film, however, and this week Reed (left, with the statue of Balto in Anchorage, Alaska in 2012) and Austin remember the process of how they got the gig, how it went, and what happened next. A fun and funny remembrance featuring revelations about the film’s original title; having one degree of Balto himself, Kevin Bacon; big thanks to director Simon Wells and producer Steve Hickner; clues to executive producer Steven Spielberg’s changing enthusiasm; shout-out to other film projects we were in (Carry On Columbus, Liquid Television: Dogboy); how animated films are recorded first; a special appearance from our co-star and fellow “extra voice” Mike McShane; and how Balto is, appropriately enough, the perfect pandemic movie. (Length 18:48)

Meet Suzy Nakamura!

Suzy Nakamura, a familiar face from The West Wing, Dr. Ken, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, Veep, and over a hundred film and TV credits, is in London shooting the second season of Avenue 5, Armando Iannucci’s (Veep, The Thick of It, The Death of Stalin) comedy starring Hugh Laurie (left) about an interstellar cruise ship that gets knocked off course and struggles to return to Earth. Suzy talks about her journey from Second City to Los Angeles in the 90s; the early rounds of auditions; adventures in babysitting; the rewards and challenges of being in the room; memories of sitting around LA’s Farmer’s Market; fond recollections of the London A-Z Street Atlas; the origin story of the character of Ginger from The West Wing; the pleasure and catharsis of playing characters wildly different from yourself; being told to quiet down from the Harry Potter tour next door; love for Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfieldand extolling the talent and genius that is Hugh Laurie. (Length 19:19)

Shakes Of Thrones

Dr. Jeffrey R. Wilson, author of Shakespeare and Trump, now has a much more fun book to talk about, Shakespeare and Game of Thrones! Joining us in the discussion are Dr. Kavita Mudan Finn, a professor and scholar of medieval and early modern literature, and Senior Editor at The Public Medievalist; and Dr. Shiloh Carroll, whose book Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2018, and who’s also the associate editor of Slayage, the journal of the Whedon Studies Association. Featuring tips on engaging with Shakespeare the same way we engage with more pop culturey things like Game of Thrones; mutual inspiration from the Wars of the Roses; some helpful publishing tips; playing “Marry/F/Kill: The Shakespeare Edition”; thinking of fan-fiction as “transformative fiction;” thoughts on proposed casting for the Games of Thrones sequels; full-circle influences; proposals for future long-form interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays; and which fans we’re most afraid of: Shakespeare’s or George R.R. Martin’s. (Length 21:27)

My Podcast Faves

For this last podcast of 2020 (and thank goodness this annus horribilus is over!), we present highlights from our favorite episodes from over 14 years of regular weekly podcasting! Featuring solid categorization; excessive candidates; important work; stories of process; helpful tips; new partners and old friends; and ultimately, passionate chats about things both serious and ridiculous. (Length 23:05) Featuring excerpts from:

Episode 186: The Conti Beat June 27, 2010

Episode 133. ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic June 22, 2009

Episode 289. Mr. Brian Dennehy June 17, 2012

Episode 500. Playwright Ken Ludwig July 11, 2016

Episode 178. The Ballet Book May 3, 2010

Episode 580. Redeeming Time Project January 29, 2018

Episode 707. Lawrence O’Donnell’s Sterling June 29, 2020

Episode 567. Sir Stanley Wells October 23, 2017

Episode 657. We Debate “Shipoopi” July 25, 2019

Holiday Ghost Story

Inspired by the Berko Speakeasy, this week we present a festive tale by Canadian novelist Robertson Davies, from his slim volume High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories. Abridged and read by Austin Tichenor. Featuring: ghostly visitations; poor relations; spectral elitism; Norwegian sneering; drafty accommodations; phantom arthritis; and something called…a rumpus room. (Length 24:34)

731. Berko Speakeasy Christmas

Two-time Olivier Award-winner Adrian Scarborough talks about the latest edition of The Berko Speakeasy which has turned its annual holiday edition of festive favo(u)rites into a virtual international affair, allowing folks from all over the world to enjoy excellent short stories performed by terrific actors. Adrian (left) discusses the pleasures and challenges of moving to a virtual format and reveals some other writing projects; the creativity and fun of editing; how he learns from masters and excellent teachers; the power and difficulty of a festive background; sobering up from being drunk with power; and how short stories provide more bang for your buck (and quid). Featuring smooth holiday music from guitarist Eric Essix off his album, My Gift To You. Get your tickets here, and follow the Berko Speakeasy on Twitter here! (Length 18:48)

Quarantine Panto Lives!

RSC UK member James Percy (William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)) is playing “Silly Billy” in Dick Whittington at the King’s Theatre in Portsmouth, England, from December 8 through (God and COVID willing) January 3rd, 2021. James (left, on the right, with Austin and Joe Maudsley) talks about how they’re doing it, how it’s all going, who he’s playing, and how it feels to be back in a theatre putting on a play again. Featuring the challenge of “playing Tetris in the auditorium” to reduce capacity; rehearsing in the actual hall; how emotional it is to be back onstage again; the danger of contagious luvvies; switching comic roles, depending on the show; a special appearance from Ebenezer Scrooge himself from the Goodman Theatre audio production of A Christmas Carol; and sweet memories of meeting up in bars after live performances. (Length 16:36)

Anthony Clarvoe’s ‘Living’

Anthony Clarvoe’s play The Living takes place in London during the plague year of 1665, and its echoes to our current moment are unmistakable. Anthony (left) discusses how The Living (written in 1990) was inspired by the AIDS crisis of the 1980s; how he discovered his primary play’s sources; how he was galvanized by Daniel Defoe’s 18th-century novel A Journal of the Plague Year; moving descriptions of empty streets; the value of current events; being simultaneously both intimate and epic; loving group protagonists; celebrating the father of population statistics; sharing themes, actors, and a director with Tony Kushner’s Angels in America; how you can order both physical and digital copies; and reference to an ancient and obscure research technology known as “a card catalogue.” (Length 22:06)

Rachel Dratch Thanksgiving

Old friend (and Thanksgiving bestie) Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live) joins us for this very special 14th Anniversary episode! Rachel shares holiday memories; how she’s navigated her career; and reveals who she always associates with Abba’s “Dancing Queen;” the opportunities she’s had and the ones she’s fought for; how she’s drawn to more comedic roles than dramatic ones; how she’s made peace with the uncertainties of an acting career; the creation (with Paula Pell) of Debbie Downer (left); a shout-out to John Cariani and the late lamented Broadway-bound musical Minsky’s; obscure silver dishes; a very special holiday meet-cute; doing Love’s Labors Lost with Shakespeare in the Park; and the glorious power of mid-level fame! (Length 22:22)

Loud Storytelling Moms

Now in its sixth year, Louder Than A Mom is a monthly storytelling show that celebrates voices you don’t usually get to see or hear. Co-founder Dee Ryan (left) talks about how LTAM evolved and reveals many moments of generosity; her comparisons to Mary Shelley; how she and co-hosts Kate Hill and Erin McEvoy Mason create their ever-growing community (first in person and now online); how we all miss gathering at LTAM’s regular location, Martyr’s in Chicago; how they always give space to newbie storytellers; threading the needle of funny and moving; how art shouldn’t be competitive; becoming more political; and how there are always new stories to tell and new voices to hear from. (Length 16:34)

Miranda In Milan

Author Katharine Duckett (left) talks about her new novella Miranda In Milan, which explores what happens when Prospero’s daughter from The Tempest returns with her father to Milan after the events in Shakespeare’s play. Katharine talks about her influences; how she draws on not only Shakespeare but Mary Shelley; how the novel came out of her reading of the play and found its eventual form; dominant storytelling forms; investigating the unresolved tension of the play; her shared Shakespearean instincts; pronunciation controversies; and her own origins story as a writer. (Length 15:45)

Ed And Larry

Peter James Smith and William Duffy played Washington power couple, comedy duo, and the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the White House, Ed and Larry, for seven seasons on Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wingplus the special reunion event A West Wing Special now streaming on HBO Max. On this 2020 Election Eve, Duffy and Peter discuss how they got their roles, how the roles evolved, and the adventure of playing them. Featuring good rapport; having a history with Aaron Sorkin (Duffy) and not knowing who he was at first (Peter); the power of fan message boards; how it stayed fun but never got completely comfortable; falling back into rhythms; and the privilege of being involved with a show that’s lasted much longer than just its original seven seasons. (Length 24:37)

So Potent Art

Actor and author Emily Carding’s latest book So Potent Art: The Magic of Shakespeare (due July 2021), explores how Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are suffused with magic, prophecy, astrology, alchemy, herbalism, witchcraft, hauntings, and divine intervention. Emily (left, pictured as Richard III) talks about their background; where Shakespeare (and his audience) came across their knowledge of magic; whether it’s actual or metaphorical; what we’ve learned from the documentary The Wizard of Oz; paraphrasing Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law; how the supernatural was perhaps less fantastical back then than it is now; reclaiming pejorative terms as empowering; and the always-important reminder that we should look to our own sources of beauty and inspiration. Be the light! (Length 21:53)

Becoming Henry V

Daniel Jose Molina brilliantly played Hal in both parts of Henry IV and the title role of Henry V At the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2017 & 2018. Now quarantining in the Chicago area with his wife Alejandra Escalante (who fiercely played Hotspur opposite him in Henry IV Part 1), Daniel discusses how the roles came to him, and shares how Hal’s fear of becoming king matches the actor’s fear of playing him; the importance of knowing that Hal belongs in Eastcheap and isn’t just a tourist; how to best fight imposter syndrome; passing the baton to your fellow actors; the challenge of translating Shakespeare back into English; having multiple versions of the same conversation; the value of discovering new dream roles; devising the elevator pitch of Hal’s journey; and the flattering presence of the Reduced Shakespeare Company in his actor origin story. (Length 28:56)

Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Unabridged)

Paul Edmondson is the Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Poetry Festival for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and, together with Professor Sir Stanley Wellshas just published All the Sonnets of Shakespeare, which collects Shakespeare’s 154 standalone sonnets along with most of the other sonnets Shakespeare included in his plays, and arranges them all for the very first time in the order in which they were probably written. Paul discusses how he and Sir Stanley had a desire to counter the damaging (and reductive) narrative of a so-called Fair Youth and Dark Lady, and includes revelations of a lifetime of writing; recitations by request; unexpected wisdom from a relatively young poet; recognizing the difficulty of reading the sonnets; schoolboy exercises; how sonnets 50 and 51 suggest that Shakespeare wrote them while on horseback; and the possibility (probably the certainty) of leaving a lasting impact on how we understand Shakespeare’s biography. (Length 28:48)