Shana’s “All’s Well”

Shana Cooper discusses her direction of one of Shakespeare’s infamous “problem plays,” All’s Well That Ends Well, which ran (quite well!) at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the spring of 2022. Shana reveals how the project came to her; how the options of possible plays narrows considerably when you’re completing the canon; how a play about deeply flawed people at transitional points in their lives matches our historical moment; the vital importance of casting a sympathetic center in your leading role; how her next production is that light-hearted romp Metamorphoses at Seattle Rep; how Bertram typifies the annoying number of fraught men and boys in Shakespeare; and ultimately the importance of finding allies in transitional moments and identifying your next version of Home. (Length 21:40) (PICTURED: Diana (Emma Ladji) and Helen (Alejandra Escalante) in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of All’s Well That Ends Well, directed by Shana Cooper. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

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)

Juliet To Hotspur

Character actor Alejandra Escalante has played ingenues at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (Isabella, Measure For Measure), American Repertory Theatre in Boston (Desdemona, Othello), and for five seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet; Miranda, The Tempest; Princess of France, Love’s Labor’s Lost) where she also played gallant Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1. Blessed with both the ability and the opportunity to play that kind of range, Alejandra talks about the perils and wonder of being a character actor trapped in an ingenue’s body; her initial reaction to being offered the role of Harry Percy; studying and then copying big ol’ barrel-chested dudes; how some of the most wonderful and successful actors never went to college theatre programs; the desire to revisit certain roles; and the joys of working with your former fiancé/now husband. (Length 18:43) (Pictured: Alejandra Escalante as Juliet and Hotspur in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions of Romeo and Juliet and Henry IV, Part 1. Also pictured: Daniel José Molina as Romeo.)

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.)

We Debate ‘Shipoopi’

Peter Marks, theatre critic of the Washington Post and co-host of American Theatre magazine’s Three on the Aisle Podcast, famously loathes the song “Shipoopi” in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man and this week we try to convince him just how wrong he is. Featuring strong emotional reactions; unworthy yet sophisticated analysis; unprovoked disdain of garden gnomes; pilgrimages to Mason City, Iowa; reverse snobbery; comparing Act Two openings; anthropomorphizing a month; ideal Harold Hill casting (the less said about Matthew Broderick, the better); and ultimately a celebration of one the American musical theatre’s greatest (give or take a song or two) shows. WARNING: No minds were changed in the recording of this podcast. (Length 20:13) (Pictured: Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as Marcellus Washburn in the Goodman Theatre production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, directed by Mary Zimmerman. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Episode 549. Remembering A.R. Gurney

”Our good friend Howard Sherman remembers his good friend A.R. Gurney, the celebrated playwright and so-called “chronicler of contemporary America’s most unfashionable social stratum — upper-middle-class WASPS” (according to Frank Rich), who died this week at the age of 86. Howard talks about Gurney’s work and style, both onstage and Read more…

Episode 514. Streamlining ‘Julius Caesar’

Chicago’s Writers Theatre opened its first full season in its award-winning new performance space with a glorious and timely production of Julius Caesar. Actor, co-director, and adaptor Scott Parkinson (left) discusses the process of streamlining this classic by focusing on its dual protagonists, finding echoes in the current political moment, augmenting the language, losing extraneous characters, Read more…

Episode 462. Certain Pet Peeves

”The most recent addition to the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Jason Ryan Lovett, talks about his dream roles, his acting background, the differences between knowing your lines on stage and in your kitchen, transposing pop-culture characters into Shakespeare plays, being a member of The Actors’ Gang, sacred British and American roles, Read more…

Episode 433. American Acting ‘Crisis’

”Emmy-nominated Casting Director Sandi Logan (Cristela, Monk, Boomtown, several tours for the Reduced Shakespeare Company) talks about the business of casting film and television, and the alleged ‘Crisis in American Acting’ (find the link to the essay that talks about this here). Featuring the differences between American and British actor training; the Read more…

Episode 387. Lookingglass Theatre Company

”Phillip R. Smith, the Producing Artistic Director of the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company, talks about the core values that drive the work of this highly respected institution. Featuring the wisdom of grand adventures, multiple artistic directors, shared Edinburgh origins, stubborn trajectories, the power of never reaching the horizon, the Read more…

Episode 22. Our First Time

”You always remember your First Time. So do we. Memorable first RSC performances are recalled this week, with special emphasis on line flubs, urgent calls of nature, and sexual objectification. Plus, a special appearance by big-time Hollywood casting director Debra Zane. Ready for our close-up now, DZ! (MP3. Length 19:34)