CST’s Edward Hall

Edward Hall, the new artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, discusses his return to Chicago and his new production of Richard III, starring Tony Award-nominated actor and double-amputee Paralympian medal-winning athlete Katy Sullivan in the title role. Edward reveals what went into his choice of play (and actor); the beauty of happy accidents and wonder of actor-driven Shakespeare; how Shakespeare’s plays are endlessly intriguing and endlessly relevant; the challenge of showing the things we’re saying; the musicality of the American approach to Shakespeare’s verse; inspiration from Game of Thrones, Succession and The Bear; and embracing the Chicago ethos of ensemble and the improv rule of making your scene partner look better. (Length 19:09)

Banning “The Bible”

Last week was the tenth anniversary of “The Kerfuffles,” that time when our performance of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) was banned by conservative politicians and then UNbanned when an international media storm arose. Co-authors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, and Matt Croke – the show’s original cast (pictured above) – reminisce about the creation of the script, how it developed in workshop performances, and how the controversy was handled. Featuring the show’s big Broadway musical ending; conscious comic and commercial decisions; lost scenes and cut props; and the importance of always heeding the wisdom of former dean of Ringling Brothers Clown College Steve Smith. (Length 24:28)

Measuring The Laughs

On the eve of our upcoming tour of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), co-authors and RSC co-artistic directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor talk about measuring the success of a production, and how it’s easier with a comedy but not so much with a drama. Reed and Austin reveal how comedy opens up the heart; how laughs preceded by quiet moments are usually stronger; their greater willingness to go on a comic journey than a tragic one; a shout-out to George Saunders’s book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain; their feelings about whether Chekhov’s plays are actually funny; their ability to take their own notes about slowing down; how not all laughs are created equal; a special appearance by half an EGOT winner “Weird Al” Yankovic; the complete song, “I Laughed Till I Cried;” and the ultimate challenge of wondering whether a quiet audience is enthralled or simply bored. HEAR HERE! (Length 20:36)

School Of Night

Oliver Senton, one of the co-founders of The School of Night, discusses the origins of the great British Shakespearean improv company (loosely inspired by the mysterious Elizabethan cabal of the same name) and its connection to the late, great actor, writer, and director Ken Campbell (pictured below with Senton). As also one of the co-founders of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Senton discusses the comparative difficulties of improvising songs vs. improvising in iambic pentameter and reveals Campbell’s shared connection with the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Senton also explores the secrets of how improvising Shakespeare informs one’s understanding of his plays; the surprising wonder of being big in Newfoundland; how being famous gets in the way of one’s writing; the distinction between Shakespearean characters and Marlovian grandstanding; and the ultimate challenge of improvising a complete, compelling narrative. (Length 20:57) (Pictured above, l-r: Michael Joseph Chance, Dylan Emery, Sean McCann, Alan Cox and Oliver Senton)

Spanky’s Serial Killer

Improviser, storyteller, and teacher Jonathan Pitts’s one-man show My Dad, His Chimp, and a Serial Killer tells the real-life story of his father David, a skater with the Ice Capades who was driving across the country with his ice-skating chimpanzee Spanky when they picked up a hitchhiker who turned out to be a serial killer. Jonathan shares how he discovered this unknown part of his father’s past; how he turned it into the piece he performed at Lifeline Theatre’s Fillet Of Solo Festival; how the story inspired the film He Went That Way, starring Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi; the multiple forms this story has taken; the journey he and his father have been on; and the hazards of going up against 9/11 stories. (Length 22:10)

Favorite Shakespeare Lines

For this first podcast of 2024, father and son authors David Crystal and Ben Crystal share their (many!) favorite quotations they’ve collected in their handy and handsome book, Everyday Shakespeare: Lines for Life. The two Crystals reveal they combined their perspectives as practitioner and linguist, and share how they’ve explored the corners of the canon and found gold; the satisfaction of breakfast-time rituals; how words and their meanings – and their pronunciations! – have changed over the centuries; and the wonder of discovering the diversity of Shakespeare’s voices and characters. (Length 20:05)

Potter V. Scrooge

Joe Dempsey and Austin Tichenor play Mr. Potter and Ebenezer Scrooge in, respectively, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! at the American Blues Theater and A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre. The two Chicago actors share their stories of being cast and the mixed blessing of being perfect casting for two miserable old characters. Dempsey also reveals an appreciation for Saturday Night Live’s famous “Lost Ending” to the Frank Capra film; a shout-out to American Blues Theater’s brand new performance space; what one taps into to play a scurvy little spider; the luck of getting emotional plausible deniability; having front-row seats to some of the finest acting ensembles anywhere; the value of being of service to great stories; and the ultimate privilege of fulfilling audience desires at this time of year. (Length 21:15)

Muppet Christmas Carol

Author Ethan Warren (The Cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson: American Apocrypha) has written the definitive argument that The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best film adaptation of Dickens’s classic novella for the website Bright Wall/Dark Room. Warren – both a nerd about and expert on all things Christmas Carol – explains how the Muppets perfectly capture Dickens’s authorial voice and shares his thoughts on Scrooges he has known and loved (and loathed). Having viewed every existing film version multiple times for his Christmas Carol Advent Calendar™ video essays, Warren now yearns for a Muppet Hamlet and Muppet Wuthering Heights and reaches the inescapable conclusion that Charles Dickens was the very first Muppet. (Length 20:09)

Marley’s Christmas Carol

On its 20th anniversary, actor and playwright Tom Mula discusses the stage adaptation of his book Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, which is available to license via Dramatists Play Service. Mula reveals how Marley helping with Scrooge’s redemption inspired Tom to help with Marley’s; how A Christmas Carol remains an enduring personal myth; how, like Scrooge himself, he too was haunted by Jacob Marley; how he helped settle two ghosts; how cartoonist Nicole Hollander helped him get published; his complicated feelings about having a resting Scrooge face; his fear about living up to the set design; and the beautiful art of surviving a demanding role and how it can inform your future work. (Length 17:08)

Hot Santa Extravaganza

Artist and author Gary Andrews (Finding Joy; Daisy the Littlest Zombie) has created the new holiday classic Hot Santa and the Twelve Days of Christmas, his “sumptuously illustrated novella” which sends his incredibly buff St. Nick on a time-traveling quest to gather all the items mentioned in the famous song. Gary reveals the origins of his Hot Santa character via his #DoodleADay diary; the benefits of finding sleep incredibly overrated; his brilliant contribution to the canon (which explains how Santa’s able to get around the world in just one night; a possible crossover sequel; and how making the most of our one crack at life is an wonderfully meaningful holiday message. (Length 19:04)

Holiday Murder Mystery

In a delightfully macabre bit of counter-programming, Northlight Theatre is producing the classic Dial M For Murder, which has already been extended into 2024 and whose director Georgette Verdin talks about why it’s the perfect kind of play for the holiday season. Georgette reveals the fantastic run of mystery-thrillers she’s been on; the opportunity and payoff of leaning into genre programming; the fundamental need for catharsis; how the theatre industry struggles to market new work and reach new audiences (and sometimes succeeds); and the powerful beauty of finding light in the darkness. (Length 17:47)

Scrooge To Scrooge

Larry Yando (left, above) discusses playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre production of A Christmas Carol with his “Alternate Scrooge,” the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s own Austin Tichenor. The two actors talk about the challenge of being haunted by the Ghost of Productions Past; how Dickens’s story continues to percolate in the off-season; how they navigate script changes, especially the little annoying ones; how Scrooge compares to some of the other great roles Yando’s played (such as Scar in The Lion King, Prospero, Roy Cohn in Angels in America); how seeing another actor play “your” role can sometimes act like “an undigested bit of beef;” why the story stays relevant year after year; the value of staying on your toes; how and why Scrooge chooses Marley over Belle; and how if A Christmas Carol ended 20 minutes earlier, it’d be King Lear. (Length 21:48)

Everyday Shakespeare Lines

Ben Crystal and David Crystal – authors of multiple works, including Shakespeare’s Words and The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary – discuss their new book Everyday Shakespeare: Lines For Life, a collection of overlooked gems plucked from the canon, organized by monthly themes, and suitable for many situations and every reader. The Crystals share how they selected each quote (and how they wanted to avoid the famous ones); how when you pan for Shakespeare gold you find more than you expect; how their unique approaches to Shakespeare reflect their approaches to life; the variety of places they plant their geek flags; the wonderful realization that the more you dig into the words, the more the author recedes; and the surprising beauty of getting hit in the heart rather than the head. (Length 26:41)

Lionesses In ‘Winter’

Rebecca Spence (left) and Netta Walker play Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alice Capet, the estranged wife and mistress, respectively, of Henry II, in the Court Theatre production of James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter, directed by Ron OJ Parson. Spence and Walker discuss what it’s like to be playing the smartest characters in the play; the joy of facing off in their second onstage collaboration; the highly flattering comparison they make to Robert Preston; the privilege of working with such a sensitive ensemble of actors (and a director who trusts them); and how they navigate their power as women in a play with such, as they say in the 12th century, Big Dagger Energy. (Length 20:23) (Photo by Michael Brosilow.)

Meet Frederick Fronkensteen

Actor Sean Fortunato (TV’s Fargo) discusses playing the iconic role of Frederick Frankenstein in the Mercury Theater Chicago production of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’s musical version of his own legendary film, co-written by and starring the great Gene Wilder. Fortunato talks about the enviable range of roles he’s been able to play (from Malvolio to Otto Frank to Willy Wonka); how they navigate some of the 50-year-old jokes; the challenges and rewards of playing in venues of varying sizes; how he approaches comedy from a place of seriousness and sincerity; and the glory of channeling Gene Wilder’s spirit, rather than copying his specific performance. (Length 15:13)

Let’s Build Forts!

Julie Ritchey, the founding artistic director of Chicago’s Filament Theatre, and scenic and installation designer Eleanor Kahn are two members of the team that created Forts!, the play that turns the audience loose in a controlled environment to create their own event. Julie and Eleanor discuss the creation of Forts! and how it changes despite somehow staying the same; how they’re exploring the intersection of play (the noun) and play (the verb); the challenge of creating a Forts! signature cocktail; the important question of why only toddlers get to wear fun fashions; and why Forts! is a play, not a show, and definitely not an experience. Welcome to podcasting on the edge! (Length 17:23)

The Nacirema Society

Chicago director Lili-Anne Brown brings extraordinary levels of funny and heart to the Goodman Theatre production of Pearl Cleage’s wonderful comedy of class, The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years. Brown discusses the kind of rehearsal room she creates; how she worked her way up the theatrical ladder; how we don’t talk enough about the value of comedy; how the comedy basics of high status versus low status goes too frequently unrecognized; how she gives license to her actors to explore and invent; how the best and funniest idea wins; and how the recipe always begins with great actors and giving them permission to try. (Length 21:08)

Daisy the Littlest Zombie

“Some zombies are big
Some zombies are small
But Daisy’s the littlest zombie of all…”
So begins Daisy the Littlest Zombie, the sing-songy coming-of-age tale for children of most ages written by Austin Tichenor and illustrated by Gary Andrews (and published by Sordelet Ink). Austin and Gary reveal how this tale of the undead was brought to life; their love of mashing up genres; how darkness can be cathartic; why it’s sort-of Shaun of the Dead for kids; the joy of including (and discovering!) Easter eggs; inspiration from a performance of Completely Hollywood (abridged); their decision to follow up on the massive success of their award-ignored web series Drawing on Shakespeare; their shared experiences of being a dad to a brother and sister raised in theaters; and how they found meaning and humor in combining profundity and silliness. Now available on all digital platforms and in a handsome hardcover edition! (Length 20:57)

Adapting Kurt Vonnegut

Award-winning playwright and Lifeline Theatre ensemble member John Hildreth wrote an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical sci-fi novel Cat’s Cradle, now enjoying a spectacular revival at Lifeline through October 22, 2023. John discusses the origins of his adaptation and reveals the sources of his inspiration (including and especially the great comic actor Paul Lynde); how director Heather Currie not only “gets it” but is able to communicate it; the value of ignoring the passage of time; the shared experience of navigating multiple theatre worlds; and how his adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel about the fictional inventor of the atomic bomb achieves a perfectly-timed Barbenheimer level of synergy. (Length 19:19)

Playwright Sarah Ruhl

Award-winning playwright, author, and professor Sarah Ruhl discusses her playwriting philosophy and influences ranging from Ovid to Alice in Wonderland and beyond. Sarah shares her reluctance to categorize her plays and reveals how her theatre heart lives in the mix of comic and tragic modes; opens up about the origins of her popular version of Eurydice; discusses how she wants to put the “play” back in “playwriting;” expounds on her wonderful book, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write; graciously puts up with impertinent questions; and talks about her journey from poet to playwright, her discovery that plays can be three-dimensional poems, and her strong feeling that Chicago is her artistic home. (Length 15:30)

Eurydice’s Sarah Price

Sarah Price stars in the Writers Theatre production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (directed by Braden Abraham) and discusses the challenges of playing a character out of myth. As an actor with a background in improvisation and comedy, Sarah talks about finding a balance between modern and classical; how she finds the magic within the realistic (and vice versa); the fun of making physical choices; why being a big comedy nerd helped lead her to Chicago; the value, importance, and absolute necessity of listening; and the complete inability of acting programs to teach ‘adorable’. (Length 18:05)

Storyteller Neal Foard

Neal Foard’s short videos on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are viral sensations: stories filled with humor, wisdom, and a celebration of our commonalities. Neal talks about how he brings his stories to life and how he’s able to see what others miss, and reveals that it started by telling stories to his daughter; how one can choose to not remember the horrible stories; the universality of our experiences; how much hard work goes into making something look easy; the secret to the pocket square and the mystery of the black void; improbably named high school theatre directors; and the romantic benefits of playwriting. WARNING: Be careful offering to buy him coffee; Neal just might take you up on it. (Length 19:58)

Improvising ‘Star Trek’

Chicago’s Otherworld Theater Company is America’s only non-profit theatre dedicated exclusively to exploring the genres of science-fiction and fantasy (and occasionally horror). Otherworld’s Dylan Schaefer talks about Starship Edsel, the fortnightly improvised Star Trek parody (created by Brandon Brylawski) that combines improv, satire, LARPing, and classic nerdery. Dylan reveals how Star Trek led to his life in the theatre; how Otherworld creates an ecosystem for multiple universes; how Star Trek is in its second golden (or possibly silver) age; how theatre as an art form doesn’t lean into sci-fi/fantasy as much as it should; a special guest appearance by a genuine starship captain; where you can watch Starship Edsel online; and how the Edsel preceded the USS Cerritos as the worst ship in the fleet. (Length 19:12)

Lenny Bruce Lives

Actor and writer Ronnie Marmo (above) talks about his one-man show I’m Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce (directed by Joe Mantegna), which he’s toured all over the country for over 400 performances. A longtime actor (Criminal Minds, General Hospital), Ronnie reveals how he first fell in love with the so-called “foul-mouthed” comic who never actually cursed all that much; how he was first arrested in Chicago; how Lenny threatened the status quo and “obscenity” was just an excuse to arrest him; what it’s like when the audience is your scene partner; his showbiz origin story; and ultimately, the importance of always being in a play, whether they’re paying you or not. (Length 20:51)

TV’s Neil Flynn (Pt. 2)

Neil Flynn (The Fugitive, Mean Girls, Scrubs, The Middle) returns to talk about how he manages to work both sides of the acting street: comedic and dramatic, improvised and scripted. A theatre vet, Neil marvels at the times he’s been allowed to frequently act onscreen in 4-5 page scenes (something that rarely happens), and shares the reasons he doesn’t do many talk shows; the bites he’s gotten to take out of dramatic apples; the best business decision he ever made; how basketball led to his role of the Janitor on Scrubs; the joy of getting lucky twice; and his absolute satisfaction about his place on the showbiz ladder. (Length 18:52)

TV’s Neil Flynn (Pt. 1)

Film (Mean Girls, Magnolia) and television (Scrubs, The Middle) veteran Neil Flynn talks about the joys of meeting your heroes, including working with Dick Van Dyke twice and Harrison Ford three times in The Fugitive (below), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and in Shrinking. A Second City alum, Neil shares the fun of working with people you look up to, as well as the possibility of working with people who’ve looked up to you, and the surprising things you do and don’t remember from your career. (Length 16:21)

Steppenwolf’s Jeff Perry

Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member and co-founder Jeff Perry returns to Chicago to star in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, and he discusses what drew him to this role, at this time, at this theatre. Perry shares how seeing John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in No Man’s Land in 1975 inspired a lifetime love of theatre and passion for Pinter; reveals the surprising number of Pinter productions at Steppenwolf over the years; evokes the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof; confesses the delirious joy of communal tomfoolery; talks about how Balm in Gilead gave him a triple doctorate in advanced theatre physics, as well as a motto for the Steppenwolf ensemble; and marvels at the wonder of having a “jazz soul.” Just a couple of old theatre geeks sitting around talking. (Length 21:47)

Phony Winning Musical

Laura Hall (from TV’s “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”) discusses Phony Award Winning, the improvised musical comedy inspired by classic musicals that she co-created and which performs Sunday nights at the IO Theater in Chicago. Laura, who got her start at Chicago’s Second City and Annoyance theaters, reveals how her early training and connections led to this exciting new improvisational form. Laura shares which other musicals they’re considering for future performances (and why none of them will be Hamilton); how the cast is flexible enough to swap roles every performance; the extent to which doing televised improv differs from doing it onstage; how to make audiences completely relaxed right at the top of the show; the exciting motivation to see the show more than once; and how improvising in the language, style, and tropes of different musicals offers fun and specific new challenges. (Length 21:15)

Beethoven’s Killer B’s

Jeff Yang, a classically-trained crossover musician and artistic director of In the Realm of Senses, discusses his production of Beethoven and the Killer B’s, which due to popular demand is having several encore performances at Chicago’s Epiphany Center for the Arts. Jeff, joined by board member Cassandra Rose, shares the difficulty of articulating the nature of this extraordinary multi-media project, which is part concert, part tribute to John Belushi, part spoken-word biography, and part art installation featuring projections and scent sculptures. Revelations include the challenge of finding the right tonal balance; the desire to find a better description than “Smell-O-Rama!”; the journey towards executing one man’s sensory vision; and the difficulty of talking about integrative art that’s never been done before! (Length 23:44)

On Being Unreasonable

Dr. Kirsty Sedgman’s new book, On Being Unreasonable: Breaking the Rules and Making Things Better, examines our age of division and how we can be unreasonable for the right reasons. Born of a lifetime of studying theatre as a window into larger social questions, Sedgman argues that audience behavior is the canary in the coal mine of greater societal concerns, and the subject of her first book, The Reasonable Audience: Theatre Etiquette, Behavior Policing, and the Live Performance Experience. Sedgman discusses how despite our wishful thinking, we’re not in a post-pandemic landscape; the rise of the relaxed performance movement; the vital importance of carefully navigating sometimes competing truths and wrestling with the complexities of our divided age; and the value of getting into what Congressman John Lewis called “good trouble.” (Length 19:03)

Adrian Scarborough’s Churchill

Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Scarborough plays Winston Churchill in the Donmar Warehouse production of Jack Thorne’s new play, When Winston Went to War with the Wireless, about the government’s meddling with the independence of the fledgling BBC during Great Britain’s general strike of 1926. Adrian discusses bringing this iconic man to life while giving the audience a bit of what they expect from earlier portrayals of the older Churchill; the challenge and thrill of performing the text gymnastically; how training with Shakespeare helps you get on top of the language; the pride of doing one’s own lip work; a shout-out to Thorne’s other new play The Motive and the Cue; and finally, a bit of Shakespeare as performed by Winston himself. (Length 22:15)

Something More Wonderful

Jeffrey Sweet, the author of Something Wonderful Right Away, returns to the podcast to discuss the brand-new second edition of this granddaddy of all improv books. Jeff shares how his book had an impact over and above what he ever imagined; how the second edition features new interviews with Keegan-Michael Key and the founding mother of improv Viola Spolin; how improvisation shares so much with games; his many inspirations (including TJ and Dave and Lanford Wilson); and the similarities between improvisation and playwriting. (Length 18:35)

More Bard’s Rest

Novelist Jessica Martin returns to her fictional town of Bard’s Rest, NH, for her second Shakespearean romcom, The Dane of my Existence. Her first book, For The Love of the Bard, focused on the character of Miranda Barnes, but the new book focuses on Miranda’s sister Portia, a high-powered lawyer who’s about to land the role of her dreams: becoming the youngest managing partner in her law firm’s history. But during her summer sabbatical at her family’s annual Shakespeare festival in Bard’s Rest, she encounters hunky hotshot developer Benjamin Dane, and hilarity, romance, and legal hijinks ensue. Jessica talks about how a single book has become a series; the importance of puppies in romantic fiction; how to construct a compelling romance while adding a soupçon of John Grisham; the difference between enemies and rivals; how fully fleshed-out all the supporting characters are, and which ones may get their own books; unintentional echoes of Taming of the Shrew; adjusting the amount of steam and the danger of writing non-gross sex scenes; and the important lesson of making room next to the work you love for the people you love. (Length 19:21)

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Don’t know your Bacons from your Marlowes, your deVeres from your Rutlands? Fear not. We addressed the so-called “Authorship Question” in our 2006 book, Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention-Impaired (abridged), outlining all the major candidates and computing the odds that someone other than Shakespeare actually wrote his keen plays and nifty sonnets. The answer may surprise you! This episode features the entire text of Chapter Five, “Who Wrote This Stuff?”, and offers iconoclasm and mischief-making, scandalous scholarship, wild supposition, equally unlikely possibilities, and a little thing we like to call “logic.” (Length 29:34)

Asian American Renegades

Matthew C. Yee (above) wrote the book and score for Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon, and plays one half of the titular couple in the Lookingglass Theatre world premiere. Joined by co-star Rammel Chan, the two actors discuss the show’s origins; how they walk its tricky tonal lines; how a script with humble college beginnings became a full-fledged country western musical; the ways in which the characters are both inside and outside the law; the challenge of being not just the author and composer, but also an actor and musician; wonderful and unintended similarities to Harpo Marx; and the lasting questions of why there aren’t more country western musicals? (Length 19:58)

Dee Ryan’s ‘Broadguess’

Actor, improviser, and playwright Dee Ryan has written Broadguess, her one-person comedy in which a hard-boiled Elsinore detective gets too close to some mysterious deaths amongst the Danish royal family and gets transferred to…Verona. As Detective Broadguess discovers murders most foul in Italy and Scotland, she uncovers the sick mind responsible and investigates what kind of man creates this level of carnage. Ryan, a Jeff nominated Second City alum, talks about the origins of the piece; how it was inspired by her Shakespeare book club; its debut as part of Flatwater Shakespeare Company’s “UnShaken Festival;” how she’s recreating Shakespeare’s connection to a broad (!) audience; her gratitude to Jeff Award-winning director Barb Wallace; and how her very funny comedy is a dee-construction of both Shakespeare’s canon and Shakespeare the Man. (Length 20:04)

Meet Braden Abraham

Braden Abraham, the new artistic director of Chicago’s Writers Theatre, just announced the theater’s 31st season, the first one he’s programmed since joining the company. Braden talks about what goes into planning a season (and how that thinking never really ends); how a theatre season is like a great album; the importance of being in a learning and discovery phase; remaining in conversation with various overlapping communities; how programming a show in one city leads to a different show in another; the challenge of making each show an event; finding the right balance of scale and intimacy; and the value of bring some west coast energy to the north shore. (Length 19:18)

Will’s Gender Play

The About Face Theatre world premiere production of Gender Play, or what you Will is a tour-de-force for its co-creator and star Will Wilhelm, who transforms their own story as a nonbinary actor into a funny and powerful evening that’s part seance and part dance party. Will shares their journey of discovery and how this play began as a thrown gauntlet; how Shakespeare’s plays are fundamentally queer, and how Will found themself in them; the difficulty of parsing gender identity, gender performance, and cross-dressing; the importance of creating easy on-ramps to appreciating Shakespeare; and how Gender Play will continue to be a gift to future queer performers who can make it their own. (Length 25:20)

Writers Guild Strike

David A. Goodman, the former president of the Writers Guild of America currently leading the negotiations and strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), takes a break from the picket lines to explain why this existential fight is so important. David reveals what’s at stake, avoids heroic hyperbole; declines to craft narratives; confides who has the real power in Hollywood; explains the gutting of the American middle-class; possesses an admirable reluctance to participate in childish banter; and expresses gratitude for the extraordinary support the WGA is getting from its sister Hollywood unions. (Length 20:18)

Remembering Frank Galati

Actor and professor Cindy Gold remembers her friend and colleague Frank Galati, the Academy Award-nominated and multiple Tony Award-winning writer and director who died last January. At a memorial held at Steppenwolf Theatre last Monday, Galati’s friends and artistic colleagues (including Mary Zimmerman, Robert Falls; Lois Smith, and Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty) remembered him as a generous and supportive artist in an event that was an inspiring celebration. Cindy shares her memories of working with Frank on his musical Loving Repeating (for which she won a Joseph Jefferson Award for playing Gertrude Stein); how Frank was a champion of the positive who had the ability to love an actor to a great performance; the joy of experiencing the “full Galati;” her talent to be a muse; and how Frank Galati continues to inspire. (Length 20:04)

Karen Ann Daniels

Karen Ann Daniels, Director Of Programming and Artistic Director of Washington DC’s Folger Theatre, discusses her journey with Shakespeare and her goal of making the resources of the Folger Shakespeare Library open and available to more people. Karen Ann shares her love of site-specific theatre; how the Folger is renovating and improving not just its physical space, but its metaphysical space; expanding the kinds of people who get called “emerging artists;” how her early training as a musician led to a life of Shakespeare; how Bugs Bunny and Duck Tales are part of many Shakespearean origin stories; how the Folger picked the perfect time to plan its multi-million dollar renovation; and how exposure to Shakespeare can help you find your voice. (Length 17:53)

Shakespeare’s First Folio

2023 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and Chris Laoutaris, the author of Shakespeare’s Book: The Story Behind the First Folio and the Making of Shakespeare, discusses his fascinating and readable account of the many people and factors that went into its creation. Chris shares how he became an expert in multiple disciplines just to write the human story behind what Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune called “one of the most crucial cultural acts in the history of Western civilization;” pushes back against the conventional wisdom that Heminges and Condell were the only ones responsible for the First Folio; whether The Winters’ Tale is somehow a tribute to Anne Shakespeare; his use of extended tree metaphors; how putting together a Folio takes a village; the many and varied historical synchronicities; how Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will (a fictional treatment of the same material) compares with what really happened; and how the First Folio is mostly responsible for the Shakespeare Industrial Complex we toil in today. (Length 21:40)

Admiral Shelby Returns

SPOILER ALERT: The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard’s third and final season features the compelling return of Admiral Elizabeth Shelby, played by friend of the pod Elizabeth Dennehy. Shelby first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s classic two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds” as a famous Borg fighter, so her return is particularly ironic. Elizabeth (Dennehy) talks about how she got the call; what it was like to step on to the bridge of The Enterprise-F; the level and specifics of her fandom; the (perhaps coincidental) power of The Twitter Machine; the ways in which her appearance was both a surprise and not; the value of an actor not knowing too much about the larger storyline; a sliver of hope that maybe Shelby has survived; how Elizabeth is connected offscreen to Miles O’Brien, Keiko O’Brien, Soji Asha; and Scott Bakula, who played Enterprise NX-01 captain Jonathan Archer; the stress of keeping Shelby’s appearance secret; how small the Star Trek casting universe is; a special appearance by Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Wheaton, now the host of the Star Trek companion show, The Ready Room; how little Elizabeth misses her 80s hairstyle; and what you do not want to be doing while you’re saving the world.  (Length 28:19)

Goodman’s 98th Season

Susan V. Booth, the new artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, talks about her recently-announced 2023-2024 season, the first she’s programmed upon returning to Chicago. Susan reveals the challenges of not only selecting a season, but in finding the right language to talk about it; the value of diminishing “capital-I importance;” her obsession with how elastic the definition of ‘theatre’ can be; the wonderful durability of this art form; the excitement of non-traditional spaces and theatre that happens outside of theaters; how every season is a chapter in an epic theatre saga; an exclusive tip for how to avoid a reputational “sh1tshow;” and finally, the trick of curating a season while also getting out of its way. (Photo by Joe Mazza.) (Length 18:39)

Bringing Back Comedy

The original cast (pictured, left to right: Reed Martin, Dominic Conti, and Austin Tichenor) returns to The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) for performances this April and July of 2023 and they discuss how both the show and their performances have changed; how different people can get away with different jokes; the value of bashing away at the material; the audacity of comparing ourselves to Shakespeare; how it’s our most autobiographical show; what it’s like to act with other companies like Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre; fixing certain punchlines; and a special appearance from Grammy Award-winning comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic! (Length 18:49)

Shakespearean March Madness

Beware the Ides of March Madness! The question “What’s the greatest Shakespeare play?” gets a definitive answer from director Nate Cohen, who’s created a massive tournament bracket that pits Comedy v. Tragedy and History v. Romances. Nate shares how Shakespeare’s plays got seeded; which plays were the hardest to match up; how a play’s reputation affect its seeding; a production of As You Like It for which Barenaked Ladies wrote the songs (what??); the deep bench of Twelfth Night; tough decisions regarding Richard III; the unsurprising dominance of number one seeds; some surprising bracket-busters; a couple of heart-breaking matchups; what play would win out of ten games; and how the proof of each play’s strengths come in production. A warning to our affiliates: We will go long. (Length 37:26)

Clyde’s In DC

Chicago-based actor Dee Dee Batteast (above) plays the title role in Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC and she discusses the wild tonal swing between this role and her previous role as Scrooge’s niece in the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. Dee Dee shares how much she loves monsters (both watching them and playing them); how she’s doing the devil’s work; how she navigates dizzying extremes; the possibilities of redemption; how freedom looks different for different characters; some strange lobby encounters; insightful mob boss comparisons; the power of playing elemental forces and the fun of playing a badass; and the differences – and surprising similarities – between Clyde’s and A Christmas Carol. (Length 21:43)

Shakespeare’s ‘Star Wars’

Author Ian Doescher wrote William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope and others in the Quirk Books Pop Shakespeare series (The Taming of the Clueless, Much Ado About Mean Girls, Get Thee Back to the Future), which imagine popular movies adapted into plays as they might have been written by William Shakespeare. Ian discusses his Jane Austen/zombie inspiration; how his bar idea transformed into an actual best-selling series; figuring out how Yoda speaks in Elizabethan English; his personal connection to Shakespeare; how film action translates to the stage; the delight of inserting deep cut Easter eggs into the narrative; and the huge fun of embracing limitations and visualizing theatricality. (Length 20:54) (Skywalker Hamlet image by Nicolas Delort.)

More Michael Chiklis

Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Michael Chiklis returns to discuss some of the roles he’s played and some of the roles he’d like to play. Michael shares his pride in doing The Thing (not to be confused with ‘the thing’); the downside of success in a specific kind of role; his love of music and performing live; how he deals with critics; receiving praise from Stan Lee; the importance of reinvention; which Shakespeare roles he’d like to tackle next; and his arguments for the person he thinks wrote Shakespeare’s plays. (For those wanting an authoritative refutation of the various Authorship Theories, download the free PDF, Shakespeare Bites Back: Not So Anonymous, written by Shakespeare scholars – and RSC Podcast guests – Paul Edmondson and Sir Stanley Wells.) (Length 22:40)

‘Shrew’ In Cincinnati

Director Jemma Levy discusses The Taming of the Shrew, now in rehearsal at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and opening this week. Jemma shares her thoughts about this famously complicated play and reveals that she considers it a feminist romantic comedy; how she emphasizes its themes of performance and the shifting relationships of masters and servants; her belief that Shakespeare’s women are always the smartest people on the stage; how we watch Katherine and Petruchio’s first “meet-cute,” then fall in love and learn each other’s moves in real time; the theatrical and thematic value of including the audience; the fun of putting a bar onstage; and how Shrew compares with another complicated Shakespeare “comedy,” The Merchant of Venice. (Length 20:45)

‘Dear Actor’ Letters

Janice L. Blixt, the producing artistic director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, discusses the very tiny percentage of clumsy and unfortunate inquiry letters she’s received, and the playfully helpful responses we wish we could send back. Blixt talks about how casting directors are genuinely rooting for every actor to be just what they’re looking for; the importance of self-direction; a Barbra Streisand example for young actors; how actors should be given opportunities to sit on the other side of the table; advice for young actors, or indeed, anyone who’s ever inquired about a job opportunity; how not to fly any unnecessary red flags; and the importance of not only learning about who you’re approaching, but not offering unsolicited advice to the person who has the power to hire you. (Length 22:56)

Meet Tré Tyler

Tré Tyler (above left) joins the Reduced Shakespeare Company for this spring’s tour of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), and endures the RSC rite-of-passage known as the introductory podcast interview. Tré shares how he first worked with Reed Martin in the African-American Shakespeare Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , and discusses how he first learned about the RSC; how his parents encourage and inspire; the unique training he’s had as both an athlete and nerd; how he loves paying homage to the greats; the rewards and challenges of navigating personal relationships with fellow artists; and the danger of too much table work when what an actor really wants to do is get up and move! (Length 18:33)