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)
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)
The animated film Balto celebrated its 25th Anniversary last month, and RSC members Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor played the sidekick sled dogs Nikki, Kaltag, and Star…until they, like most of the cast, were replaced with different actors. Their voices stayed in the film, however, and this week Reed (left, with the statue of Balto in Anchorage, Alaska in 2012) and Austin remember the process of how they got the gig, how it went, and what happened next. A fun and funny remembrance featuring revelations about the film’s original title; having one degree of Balto himself, Kevin Bacon; big thanks to director Simon Wells and producer Steve Hickner; clues to executive producer Steven Spielberg’s changing enthusiasm; shout-out to other film projects we were in (Carry On Columbus, Liquid Television: Dogboy); how animated films are recorded first; a special appearance from our co-star and fellow “extra voice” Mike McShane; and how Balto is, appropriately enough, the perfect pandemic movie. (Length 18:48)
Peter James Smith and William Duffy played Washington power couple, comedy duo, and the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the White House, Ed and Larry, for seven seasons on Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, plus the special reunion event A West Wing Special now streaming on HBO Max. On this 2020 Election Eve, Duffy and Peter discuss how they got their roles, how the roles evolved, and the adventure of playing them. Featuring good rapport; having a history with Aaron Sorkin (Duffy) and not knowing who he was at first (Peter); the power of fan message boards; how it stayed fun but never got completely comfortable; falling back into rhythms; and the privilege of being involved with a show that’s lasted much longer than just its original seven seasons. (Length 24:37)
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.)
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.
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)