Othello’s Powerful POV

Chicago’s Court Theatre is producing a powerful and intimate production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, and they are absolutely leaning into the play’s full, proper title. Kelvin Roston Jr. (as Oedipus, left, and Othello, above) stars in the title role and discusses how he was brought in early in the process by directors Charles Newelland Gabrielle Randle-Bent, and shares fantastic insights about he approaches Shakespeare’s text; how it’s sometimes better to find physical alternatives to the text; the similarities between Shakespeare and August Wilson; how you can’t stage a vehicle without getting a good driver; the importance of specificity in language; the power of presenting an epic tragedy on a human scale; the valuable lesson that it’s not what or how the classics speak to us, but how and what we say to the classics; and a determination to make the phrase #TheatreInTheSurround happen. Now playing – and streaming! – until December 5, 2021; visit courttheatre.org for more information. (Length 20:34) 

Troubador Theater’s ‘Lizastrata’

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

Translating ‘Uncle Vanya’

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

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.)

Steadfast Tin Soldier

The Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago is remounting Mary Zimmerman’s production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier this holiday season, and the Tony-winning director and adapter herself talks to us about how the show came to life. Featuring seeking and finding, bittersweet qualities, being drawn to outsiders, staging an advent calendar, music hall influences, Masterpiece Theatre memories, colonizing the mind, actor contributions, a tribute to longtime collaborator Christopher Donahue, the value of taking a break, kitty sneezes, ending on a pun, toggling back and forth between literary and theatrical storytelling, and the value of beautiful legitimate sentiment. (Length 25:05) (Pictured: Alex Stein in the title role in the Lookingglass Theatre Company production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, directed and adapted by Mary Zimmerman (left). Photos by Liz Lauren.)

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)