The Steppenwolf Story

John Mayer – actor, director, and chair of the Theatre Department at Cal State Stanislaus – has written Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago: In Their Own Words, the (so far) definitive chronicle of Chicago’s groundbreaking theatre ensemble. A high school friend of two of the company’s founders – Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry – John interviewed dozens of artists and administrators who were instrumental in Steppenwolf’s evolution, and reveals such tidbits as Sinise’s early fundraising efforts (which involve a hubcap); the greatest summation of Steppenwolf ever; shout-outs to amazing influential teachers; what an MFA really gives you; tensions between art and commerce; memories of John Malkovich’s landmark production of Balm In Gilead; and, most importantly, how passion, chutzpah, drive, and the ability to adapt and change creates long-term artistry. (Length 21:31)

Loud Storytelling Moms

Now in its sixth year, Louder Than A Mom is a monthly storytelling show that celebrates voices you don’t usually get to see or hear. Co-founder Dee Ryan (left) talks about how LTAM evolved and reveals many moments of generosity; her comparisons to Mary Shelley; how she and co-hosts Kate Hill and Erin McEvoy Mason create their ever-growing community (first in person and now online); how we all miss gathering at LTAM’s regular location, Martyr’s in Chicago; how they always give space to newbie storytellers; threading the needle of funny and moving; how art shouldn’t be competitive; becoming more political; and how there are always new stories to tell and new voices to hear from. (Length 16:34) 

692. J. Nicole Brooks

Actor, director, and playwright J. Nicole Brooks is the author and director of Her Honor Jane Byrne, which looks at the moment in Chicago history when its first woman mayor moved into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Just three nights after it had its official world premiere opening at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre, the rest of the run was cancelled due to the restrictions being imposed around the world in the midst of this global pandemic. Brooks discusses how the play came together and how love letters to Chicago can be complicated; the value of Shakespearean echoes and wise fools; a fascination with corruption; shining light on haunted communities; getting laughs when you least expect them; decolonizing the space; losing revenue streams; surprising shout-outs to Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure; and the brilliance of writing a dark comedy about kings and queens and guillotines. (Length 22:03)

The Impostors Theatre

Rachel Borgo is the Executive Director of Chicago newest young theatre ensemble, The Impostors Theatre Company, a group of like-minded Valparaiso theatre department alums who believe in the value of playing pretend. Featuring the paradox of being both boastful and self-deprecating; the importance of identity (with reference to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “Shakespeare & Beyond” Blog); the power of transformation and change; the glory of being childlike without being childish; the wonder of finding a home at Collaboraction Studios; Rachel’s screenwriting debut with When Jeff Tried to Save the World; the enormously supportive theatre community (sometimes including dogs); the need to get your clicks up; and finally, the career advantages of always carrying Pepto-Bismol in your purse. (Length 17:56)

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)

Episode 619. Critic Chris Jones

Chris Jones is the chief theatre critic and Sunday cultural columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has also been recently named a reviewer for the New York Daily News, and has just written Rise Up! Broadway and American Society from Angels in America to Hamilton. Despite this hectic schedule of seeing and writing about theatre, Chris made time to chat about the role of the critic, how criticism has changed over the years and are a necessary (and valuable!) part of the ecosystem, what most great plays are about, examining not whether a play is good but what it means, an addiction to living in make-believe worlds, what happens when critics screw up, how writing about theatre is writing about life, the reality of complex relationships, the value and drawbacks of moving on to the next show, the nature of ensemble, the greatness of pre-Broadway tryouts, the democratization of critical voices, how ambition is devoutly to be wished, and what’s been the most fundamental change in criticism in the last 20-30 years. (Length 27:29)

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 558. Theatre In Chicago

On the occasion of its world premiere (and Broadway-bound) production of Trevor: The Musical, Writers Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam talks about the Chicago theatre community, its evolving so-called “style”, and the state of musical theatre (and theatre generally) in America. Featuring comparisons to London, cynical imperatives, lifeguard metaphors, and Read more…

Episode 393. Multi-Tasking Actors

Ah, the fun and sometimes the necessity of doing it all! Andy White, artistic director of Lookingglass Theatre Company, and Cindy Gold, Professor of Theatre and Head of Acting at Northwestern University, are both successful and award-winning actors who talk about the other jobs they’ve held and continue to hold. Read more…

Episode 309. The UnReduced Hamlet

”Scott Parkinson is one of those great stage actors you’ve probably never heard of, and he’s playing the title role in an amazing production of Hamlet at the wonderfully intimate Writers Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Glencoe. Austin Tichenor sits down with Scott (you know, one Hamlet to another) and Read more…

Episode 243. Meet Scott Simon

”Broadcaster, journalist, novelist, inveterate tweeter, and now (gasp) playwright, National Public Radio’s Scott Simon discusses his recent novels, upcoming projects, and the degree to which his Chicago background informs his work. Featuring Scott’s tribute to the Windy City, insight into the intriguing differences between his various jobs, a special appearance Read more…

Episode 48. Play By Play (Pt. 2)

”The commentary continues! LIVE! from the balcony of the Royal George Theatre in Chicago: Matt, Reed, and Austin provide play-by-play commentary during an actual performance of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)“. Featuring live performances from Brad Harbaugh, Tim Schueneman, and Kiff Vanden Heuvel, and a special appearance Read more…

Episode 47. Play By Play (Pt. 1)

”LIVE! from the balcony of the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, Matt Croke, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor provide play-by-play commentary during an actual performance of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). Featuring live performances from Brad Harbaugh, Tim Schueneman, and Kiff Vanden Heuvel, and a special appearance Read more…

Episode 46. The Chicago Guys

”Meet Karl Hamilton, Brad Harbaugh, Tim Schueneman, and Kiff Vanden Heuvel, the newest members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and hear what it’s like to learn two RSC shows in four weeks. Learn some tricks about performing RSC shows and marvel at the attendance record we shattered last week! Featuring Read more…

Episode 39. Behind The Table

”Between seeing great Chicago actors this week, we had plenty of time to chat about fan concerns, joke selection, and smart actor choices. Featuring the results of the Podcast Awards, some highly technical medical jargon, a scary excerpt from Reduced Idol, and a special appearance by Chicago’s Improvised Shakespeare Company. Read more…

Episode 18. Meet Dom Conti

”Meet Dom Conti. What makes the man-child tick? Dominic Conti, our lanky athletic third, tells us who he is and why it’s cool he has an orgy. Featuring mash notes to Chicago, quick answers to great questions, and a special appearance by Mike Bunin, one of the stars of the Read more…