Gender-Flipping The Shrew

In 2019, the “other RSC” — in this case, the Royal Shakespeare Company — offered a gender-flipped production of Taming of the Shrew that underscored the play’s issues of hierarchy and power. Austin Tichenor and Dee Ryan saw the production as an NT Live broadcast and are joined by GoodTickleBrain’s Mya Gosling and dramaturg Kate Pitt (who saw the production live onstage in Stratford) and they discuss how the production landed in the two formats. This fascinating book club conversation touches on the play’s wonderful mutability; the comedy of straight male vanity; whether there’s a need to “fix” it; agreeing on the game of the scene; similarities to Henry and Kate in Henry V and other troublesome couples; woman-spreading and occupying space; surprising lack of sparks; transforming modern examples of masculine anger; and how (or whether) the play changes based on how (or whether) Petruchio changes. (Length 31:35)

Her Majesty’s Will

Missing summer blockbusters and live outdoor Shakespeare performances? Her Majesty’s Will by novelist (and actor and fight choreographer) David Blixt is your perfect substitute! It’s a fun and thrilling adventure about the young pre-genius Will Shakespeare who becomes entangled in a deadly and hilarious misadventure when he accidentally uncovers an attempt to murder Queen Elizabeth herself. David talks about his process and inspirations; how he’s attracted to gaps and Hope & Crosby shenanigans; some deceptive cover art; the difficulty of writing a funny novel when the world is in such an unfunny place; how it all comes from research; how he finesses the facts for fictional purposes; and how truth really is sometimes stranger than fiction. (Length 20:17)

More Lawrence O’Donnell

We continue our conversation with the host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” Lawrence O’Donnell, who talks about Mister Sterling, the show he created that starred Josh Brolin as a newly-appointed senator from California who everyone assumes is a Democrat. Lawrence shares behind-the-scenes tales of TV production; his favorite bits of direction; the real-life sources of drama and inspirations for fictional characters; the identity of the so-called “101st Senator;” how actors remember forever the parts they don’t get; how casting sessions work (and don’t work); games senate staffs play; shout-outs to great and important mentors; the possibilities and challenges of rebooting Mister Sterling or any shows like it; the extraordinary journey it took to realize multiple Tony-winning actor Audra McDonald was right for a role; things you can still shoot in quarantine; and, in a 17-year-old journalistic coup — and after 700 episodes — Finally! The RSC Podcast has its first scoop! (Length 34:06) (NOTE: Click through to find links to Part One of this interview.)

Lawrence O’Donnell’s ‘Sterling’

Before he started hosting The Last Word on MSNBC in 2010, Lawrence O’Donnell was an executive producer, writer, and actor on The West Wing, and the creator, writer, and executive producer of his own show, Mister Sterling, which starred Josh Brolin and Audra McDonald in the story of an idealistic young senator who has to learn how to navigate the ins and outs of Washington DC while also conducting his personal life in the public eye. Cancelled after ten episodes, Mister Sterling featured storylines and conflicts that would find fuller expression in later seasons of The West Wing, and Lawrence talks about how the show was created and shares some fundamental Perry Mason precedents; revelations about Zoey Bartlet’s weird taste in birthday entertainment; the difficulty of writing drama set in Washington where there are now no consequences for terrible behavior; how Aaron Sorkin taught us about what drama is (or can be); what political TV zone opened up and which show filled it beautifully (and hilariously); and how he was able to pay tribute to a deep Washington legacy in Hollywood. PART ONE OF TWO. (Length 29:21)

Joining The Cirkestra

The first thing you hear in our production of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) was composed by Peter Bufano, a graduate of Clown College, a former Ringling Brothers Circus Clown, and now an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Peter talks about his journey from Clown to Composer and shares some of his secrets; his comic and musical inspirations; the difficulty of hitting moving targets; finding the music in a gag; how relationship and function is most important in finding the funny; and the importance of finding and maintaining community in music, in clowning, and in life. (Length 23:39)

Lockdown Shakespeare Pioneer

Rob Myles, along with his producing partner Sarah Peachey, is the creator of The Show Must Go Online, which, since March 19, 2020, has been creating fully if madly rehearsed productions of Shakespeare’s canon in the order in which they were written, once a week, using actors and fight directors from all over the world. With over 100,000 views on YouTube in just 12 weeks, Rob talks about how this has become huger than he ever imagined, and how he’s learned to work in this new space; how his early studies in psychology led to understanding characters and delivering an actor-driven experience; excellent new opportunities for both audience engagement and audience research; iambic discoveries expressed in actual iambic pentameter; developing his singular obsession; shout-outs to The Barnsley Civic; being leaders in a movement rather than a company; and the realization that our moment cried out for a Rob Myles — and thankfully we have one. (Length 28:16)

Globetrotting Shakespeare’s Tempest

Brave new world, indeed: Globetrotting Shakespeare is presenting a live and virtual performance of The Tempest on Saturday, July 11, 2020, featuring multiple actors in four different countries and at least six time zones from Shakespeare Napa Valley, Shakespeare by the Sea, Prague Shakespeare Company, Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, and Shakespeare at Notre Dame. Directors Jennifer King (l) and Suzanne Dean (r) discuss how the project came together; how they see challenges as opportunities to create relationships and communities through Shakespeare; how they’re seizing this opportunity to Rethink, Reframe, and Resume; the unfortunate problems with technology; how a disruptive pandemic has its own tempestuous qualities; and how we must continue finding (despite sometimes losing) our humanity in crisis. (Length 19:27)

Amy Acker’s Beatrice

Amy Acker starred as Beatrice in Joss Whedon’s 2012 film version of Much Ado About Nothing, and she discusses her initial trepidation over playing this great role onscreen; how her early training at SMU and experience at American Players Theatre in Wisconsin prepared her for it; how casual play readings lead to leading roles; the value of rehearsing; the fun of doing your own stunts; the joy of working with the Joss Whedon Dancers; the differences between preparing for a play and preparing for a movie; how the Whedonverse is more Shakespearean than the (David E.) Kelleyverse; and the counterintuitive marvel (no pun intended) of how making a movie is more relaxing than taking an actual vacation. (Length 22:10)

Remembering Brian Dennehy

Actor Elizabeth Dennehy (left) remembers her father Brian Dennehy, “a tireless tragedian of the old school” (Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune), who passed away at the age of 81 on April 15, 2020 from cardiac arrest due to sepsis. Elizabeth shares what it was like to grow up as the great actor’s daughter and what lessons she learned about the business from him; how her father did it backwards (family first, carousing second); was inspired by Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, and Oliver Reed; grabbed both roles and audiences by the throat; grew into his looks; loved taking roles that scared him and surprising people at auditions; took command of his physicality; was powered by adrenaline; and was absolutely terrified (in a good way) by the challenge of A Touch of the Poet. (Length 23:44) (Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Dennehy.)

Once Again: Mr. Brian Dennehy

“The dream is the most important part of our lives.”
Brian Dennehy, 1938-2020

We remember Brian Dennehy, the acclaimed actor who passed away last night, April 15, 2020, with this repost of our podcast interview with him from 2012, recorded during his run of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Brian offers praise for his fellow actors, identifies the weather phenomenon O’Neill’s plays can best be described as, reveals what can happen when you succeed in an O’Neill play, shares who he thinks should be considered the Iron Man of the American theatre (the requirements for which sound strangely familiar), and laments the disturbing lack of 73-year-old vampires in the American cinema. (Length 19:09)

693. Phone Porn Voices

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

691. Michael Morrow’s ‘Passage’

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

688. Sonnet Man Returns

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

Comparing Twelfth Nights

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

Advice For Actors

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

Holy Land Hamlet

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

Standup Vs. Improv

Liz Allen is an improviser and teacher who, among other things, coached the improv team in Mike Birbiglia’s film Don’t Think Twice. Liz’s trip to the Mayo Clinic became an existential crisis that caused her to reflect on her work and career, and she shares with us her revelations about angels on earth, comedy with a purpose, misdiagnoses, spontaneous jokes, enriching laughs, weird complications, having a face for comedy, surviving a long night of the soul, embracing life lessons, coaching movie actors, the surprising spiritual element of joke-telling, and best of all: solid endocrine humor! (Length 20:10)

Doug The Time-Traveler

Meet Doug Harvey (center, above), the newest member of the RSC and also the author and star of the one-man show The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Present, which earlier this summer won the Paul Koslo Memorial / MET Theatre Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Doug reveals his RSC origin story and shares some live musical spaghettification; his feelings about the need for adventure and more shows about science; how a one-man show became a sci-fi romance; day gigs at LA’s Griffith Observatory; references to the darkest timelines; a couple of harmonizing triads; the Michael Faulkner conduit; growing up with Bay Area theatre like California Shakespeare Company and American Conservatory Theatre; tales of successful auditions; the importance of serious clowning; and the answer to the ultimate question: What’s the closest we have to a time machine? Not a Delorean, not Bill and Ted’s phone booth, but…a theatre. (Length 21:29) (Pictured: Austin Tichenor as the King, Doug Harvey as Hamlet, and Chad Yarish as Yorick in the Reduced Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel).)

All About Ophelia

The RSC’s 11th stage show, Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel), is really all about Hamlet’s best friend Ophelia, at least according to Jessica Romero, who originated the role in the workshop production, and Austin Tichenor, who co-wrote the script and will be playing Ophelia this fall in California and Israel. Hear them chat about reconciling the many interpretations of Ophelia, and discuss professional memorization methods, weaponizing feelings, how one person’s comedy can be another’s tragedy, shared inspiration from Taming of the Shrew (both pirate- and commedia-themed), playing bucket-list roles, favorite Shakespeare characters, and the reality of the curse of saying the title of the Scottish Play. (Length 23:09) (Pictured: Jessica Romero as the King (with Peter Downey as Hamlet) and Ophelia (with Chad Yarish as Yorick) in the Shakespeare Napa Valley workshop of Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel). Photos by Julie McClelland.)

Playing Historical Characters

Three members of the fantastic ensemble gathered together for the Goodman Theatre production of Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet – William Dick, Gregory Linington, and Larry Yando – gather to discuss the particular obligations that must be considered when playing real historical figures. Featuring extensive dramaturgical research, actual archival video, the wild imaginative leaps required to be able to portray a 19th-century critic as if he were human, tributes (or ripoffs?) from Trader Joe’s, the invention of merch, arguments about Hamlet’s age, similar pressures playing the famous historical figure Ebenzeer Scrooge, the ultimate dedication to the playwright’s text, and a play ostensibly about a diva that’s actually about an ensemble. (Length 22:43) (Pictured (l to r): William Dick, Larry Yando, and Gregory Linington in the Goodman Theatre production of Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet, directed by Donna Feore. Photos by Liz Lauren.)

Into The Woods

The Writers Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods combines professional artistry with community theatre charm to create a very immediate and powerful version of this popular musical. Directed by Gary Griffin, one of the world’s leading interpreters of Sondheim, the cast features McKinley Carter as Jack’s Mother, Brianna Borger as the Baker’s Wife, and Bethany Thomas as the Witch, all of whom discuss the challenges of going into the Woods multiple times and making new discoveries every time you do. Featuring impertinent references to The Fantasticks; doing the Lord’s work; creating characters instead of types; heightening the immediacy and stakes; the danger of gateway Sondheim drugs; Borscht Belt energy; and an emphasis on the frequently-fraught (“fraught than I thought,” to quote another Sondheim show) relationships between parents and children. (Length 21:05) (Pictured, l to r: Bethany Thomas, Brianna Borger, and McKinley Carter in the Writers Theatre production of Into The Woods, directed by Gary Griffin. Photos by Michael Brosilow.)

Completing The Canon

Many people talk about it but Stan and Debbie Rea have actually done it: They’ve seen all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays live onstage (plus Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward III, if you count them) and they’re well on their way to doing it a second time. Stan and Debbie tell us how they did it and what they discovered along the way, including the fun of getting into different conversations with plays and their directors; the difficulty of bagging the three Henry VI plays; how different actors change the impact and meaning of the canon; the pride of seeing the plays while not reading them; the importance of adjusting your expectations; the frustrating necessity of resetting the Bard-O-Meter; the perils of driving in New York City; the value of supporting your community; and finally, the dramatic importance of Shakespeare’s most famous role, the Attendant to the King of France. Recorded on August 15, 2019, seventeen years to the day since Stan and Debbie saw The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (the RSC abridgment, not the entire canon)! (Length 21:32)

Glory Of ‘Ensemble’

Mark Larson discusses his wonderful new book Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater, a magnificent (and massive!) collection of first-person narratives from such theatre legends as Alan Arkin, Brian Dennehy, Andre DeShields, Laurie Metcalf, Mary Zimmerman, Michael Shannon, Regina Taylor, RSC alum David Razowsky, David Schwimmer, and literally hundreds more, all explaining both the history and the unique nature of Chicago theatre as they lived and created it. Featuring gratitude to those who came before us; the concept of the Chicago theatre community itself as a massive ensemble; theatre as a civic point of pride; eliminating unnecessary characters (like the author); answering the question of why the concept of ensemble developed such strong roots in this particular city; the biggest surprises from this four-and-a-half year process (and how it relates to podcasting); similarities to Studs Terkel and Tom Wolfe; tales of enormous will and enormous generosity; great white whales who got away; the benefits of being an outsider at the edge of the story; making the reader feel part of the Chicago theatre community; how individuals and institutions assist and mentor others; and ultimately the freedom — the ability, the need — to take risks. (Length 21:45)

Tales Of Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is on and sadly, we’re not there! So we’ve dug into the archives to find some of our favorite Edinburgh moments. Thrill to tales of discovery; amazing performing experiences; reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones; the only (horrible) way to become a Catholic martyr; special appearances by Rachel Parris, Yisrael Campbell, and Tim Fitzhigham; the real-life inspirations for the Red Wedding and Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and the Turtle”; fun-loving Puritan numpties; new Jews, old Jews, and faux Jews; the joys of both seeing and performing multiple shows during a single Fringe; the dangers of flyering; excerpts from The Complete Millennium Musical (abridged), which performed at the Assembly Rooms exactly twenty years ago; international tour dates for the Fall of 2019; and discovering how the theatre can become your temple and John Malkovich your lord and savior. (Length 25:51)

Dueling Chicago Hamlets

Chicago is lousy with Hamlets this spring/summer of 2019! Friend of the pod Samuel Taylor was involved with two of them – at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and with the Back Room Shakespeare Project, the latter of which Sam co-founded – and he discusses how all this activity supports and complements both companies and the Chicago theatre community. Featuring the beauty of electricity, fruitful studies in contrasts, asserting control over the laughs, being invested in turtle races, celebrating America’s Mike Nussbaum as the First Gravedigger, hearing about Hamlet being put on trial and Quicksilver Shakespeare actors pulling Hamlet’s characters out of a hat, continuing work on Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel), the best possible scheduling of Titus Andronicus, the fascination of watching somebody doing something very difficult, and the wonder of understanding both the history of Shakespeare in Chicago and of Chicago Shakespeare. (Length 24:24) (Pictured: Mike Nussbaum as the First Gravedigger, in the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre production of Hamlet, directed by Barbara Gaines. Photo by Liz Lauren. Old Style Hamlet logo courtesy of the Back Room Shakespeare Project.)

Shakespeare Cult Blueprints

Samuel Taylor is the co-founder of the Back Room Shakespeare Project, the author of My Life with the Shakespeare Cult, and now its two-volume followup, Blueprints for a Shakespeare Cult, which explains how you too can embrace and replicate the work of the BRSP in your own city or country. Sam talks about BRSP’s origins and its twin inspirations, the glories of having very little rehearsal, the difference between being actual and real, replicating late-night whiskey-soaked debates and the more sober morning-after conversations, great taglines, the difference between good chaos and unhelpful chaos, how you can order your very own copy of Blueprints for a Shakespeare Cult by going to Kickstarter.com, and how you can be part of this growing international movement. (Length 26:54)

The Winter’s Tale

Dramaturg Neena Arndt and actor Nathan Hosner (Polixenes) discuss The Winter’s Tale, currently running at the Goodman Theatre until June 9, 2019 in a production directed by Robert Falls. Featuring the importance of leaning into the tonal shifts; how the play plays in our current historical moment; the dangers of a record-scratch; eliminating thee’s and thou’s; acknowledging aspects of the play that may be either bugs or features; changing the first-person from plural to singular; identifying the hinge of the play; shout-outs to actors Dan Donohue (Leontes), Christiana Clark (Paulina), Gregory Linington (Antigonus), and Philip Earl Johnson (Autolycus); casting clowns; some notes for Will Shakespeare; possibly changing one’s mind about the quality of the play; different treatments of Time; and the very first question one must address when you decide to do The Winter’s Tale — how do you handle the Bear? (Length 24:20) (Pictured (l-r): Dan Donohue (Leontes) and Nathan Hosner (Polixenes) in the Goodman Theatre production of The Winter’s Tale, directed by Robert Falls. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Balancing Twelfth Night

We continue the conversation with Professor Katy Reedy and her class at Lake Forest College, taking student questions about Austin Tichenor’s approach to directing Twelfth Night for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in the fall of 2018. Austin talks about the trick to balancing the comedic and dramatic elements in his production, Shakespeare’s anachronistic examples, illustrating sisters in loss, staging the subtext, taking actor suggestions, creating a world in which both comedy and drama can co-exist and where certain kinds of storytelling can happen, underlying tensions, potentially anti-climactic reunion scenes, going on a journey with your characters, the importance of working with really great people, and discovering that not everything is actually in the text. (Length 17:29) (William Oliver Watkins as Orsino, Caitlin McWethy as Viola, and Abby Lee as Olivia in Twelfth Night at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 2018. Directed by Austin Tichenor.)

High School Bard

“Friend of the pod” Daisy Tichenor talks about her wonderfully Shakespearean senior year in high school, where she played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing on the Philips Exeter Academy MainStage and directed Twelfth Night for the PEA Dramat at the same time. We talk about incredible opportunities; how informal clubs can accommodate a more diverse group of students; how stage managing the Scottish play can inspire; the wonder of getting to play a dream role; being born of all mirth and no matter; keeping the timelines straight; and the ultimate tribute to theatre people. Pretention or Science? Discuss. (Length 19:54) (Daisy Tichenor as Beatrice and Cody Nunn as Don Pedro, Much Ado About Nothing, Philips Exeter Academy, directed by Sarah Ream, 2018.)

The Viola Project

The Viola Project is an organization in Chicago dedicated to training and empowering young women using the words and characters and plays of William Shakespeare. Program director Rebecca Dumain talks about about the history of the Project, how language can help you get what you need and advocate for yourselves and others, the difference between acting and teaching artists, a shout-out to Slings & Arrows, distinctions between process and product, the value of not glossing over things, advocating for STEAM (not just STEM), and whether any Viola Projects could be started up near where YOU live! (Length 18:11)

‘Ma Rainey’s’ Band

August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is getting an amazing production right now at the Writers Theatre in Chicago , directed by Ron OJ Parson and starring Tony-nominee Felicia P. Fields in the title role, and the four outstanding actors who play her musicians — David Alan Anderson as Toledo, Kelvin Roston, Jr. as Levee, A.C. Smith as Slow Drag, and Alfred H. Wilson as Cutler (pictured above, left to right) — sat down for a roundtable discussion about the roles they play; the extraordinary bond they’ve forged; comparisons to Shakespeare; dialogue as music and words turned into poetry; the familiarity of the characters; shout-outs to King Oliver and Buddy Bolden; strong communities; August Wilson’s incredible legacy, the shape of his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, and his ability to turn innate speech into poetry and familiar characters into titans. A one an’ a two…y’all know what to do… (Length 22:01) Photos by Michael Brosilow. Courtesy of Writers Theatre.

Remembering Stanley Donen

The recent death of legendary Hollywood director Stanley Donen — the so-called “king of the Hollywood musical,” responsible for such classics as Singin’ in the Rain, On The Town, Funny Face, Royal Wedding, Charade, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers — prompts this long overdue reminiscence from our own Reed Martin who in 2006 got to hang out with Mr. Donen while working on a new play at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco written and directed by the great Elaine May who, until his death, was Stanley’s partner. Reed tells stories about not only Mr. Donen and Ms. May but remembers the phalanx of bold-faced names who were involved with this production (pictured surrounding Reed, clockwise): Daveed Diggs, Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas, and Mark Rydell. Featuring the graciousness of the rich and famous; secrets of filming the famous dancing on a ceiling sequence with Fred Astaire; a fantastic story about John Wayne; and the truth of the old saying: you don’t always remember what people say but you always remember how they make you feel. (Length 19:57)

Episode 633. ‘Nerdy’ Brian Posehn

Reed Martin (who literally wrote the book on the History of Comedy) interviews his fellow Sonoma Valley High School alum, comedian Brian Posehn, about Brian’s new book Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal, as a fundraiser for the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. Brian talks about his favorite teachers and getting bullied, lighting up as a performer, polishing your material, touring with the Comedians of Comedy, killing the “Karkrashians”, working with Stan Lee, meeting his Star Wars heroes, shout-out to the Sebastiani Theatre, and talking about ‘spinners’ with Carrie Fisher. Featuring a special appearance by Brian’s fellow Mr. Show alum Brett Paesel, author of Mommies Who Drink: Sex, Drugs, and Other Distant Memories of an Ordinary Mom! (Length 24:19)

Episode 632. Preparing And Doing

There’s a difference between rehearsing and performing and this week actors Dan Saski and Austin Tichenor, plus stage manager Elaine Randolph, talk about the specific challenges of touring a show with multiple combinations of actors to different venues around the country. Featuring unabashed fondness for The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), many comings and goings, the trick of doing a show you can only perform 4-5 weeks a year, unconventional processes, how much preparation can you actually do without the other actors, what’s language-driven and what’s movement-or-music-driven, incorporating new technicians in every city, speedy backstage changes captured on video, keeping theatre a living thing, how sometimes the lack of preparation brings magic, and ultimately the joy of seeing what different actors bring to the same roles. (Length 21:48)

Episode 631. Joe Dempsey’s Mechanical

Chicago actor Joe Dempsey plays William Shakespeare’s most autobiographical character, Peter Quince, in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joe talks about playing this prototypical actor-manager, the rehearsal process for this gloriously funny production, the importance of listening to director Joe Dowling, the joy of rehearsal invention, the freedom of actor ownership, the balance of hustling for auditions, the delight of working with T.R. Knight (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy) as Bottom, the incorporation of many Shakespearean deaths, memories of working with the late great John Mahoney (Frasier), and the fundamental difference between being interpretive and creative artists. (Length 18:33) Peter Quince (Joe Dempsey, with bullhorn) directs Francis Flute (Alec Silver), and helps Nick Bottom (T.R. Knight), assisted by Tom Snout (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis) and watched by Snug the Joiner (William Dick) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joe Dowling, December 6, 2018 – February 3, 2019. Photos by Liz Lauren.

Episode 629. 2018’s Top Podcasts

Happy New Year! We kick off 2019 with excerpts of the Top Ten Most Downloaded Episodes of the RSC Podcast from 2018. Featuring novel excerpts from novelist Christopher Moore; testimonials regarding the efficacy of prison theatre programs; reviews of our favorite Broadway shows; the challenges of working on a new play about Mikhail Gorbachev; love for and from retired National Public Radio broadcaster Robert Siegel; actors from the Prague Shakespeare Festival; affection for Slings and Arrows; new plays inspired by Shakespeare’s plays and practices; confessions from an actual Lady Macbeth; and — finally! — an answer to the question, “What is Shakespeare’s greatest play?” Listen to the excerpts then click through to hear the entire episodes! (Length 23:03) 

Episode 628. Very Reduced ‘Christmas’

In honor of the holiday, we present excerpts from a live performance of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)! Featuring music and laughter, a traditional English panto, gay apparel, interrupted epiphanies, travel nightmares, decked halls, and warm cockles. ‘Tis the season! Happy Merry Chrismakwanukkahanzukkah! 

Episode 625. Actor Turned Educator

Longtime RSC actor Mick Orfe talks about his new career path as a high school psychologist, and how he uses his arts training and background to give the next generation of kids better career options. Featuring long-time career aspirations, doing God’s work, getting the training just to get the gig, the tooting of horns, how his acting training and experience informs both work and his approach, finding fulfilling work, the importance of telling your story, and the joy of making a difference and helping kids find not just jobs but careers. (Length 20:39)

Episode 623. Orsino And Othello

William Oliver Watkins plays Orsino (left, with Caitlin McWethy as Viola) in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night, after playing the title role in CSC’s production of Othello last season. Will talks about the similarities and challenges of the two roles and what it’s like to return to his home town of Cincinnati from where he lives now in New York City, gives shout-outs to mothers specifically and English teachers generally, reveals revelations about Tom Selleck’s mustache and the saga of Luke Cage’s little brother, explains the things they don’t teach you in acting school, and talks about the glory of doing Shakespeare in the Park (not that one). (Length 20:28) 

Episode 622. Viola And Olivia

Caitlin McWethy and Abby Lee play Viola and Olivia in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night directed by the RSC’s own Austin Tichenor, and prior to the show’s opening this week, sat down to talk about their characters and how this production differs from other productions they’ve seen and been in. Featuring the wonder of two women sharing scenes onstage (and the weirdly specific thing that makes it possible), Viola’s narrative burden, definitive roles we’re dying to play (lookin’ at you, Valentine), the question of why Olivia is not a more generally-desired role in the Shakespearean canon, Olivia’s similarity to Kate from Taming of the Shrew, the magic alchemy of shared grief, roles that allow for greater interpretive freedom, wonderful surprises, hitting that sweet spot between fun n’ games and tragedy, and the joy of laughing and crying in rehearsal. (Length 21:08)

Episode 620. Tom Hanks’ Falstaff

Director Kristen Osborn talks about serving as assistant director to Daniel Sullivan on the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of both parts of Henry IV earlier this summer, which starred Tom Hanks as Falstaff, Joe Morton (Scandal, Brother From Another Planet) as Henry IV, and Hamish Linklater (Fargo, Legion, The Newsroom) as Hal. Kristen discusses how the script was abridged and cast and also shares insights into how the emphasis of Shakespeare’s History gets transformed by star quality. Featuring music by Michael Roth, shout-outs to our own Jeff Marlow, mysterious secrets of the pocket gopher, becoming invaluable, digging into the work, figuring out backstage traffic, transforming the space, changing class distinctions, putting in understudies, feeling like a fraud, what this gig might lead to, how to double a cast of “only” nineteen people, a growing love of Shakespeare, and how a young director shapes her career. Recorded live at The Celtic Knot in Evanston; Where else to talk about Henry IV but in a pub?! (Length 23:29)

Episode 618. Directing ‘Twelfth Night’

Austin Tichenor is directing Twelfth Night at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company this fall, and it turns out he’s almost the only one at Cincy Shakes or the RSC who’s never worked on it before! Fortunately, RSC members Teddy Spencer, Jerry Kernion, and Dominic Conti, plus Chicago actress and professor of acting at Northwestern University Cindy Gold, are able to give him tips and insights into the play and its characters because they’ve all done Twelfth Night multiple times. Featuring discussions of the text, Shakespeare’s authorial intent, the driving force that is Maria, the difficulty of Malvolio, spectacular insight into Sir Toby Belch, the value of dumb shows and fencing, the way to dress Sir Andrew, excellent high-kicking, and the wonder of having a well-oiled Orsino. (Length 23:47) 

Episode 617. Remy Bumppo’s ‘Frankenstein’

Nick Sandys is the artistic director of Chicago’s Remy Bumppo Theatre and is currently playing both Victor Frankenstein and the Creature in the Nick Dear adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, which opens this week and runs through November 17, 2018, now also celebrating its 200th anniversary (he alternates roles with Greg Matthew Anderson). Nick talks about the power of this tale of monstrousness and how it fits into Remy Bumppo’s mission of great language driving great ideas. Featuring ways in which Shelley’s novel continues ideas expressed by Shakespeare in The Tempest, early modern analogues to rap battles, how one can highlight (and quite possibly confuse) certain issues, the precision with which one handles cultural negotiation, how the use of language — even in Shakespeare — tells you how a scene must be staged, how literature can also be a verb, how monsters are not born but made, and how one addresses the ultimate question: Who, really, is the monster? A star is shorn! (Length 22:42)

Episode 613. ‘Complete Works’ Returns!

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)  returns for its first US tour in almost ten years! Two of our actors prepared for the tour by performing un-reduced Shakespeare this summer: Michael Faulkner (above, right) performed in Othello and the Two Noble Kinsmen for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company in Thousand Oaks, CA, while Jeff Marlow (above, left) played three roles in the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV, which featured a young up-and-comer named Tom Hanks as Falstaff. Michael and Jeff discuss the importance of calf exercises, the strengths and limitations of LPMs (Laughs Per Minute) as an appropriate barometer, actor shorthand, honoring laughs, opening doors for yourself, unlikely expectations, the magic of theatrical alchemy, and the wonderful relationship between performing actual full-length Shakespeare — and then reducing it. (Length 18:32)

Episode 612. NewVic Usher Corps

Anthony Pound is the Associate Director of Education and Youth Engagement at the New Victory Theatre in New York City, and now that school is back in session Anthony tells us all about  NewVic’s award-winning Usher Corps theatre internship program. Featuring robust education departments, amazing lower lobbies, incredible online resources, briefing and debriefing, winning awards, post-show workshops, pursuing realistic careers in the arts, shout-outs to Sunset Cultural Center and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and finally, fabulous encounters with former first ladies. (Length 20:12)

Episode 611. Burbage to Burbage

Kevin Kenerly is a 22-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is currently playing Richard Burbage in Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will (after having played Burbage in Shakespeare in Love in 2017). Kevin talks with Austin Tichenor (who played Burbage in the Northlight Theatre production in 2017 and blogged about it for the Folger Shakespeare Library) about his approach to playing Shakespeare’s leading man, how he first came to Shakespeare, how the role of Burbage resembles Cyrano de Bergerac, inspirational teacher shoutouts, impressive instruments, the magic of different interpretations, a love for language, the pleasure of needing no clue, Michael Caine aphorisms, how theatre sleeps when we do, and ultimately how Shakespeare and microbrew prove to be an unbeatable combination. Featuring a special appearance from Lauren Gunderson herself! (Pictured: David Kelly as Henry Condell, Kevin Kenerly as Richard Burbage, and Jeffrey King as John Heminges. From the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, directed by Christopher Liam Moore.) (Length 22:56)

Episode 610. ‘Western Civ’ Lives!

Barnstormers Theatre in New Hampshire is producing our rarely-seen show Western Civilization: The Complete Musical (abridged), which we created in 1998 under its original title The Complete Millennium Musical (abridged). Director Blair Hundertmark and cast members (l to r) Jordan Ahnquist, Cheryl Mullings, and Rachel Alexa Norman discuss learning and updating the script and the songs, getting comfortable with audience participation, the freedom to go with the flow, lyrics that make your eyes spin, encouraging seriousness and the prospect of journaling, finding a through-line, sad topicality, getting the audience on your side, sexy inquisitors, unsung heroes, and timeless inspiration from Yogi Berra. Featuring excerpts from the original cast recording, which is available from iTunes! (Length 25:04)

Episode 608. Colonel Tom Parker

Our own Jerry Kernion is playing Colonel Tom Parker in the new jukebox musical Heartbreak Hotel, currently playing in Chicago and possibly soon on its way to a theatre near you. Jerry talks about playing this controversial person, the creation of the role, the history of the actual guy, the evolution of the production, and its possible future. Featuring Elvis’s talented lineage, interesting historical what-ifs, the challenges of playing not-necessarily-good guys, fabulously appropriate background music, charming personal conflict, and the adventure of living in Chicago and leaving Los Angeles — possibly for good! Recorded live in Pippin’s Tavern in Chicago. (Length 20:07)

Episode 605. The Actors Gymnasium

Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is the artistic director and co-founder of The Actors Gymnasium, a physical theatre school with a huge emphasis on circus and telling stories through movement. A longtime collaborator with Chicago’s Tony-winning Lookingglass Theatre, Sylvia created the underwater choreography for Lookingglass’ current production of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and talks about how she creates her work and the value of her collaborators, the invaluable nature of literally growing up in the circus, questioning the value of not taking a risk, learning the language of physicality, getting actors to a different level, and the joy of watching a performer discover new skills and manners of expression. (Length 19:20)

Episode 599. Coming And Going

Five RSC actors — Reed Martin, Dan Saski, Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor, and Chad Yarish — performed at Pittsburgh Public Theatre this opening preview weekend. Over beer, wings, and fried pickles, Dan, Teddy, Chad, and Austin discuss what’s involved with creating smooth transitions during performances; jokes that also come and go; the important similarities between Shakespeare and martial arts; adjusting blocking for a thrust configuration; the vast quantity of variety of theatre in the north Bay Area; working with John Douglas Thompson in Hamlet at American Conservatory Theatre; aspiring to Bob Cratchit; amazing musical scores; possible dueling Pucks; the difficulties of matching your own type; and the tricky nature of jokes that also come and go. (Length 20:17)

Episode 598. Returning to Pittsburgh

We’re honored to be performing William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) here at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre as the final production of outgoing artistic director Ted Pappas’ 17-year tenure. Actors and playwrights/directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor reminisce about their many previous trips here while actor Teddy Spencer talks about what he’s looking forward to seeing and doing here in Steel City. Featuring memories of previous runs, tons of festivals, successful potty-training, crappy couches, snowy opening days, and fantastic audiences here in our home away from home.

Episode 597. Lady Macbeth Herself

Chaon Cross plays Lady Macbeth in the exciting and literally magical production of the Scottish play directed by Aaron Posner and Teller in the current production at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and discusses the challenges of finding the balance between the textual and theatrical and between character and razzmatazz; the difficulties of acting while performing magic; the art of creating a useful backstory; the pitfalls of human desires: the glory of creating a world; the relative usefulness of politics; and the surprising delight of speaking with Lady She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. (Length 21:16)

Episode 591. I Was Cleopatra

Dennis Abrams has written the new YA novel I Was Cleopatra, the fictional memoir of John Rice, a boy actor in the King’s Men, Shakespeare’s acting company, who played many of Shakespeare’s signature female roles, including Lady Macbeth, Cordelia, and Cleopatra. I Was Cleopatra was just published last week and its author discusses the creation of his novel, the amount of research he did, the wonder of being surprised by your main character, the supplemental reading he recommends, how we know when Shakespeare wrote his plays, the fun of deconstructing Shakespeare’s texts, and the ultimate joy of all: annoying Oxfordians! (Length 21:18)

Episode 590. Serious Actor Clown

Philip Earl Johnson stars in Enemy of the People at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and talks about the creation of his role in this new adaptation, and how he divides his time between theatre work and his other life as the RenFaire clown MooNiE. Featuring the fundamental virtues of conviction and truth, brushes with rockstar greatness, travels with Angels in America, the value of getting through 200 shows, the art of combining Ibsen with Charlie Chaplin, the magic of whistling, the inspiration of junkyard dogs, and the glory of scoring a leading role the old-fashioned way — by auditioning. (Length 24:17)