Ruining Father’s Day

Mark Nutter and Tom Wolfe bring their special blend of comedy and music to an evening entitled “Another Father’s Day Ruined,” part of the Solo Sunday series held at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro. Mark and Tom discuss their 30-plus-year partnership and reveal their collaborative – for want of a better word – “process;” the ways in which neither of them are Mick Jagger; the time Tom opened for Bill Hicks; a history of ruining other things, like opera and Gershwin; memories of writing and filming the Chris Farley and Matthew Perry comedy Almost Heroes; and almost dying while researching Wild Men, their early-90s parody of Robert Bly’s Iron John. (Length 21:36)

Daniel Breaker’s ‘Judgment’

Daniel Breaker (Billions, Girls5eva) is appearing in Judgment Day in its world premiere at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in a production starring Jason Alexander. Daniel (above left, opposite Alexander) talks about discovering the fun and function of the role in the room, and how he loves experimenting in the science lab of comedy; then shares his love for the next great American play; his surprising inspiration for Donkey, the role he originated in Shrek The Musical; the important distinction of being raised Baptist rather than Catholic; how and why he found so much humor playing Aaron Burr in Hamilton on tour and Broadway; and the relaxed pleasure of sitting in “the Adirondack chair of acting”. (Length 17:54) (Photos by Liz Lauren)

Liz Allen’s ‘Mother’

Improviser, improv coach, and “ensemble whisperer” Liz Allen discusses her one-person show Tonight, I Am My Mother, her darkly comic exploration of her mother’s alcoholism, in which Liz plays multiple roles (seamlessly). Liz talks about moments of discovery in her childhood; reveals her script’s inspiration; shares stories of working with comedian Mike Birbiglia on his film, Don’t Think Twice; marvels over her show’s Shakespearean levels; confesses the importance of taking creative license; and celebrates the rewards of bringing a complicated family member back to life. (Length 24:39)

Screwed-Up Teenagers

Scott Bailey’s new book Romeo, Juliet, and Other Screwed-Up Teenagers: An Irreverent Guide to Introducing the World’s Most Staggeringly Inappropriate Play to a Classroom Full of Confused Freshmen is a funny and frank look at Shakespeare’s arguably most popular play, and a great resource for educators, students, and even professional actors. Scott reveals his Shakespeare background, both onstage and for almost 30 years in the classroom; how his Renaissance Faire origin story coincides with the early days of the RSC; the surprise of taking a year off and discovering you have a book in you; and finally, the wonder of constantly discovering new things about a 400-year-old play. (Length 22:47)

Ondřej Pšenička’s Magic

He’s fooled Penn & Teller three times, and now Ondřej Pšenička is fooling audiences every week at the Chicago Magic Lounge in his new show 52 Lovers. Ondřej reveals surprising secrets (but not all of them!) about how he builds his tricks; the difference between being a manipulator and being a conductor; how comedy can enhance the magic when it doesn’t accidentally ruin it; how his theatre background made him a better magician; the crucial importance of audience management; and magic’s inherent promise to bring audiences back to a place of wonder. (Photo by Martin Vecera.) (Length 21:24)

Ides Of March Madness

What’s Shakespeare’s best speech? That question gets answered on this epic episode by director Nate Cohen and actor/educators Elizabeth Dennehy and Gregory Linington, who agonize over every match-up in this Sweet 16 selection of soliloquies and monologues. Highlights include remorse over the many speeches that didn’t make the tournament; the differences between speeches and soliloquies; how Juliet is the female Hamlet; origins of the phrase “rolling thunder;” the unsurprising dominance of fulcrum speeches; a brief “Rap Othello” interlude; and most importantly, how a full March Madness field of 64 would have included many many more of your favorite Shakespeare monologues. (Length 1:22:47)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

‘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)

Reviewing London’s ‘Streetcar’

Our ‘London Entertainment Correspondent’ (!) Elizabeth Dennehy reviews the transformative Almeida Theatre production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Rebecca Frecknall and starring Paul Mescal and Patsy Ferran (above). Elizabeth discusses how the direction and performances made it feel as if she was hearing Streetcar for the very first time, and how they scrape off the barnacles of affectation from previous productions; redefine the tragedy of Blanche DuBois; how her feelings are perfectly expressed in David Benedict’s review in Variety; how the magic of theatre is not an illusion and more effective when it doesn’t try to be; and the fundamental importance of trusting the words, trusting the actors, and most of all, trusting the audience. (Length 20:54)

Subversive Improv Guide

David Razowsky has written A Subversive’s Guide to Improvisation: Moving Beyond “Yes, And”, a fascinating, helpful, and inspiring new book that features incredibly insightful advice and exercises improvisers (actors!) can do on their own or in groups. An alum of both the Reduced Shakespeare Company and Chicago’s famed Second City (where he worked with Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert),  Dave discusses his own journey as an artist; from his roots as a young actor to a teacher with students all over the world; his book’s unique structure; how actors must and can develop their own self-awareness; the importance of bringing one’s authentic self to every scene; the joy of creating more monsters; and the rewards of improvising with Dee Ryan. (Length 23:14)

Shakespeare And Fantasy

Bryan Cogman, a four-time Emmy-winning writer and co-executive producer of Game of Thrones and a consulting producer on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, discusses the rise of televised fantasy and how a grounding in Shakespeare enabled his ability to navigate fictional dynasties. Bryan shares his journey from acting at Juilliard to writing for films and television; insights about how Shakespeare begat Game of Thrones, which in turn begat The Hollow Crown; how early bafflement led to eventual success (and imitators); the challenge of failing at the business of being an actor; how the best fantasy is grounded by relationships; and how it’s a golden age for TV-watching geeks. Featuring a special appearance by the man who wrote the book about Shakespeare and Game of Thrones, Jeffrey R. Wilson. (Length 24:36)

Sherlock & Scrooge

Allen Gilmore (above, right) plays Ebenezer Scrooge in A Sherlock Carol, a holiday mashup of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle now running in both New York (where Allen is) and London. A veteran Scrooge (having played him for many years at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago), Allen discusses how Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the great roles, comparing him to Leontes from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale; how we stand on the shoulders of the Scrooges who’ve come before us; how the role is self-cleaning; how actors bring their own nasty to Scrooge; and how audiences recognize their nastiness in the character; and how the possibility of redemption is part of what makes A Christmas Carol so popular and enduring. (Length 18:30) (PICTURED: Drew McVety as Sherlock Holmes and Allen Gilmore as Ebenezer Scrooge in Mark Shanahan’s A Sherlock Carol, directed by Jen Waldman. Photo courtesy of Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.)

Saluting The Understudies

“Stand-ins of the world, stand up!” (Tom Stoppard, The Real Inspector Hound) 2022 will be remembered as the Year of the Understudy – not only did the Patron Saint of the Understudy King Charles III finally step into the leading role after waiting in the wings for 74 years, but audiences began to fully appreciate how understudies keep theatre going during a global pandemic. Understudies come in a variety of flavors, from covers to swings to alternates, and actors Loren Jones and Cindy Gold talk about which flavor they are in the Goodman Theatre’s 2022 production of A Christmas Carol. The conversation features lessons learned from the pandemic; how understudying can actually be a good paid gig; the difficulty of learning the lines without learning the moves; fast-tracking the understudies during rehearsal; the challenge of not just learning the role but the entire show; how old ways of doing things are changing; the identity of Scrooge’s overstudy; and tales of understudying both glorious and horrendous. (Length 19:43)

Goodman’s Christmas Carol

Jessica Thebus directs the Goodman Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, and this year she’s brought our own Austin Tichenor along to play Scrooge at ten designated performances. Jessica and Austin discuss how much the production changes from year to year (and, surprisingly, how little); how heaping helpings of Dickens’ actual text is present in the production; the willingness of returning veterans to investigate the script anew; the eagerness of artists and audiences to revisit this ritual; how a story is only as good as its bad guy; how everyone is invited to the Christmas Carol party; and how Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the great roles in the theatrical canon. (Length 17:43) (PICTURED: Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Jessica Thebus. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Happy 16th Anniversary!

Mya Gosling, aka GoodTickleBrain, joins us to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast, new episodes of which have dropped weekly since early December, 2006. Mya interviews producer/host Austin Tichenor, who discusses the podcast’s origins and evolution; the greatest gift the podcast has turned into; how it was partially inspired by physical media; how much of a Shakespearean he was to begin with (and how much of one he’s become); how the RSC’s shows evolved into longer narratives; and the fun of filling existing spaces with your own stories. (Length 26:18) (Stick-figure Mya and Austin courtesy of Mya Gosling/GoodTickleBrain. Used by permission.)

Weird Al’s Guitarist

Jack Lancaster (above, left, with Daniel Radcliffe) plays Jim “Kimo” West, or at least a highly fictionalized version of him, in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, the straight-faced and factually dubious biopic now streaming on the Roku Channel. Jack reveals the early musical training that helped prepare him for this (and many) roles; the challenge of standing out in an audition; the importance of great acting and great musicianship, especially when making something silly; dealing with a major case of Imposter Syndrome; buying his first grown-man suit; the thinking behind the decision of whether to be based in Chicago or Los Angeles; and the glorious fun of working with both Weird Al Yankovic and Harry Potter! (Length 18:33)

Doug’s Time Traveling

RSC Actor Doug Harvey (Hamlet in Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel)) performs his one-man show A Time Traveler’s Guide to the Present at the United Solo Festival in New York City on November 5, 2022 (an important date in the space time continuum). The show’s director Abigail Deser joins Doug to discuss how the show evolved for its run at last summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe; how the show helps them (and us!) survive in the worst timeline; the expedience of rehearsing over pizza; dealing with pandemic loss; finding the show’s spine; the excitement of virtuosity; the value of stripping away extraneous bells and whistles; the wonder of sacrificing your babies so as to not kill your momentum; how the best time travel stories are also love stories; and the beauty and satisfaction of fulfilling the promise of the time-travelly premise. (Length 21:57)

Actor/Singer David Benoit

Broadway veteran David Benoit works all over the country, including the current Chicago Lyric Opera production of Fiddler on the Roof and the recent world premiere musical Bruce at Seattle Rep. David discusses the various paths he’s taken to some of his favorite roles; how he considers the audition the job; learning lessons from Susan Stroman; how to partner in the dance between actor and director; the importance of avoiding cutesy pogroms; manifesting roles as far back as third grade; and how Jaws nerdery leads to work! (Length 21:33)

‘Owning Shakespeare’ Podcast

The first season of Rob Myles’ extraordinary Owning Shakespeare podcast is now available on all the usual platforms, and it’s a fantastic collection of six noted Shakespeare actors tackling (in real time) a speech they’ve never looked at before, and sharing their process, stumbles, and successes with the listener. Rob’s a wonderful guide, and he joins us to discuss how the podcast came together; how the RSC’s Austin Tichenor was a briefly unwitting test subject; what this and future seasons will accomplish; how he blushes at praise for his knowledge of Shakespeare and skills as a director; the joy of taking both Shakespeare and actors off pedestals; how a rushed rehearsal process led to a kind-of triage of Shakespeare; the importance of demystifying the idea that actors are only using “intuition;” how to avoid “impenetrable babble;” the value of showcasing the new generation of Approved Shakespeareans; and the hoped-for possibility of getting an Avenger on Season Two. (Length 21:40) (PICTURED, clockwise from top left, the six “text detectives” from Season One of Owning Shakespeare: Isabel Adomakoh Young, Austin Tichenor, Miguel Perez, Debra Ann Byrd, Paterson Joseph, and Adjoa Andoh.)

Tyla Abercrumbie’s ‘Relentless’

Tyla Abercrumbie is an actor, director, and playwright whose play Relentless was produced by Chicago’s Timeline Theatre Company, called “The best new work here in years,” by the Chicago Tribune, then subsequently presented by the Goodman Theatre. Relentless tells the story of two sisters who return to Philadelphia in 1919 to settle the estate of their mother and make family discoveries that change their knowledge of the past and will possibly determine their future. Tyla talks about her play came to be; what inspired it but also (more importantly) what motivated it; how her acting informs her writing; her goals for a large canon; the joy of costumes, both wearing them and writing for them; the fun of doing it the way Shakespeare did it; and how disparate ideas come together as if they were meant to be – which they probably were. (Length 21:40) (PICTURED: Ayanna Bria Bakari and Jane Ladymore in the Timeline Theatre Company’s production of Tyla Abercrumbie’s Relentless, at the Goodman Theatre, directed by Ron OJ Parson.)

Adrian’s Alan Adaptation

Two-time Olivier Award winning actor Adrian Scarborough has written The Clothes They Stood Up In, an adaptation of the novella of the same name by Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George, Talking Heads, The History Boys, and The Lady in the Van), about a mild-mannered couple (played by Adrian and Sophie Thompson) who return home from the opera one evening to find their flat completely bare and every single item they own stolen. What happens next is the action of this very funny play, which opens this week at the Nottingham Playhouse, and Adrian talks about about how his adaptation came to be, and how many versions he’s had to learn; the challenges of wearing both his actor and playwright hats; his successful preview at The Berko Speakeasy; finding (and imitating) Bennett’s voice; the value of getting microphones in the toilet; the privilege of getting to sit on the other side of the table; and the enormous satisfaction of challenging one’s self to come up with the goods. (Length 21:38)

Playing Henry V

Chicago actor Sam Hubbard just finished playing the title role in the the Michigan Shakespeare Festival production of Henry V, directed by artistic director Janice L. Blixt. Originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, Sam talks about what changed with two additional years to think about his performance; where he got the freedom to let go of the bad ideas; how Henry succeeds (or doesn’t) in rallying his men; the joy of getting to play dream roles; investigating what effective leadership looks like, both centuries ago and now; the richness of adding memorable unspoken moments to Shakespeare; the temerity of imagining a God-appointed king as actually human in 1598; the gratitude of avoiding the “Intern Drop-off;” and finally, the great good fortune of considering doing the Don Knotts version of Henry V – and then rejecting it. (Length 24:25) (PICTURED: Sam Hubbard in the title role of Henry V, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, directed by Janice L. Blixt. Photo by Victor Yang.)

Mr. Javier Muñoz

Javier Muñoz (Hamilton, In The Heights) stars in The Devil Wears Prada, the new musical based on the film and novel, with songs by Elton John and Shaina Taub. Javier plays Nigel (instantly erasing any memories of Stanley Tucci), and discusses how creating a role is less about ego and more about serving the story and character; the challenges of rehearsing changes during the day while performing the existing show at night; how he gave his first Broadway performance of Alexander Hamilton in front of President Barack Obama and his First Lady Michelle; what originating the song “Seen” means to him and his activism (and how precious it is to work with his “Seen” partner); and how debuting a song written by Sir Elton John differs from performing songs written by Sir Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Length 33:05) (PICTURED: Above, Javier Muñoz in The Devil Wears Prada, directed by Anna D. Shapiro. Photo by Joan Marcus. Below, Javier Muñoz, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr, and the cast of Hamilton greeting President Barack Obama backstage, July 2015. Photo by Pete Souza.)

Where We Belong

Madeline Sayet’s one-woman show Where We Belong tells the story of her journey from discovering Shakespeare as a child to studying him in England and directing him (and others, and opera) around the world. Madeline is a director, educator, and writer, a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, and she discusses her play’s origins; how different audiences react to it; how Shakespeare became a part of her normal childhood fairy-tale world; the sometimes thorny challenge of adapting personal relationships to accommodate the art; an uncomfortable reminder about how history works; possible sequel titles; how everybody wants to be in the play now that it’s a success; the art – and importance – of loving a thing and still being able to criticize a thing; and how theatre can also be good medicine. Where We Belong ran at the Goodman Theatre and will play Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in August 2022, Seattle Repertory Theatre and New York’s Public Theatre in the Fall of 2022, and Portland Center Stage and Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2023. (PHOTO: Madeline Sayet in Where We Belong. Photo by Liz Lauren.) (Length 21:33)

Starling Shakespeare Company

Heron Kennedy (left, below) and Jessie Lillis, the founding artistic directors of Starling Shakespeare Company, discuss the company’s origins, plans for the future, and the rewards and challenges – both artistic and practical – of performing Shakespeare with only five people. FEATURING: Exploring different institutional models; inspiration from Actors From The London Stage; the definition and comic possibilities of “extreme casting;” the importance of a playful rehearsal room; how they’ve added touring dates and educational residencies; and how, ultimately, Starling Shakespeare provides both an excellent focus on Shakespeare’s text – and a remarkable showcase for actors. (Length 21:40)

Michael Chiklis’s Red

Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Michael Chiklis (The Shield) plays legendary Hall of Fame coach, president, and general manager of the Boston Celtics Red Auerbach in Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (now streaming on HBOMax). Michael discusses why the role is so special; why he has a permanent resistance to typecasting, even (and especially) in grad school; the power of actors; the terror of complacency; tales of impulsive behavior in TV audition rooms; the dangers of stinking up the room; the joy of nothing going ‘snap’; a tease about his upcoming project; and how he manifested reinventing himself from “roly-poly affable guy” to someone who’s “adult, hard-hitting, smart…and has something to say.” (Length 24:40)

Shakespeare In Detroit

Sam White (left) is the founding artistic and executive director of Shakespeare In Detroit, currently presenting the African-American Shakespeare Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. On their first opening night in years, in their new home at Marygrove Conservancy, Sam sat down to discuss the history of @ShakesInTheD; her own origin story; how she has a new appreciation for King Lear after caring for aging parents; the important distinction between loving Shakespeare’s works and loving Shakespeare the man; the dangers of taking Shakespeare too seriously; the importance of changing the idea of who Shakespeare is for; how the best actors are funny; the crazy delight of becoming BFFs with Margaret Atwood; and how the pandemic has enriched and deepened our understanding of Shakespeare’s plays. (Length 18:15) (PICTURED: Tre Tyler, Lijesh Krishnan, and Gabe Ross in the Shakespeare In Detroit / African-American Shakespeare Company co-production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. Photo by @chuknowak.)

Staging “Athena”‘s Fencing

David Blixt is the co-fight choreographer of the Writers Theatre production of Gracie Gardner’s Athena, directed by Jessica Fisch and featuring two stand-out performances by Aja Singletary (right) and Mary Tilden (left). David discusses the things that make this production unique in his experience; the importance of being a storyteller; the language of the body; the value of creating theater as an ensemble; how distance equals danger; why the actors had to actually hit each other; and how stage violence is always a story of desire and denial. (Length 16:24)

Hail, Richard II

The African-American Shakespeare Company production of Richard II, in a new Play On! translation by Naomi Iizuka, runs this weekend and next April 15-24, 2022, at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Director L. Peter Callender and star Lijesh Krishnan discuss the creation of this production; the return to live performances with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)  (and how it will travel to Shakespeare in Detroit in May, 2022); the open secret of how Shakespeare gets adapted and translated all the time; unnecessarily nice words about Reed Martin; the distinction between common people and the masses; the difference between the quality of the jokes and the people saying the jokes; the promise of opening night drinks; and the importance of rewarding audiences for returning to live performances. (Length 21:31)

Are You Here?

A veteran of film, TV, and Broadway, Jim Ortlieb stars in John Kolvenbach’s Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, a tour-de-force one-person play about what it means to struggle to survive, to move on, to connect, and to find community again. Now in its Chicago premiere at the American Blues Theater, the noted film, stage, and TV actor talks about the challenge of acting by himself…but with an entire audience; how behavior reveals meaning; how the death of Hal Holbrook inspired the play; the importance of mourning and how we, as a culture, aren’t that good at at; that moment when spouses figure you out; how this one play might become a life’s work; and navigating that line where the character stops and where the actor begins. (Length 19:53)

Back To Rehearsal

Last week we gathered in the RSC’s hometown of Sonoma, California to finally return to Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) since the last time we performed it back in 2019. Original cast members Doug Harvey, Austin Tichenor, and Chad Yarish talk about what it’s like to back on their feet; how they survived this “long intermission;” how it was time to retire from cracking nuts; the promise of a possible live RSC D&D one-shot; some important pandemic pivots; the importance of crystallizing our purpose; the (hopefully only temporary) end of an RSC tradition; and how the themes of Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) have become surprisingly resonant and more comically powerful in the intervening two years. (Length 18:41)

Untamed Shrews Podcast

Dawn Tucker, Hannah Fontes, and Becki Zaritsky are the hosts of the Untamed Shrews Podcast, a production of Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival (where Dawn and Hannah are the Executive and Marketing Directors, respectively, and Becki is the former production manager). The three Shrews discuss their work with Flagstaff Shakes and how the pandemic inspired the podcast’s creation, and how they bring their irreverence and humor not only to podcasting but to Shakespeare and theater. FEATURING: an RSC Podcast first; how Dawn is livin’ the dream; how shrews need love, too; how their specific skillset allows a trapeze Winter’s Tale; the state of the arts in Arizona (or at least in Flagstaff); wisdom from a Shakespearean elder; and how FlagShakes may be the only theater company in Arizona that doesn’t own a fog machine. (Length 25:05)

Netta Walker’s ‘Homecoming’

Netta Walker, one of the stars of All-American: Homecoming and a stage actor who spent time in Chicago, discusses how her stage experience compares with her TV experience, and, amazingly, how one of her early formative experiences was with the Reduced Shakespeare Company (!). FEATURING: her debut on the stage of Lincoln Center; where she got her early professional experience; being blessed with supportive parents; the value of seeing Shakespeare performed (even by us) before studying it as literature; being part of the original cast of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley; how to avoid the stress of trying to guess what a director wants in an audition; and where she gets her (for want of a better word) confidence. (Length 16:07)