Hot Wing ‘Quing’

Lili-Anne Brown directs the fabulously funny and moving Writers Theatre production of Katori Hall’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Hot Wing King that’s filled with extraordinary heart and comic specificity. Brown shares what drew her to this group of flamboyant characters; the challenge of cooking real hot wings onstage; how she brings grandeur to The Hot Wing King and intimacy to the musical The Color Purple; and how you should definitely come for the LOLs but stay for the dramá. (Length 18:45)

Independent Shakespeare Company

Independent Shakespeare Company celebrates its 20th anniversary of producing free Shakespeare in the parks of Los Angeles, and artistic director Melissa Chalsma talks about the journey ISC has taken to get here and “the longterm relationship” she’s in with William Shakespeare. Chalsma reveals the challenges and rewards of not knowing what the hell you’re doing when you’re starting out; how ISC matches LA’s casual vibe; how, no matter how long you’ve been working on Shakespeare’s plays, he’s always just out of reach; memories of As You Like Its we have known and loved; the joy of being in a collaborative conversation with a playwright who’s been dead for 400 years; and the importance of never underestimating the power of your own naïveté. (Length 24:55)

Dreaming Multiple ‘Dream’s

Artist, author, and illustrator Gary Andrews (Finding Joy, Drawing on Shakespeare, Daisy the Littlest Zombie) is directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the fifth time and making brand new discoveries in this most popular of Shakespeare’s comedies. Gary reveals the Victorian inspiration behind his current production; how he finds unexpected comedy in the scenes between Theseus and Hippolya, and draws on his Welsh heritage; the other Shakespeare plays he would love to return to, and characters he’d love to play for the first time); the danger of over-politicizing the script; the importance of navigating the play’s multiple endings (more than Return of the King!); and resolving the ultimate question: Who doesn’t love a cuddly Bottom? (Length 22:47) (PICTURED: Eloise Wynn-Jones as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed, photographed, and wearing makeup designed by Gary Andrews.)

Hamid Dehghani’s ‘English’

Sanaz Toossi’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play English, a powerful, warm-hearted, and surprisingly funny play about four adult students in Iran studying for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), is getting an extraordinary production from director Hamid Dehghani that runs this summer at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Hamid discusses how amazingly personal Toossi’s play is and the extraordinary theatrical conceit at the heart of it; how both the play and the production embrace questions of identity through humor; the difficulty of being as funny in English as you are in Persian; how the incredibly specific becomes wonderfully universal; and how working on this script with these actors allowed Hamid to clarify his truest artistic self. (Length 19:16) (PICTURED: Shadee Vossoughi and Nikki Massoud in the Goodman Theatre and Guthrie Theatre co-production of Sanaz Toossi’s English, directed by Hamid Dehghani. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern

For his final production as thirty-year artistic director of Chicago’s Tony-winning Court Theatre, Charles Newell transforms Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead into an unexpectedly joyful celebration of legacy and theater. Newell reveals his lengthy relationship with not only Stoppard’s plays but with the man himself, and shares how he cast two halves of a whole; how he chose to respond instinctively to what was happening in rehearsal rather than adhere to an intricate plan; and how he embraced the counterintuitive and seemingly-oxymoronic phrase “joyful requiem.” (PICTURED: Erik Hellman and Nate Burger as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in the Court Theatre production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by Charles Newell. Photo by Michael Brosilow.) (Length 20:20)

Ides Of March Madness

What’s Shakespeare’s best speech? That question gets answered on this epic episode by director Nate Cohen and actor/educators Elizabeth Dennehy and Gregory Linington, who agonize over every match-up in this Sweet 16 selection of soliloquies and monologues. Highlights include remorse over the many speeches that didn’t make the tournament; the differences between speeches and soliloquies; how Juliet is the female Hamlet; origins of the phrase “rolling thunder;” the unsurprising dominance of fulcrum speeches; a brief “Rap Othello” interlude; and most importantly, how a full March Madness field of 64 would have included many many more of your favorite Shakespeare monologues. (Length 1:22:47)

Writing ‘Tragedy Averted’

Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri discusses her Shakespearean summer camp comedy Tragedy Averted, now having its midwest premiere at the IO Theatre in Chicago. Tragedy Averted showcases four Shakespeare heroines – Juliet, Cordelia, Desdemona, and Ophelia – who bond at summer camp while struggling with romance, friendship and difficult dads. In conversation with the production’s director Dee Ryan, Alexandra shares the origins of her humor; the depth of her nerdery; inspirational messages from W.H. Auden and T.H. White; the comfort of knowing she always wanted to be a writer; spoileriffic exegesis; her firm belief that any crisis can be addressed head-on, Hamlet-like, by writing a play about it; and how fan fiction means you love the source text but have a significant bone to pick with it. (Length 19:14)

Harpo And Chico

Reed Martin has written Harpo and Chico and Bill, a new comedy about Harpo Marx, his son Bill, and Harpo’s brother Chico as they try to put one final live stage show together late in their careers. Written during the pandemic, Reed’s play is is now having its world premiere (under his direction) at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. Reed discusses how the script came to be, how it’s evolving with his all-student cast, and where it might go from here; how he got to meet Harpo’s son Bill; how Reed exaggerated the drama (but only a little); how you can’t find a single person who has a bad word to say about Harpo; the importance of family both onstage and off; and how Reed’s performing the public service of introducing a new generation to classic comedians and timeless bits. (Length 22:16)

Troilus And Cressida

Director Jemma Levy discusses her incredibly successful production of Shakespeare’s problem play Troilus and Cressida for the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern in the fall of 2023. Jemma reveals what makes the play so complicated to pull off; how she managed to craft a through-line for it with the help of talented actors and and wise dramaturgical archeology; the frustration of not knowing any of the Trojan War’s inside jokes; the problem of the title; the complication of not knowing who to root for; the play’s many shifts of tones; the ability to edit the play and give it a better focus; the degree to which Troilus and Cressida can be considered satire, pastiche, or parody; and the best way to handle “constant awful” – by laughing at it. (Length 20:29)

CST’s Edward Hall

Edward Hall, the new artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, discusses his return to Chicago and his new production of Richard III, starring Tony Award-nominated actor and double-amputee Paralympian medal-winning athlete Katy Sullivan in the title role. Edward reveals what went into his choice of play (and actor); the beauty of happy accidents and wonder of actor-driven Shakespeare; how Shakespeare’s plays are endlessly intriguing and endlessly relevant; the challenge of showing the things we’re saying; the musicality of the American approach to Shakespeare’s verse; inspiration from Game of Thrones, Succession and The Bear; and embracing the Chicago ethos of ensemble and the improv rule of making your scene partner look better. (Length 19:09)

Banning “The Bible”

Last week was the tenth anniversary of “The Kerfuffles,” that time when our performance of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) was banned by conservative politicians and then UNbanned when an international media storm arose. Co-authors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, and Matt Croke – the show’s original cast (pictured above) – reminisce about the creation of the script, how it developed in workshop performances, and how the controversy was handled. Featuring the show’s big Broadway musical ending; conscious comic and commercial decisions; lost scenes and cut props; and the importance of always heeding the wisdom of former dean of Ringling Brothers Clown College Steve Smith. (Length 24:28)

Measuring The Laughs

On the eve of our upcoming tour of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), co-authors and RSC co-artistic directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor talk about measuring the success of a production, and how it’s easier with a comedy but not so much with a drama. Reed and Austin reveal how comedy opens up the heart; how laughs preceded by quiet moments are usually stronger; their greater willingness to go on a comic journey than a tragic one; a shout-out to George Saunders’s book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain; their feelings about whether Chekhov’s plays are actually funny; their ability to take their own notes about slowing down; how not all laughs are created equal; a special appearance by half an EGOT winner “Weird Al” Yankovic; the complete song, “I Laughed Till I Cried;” and the ultimate challenge of wondering whether a quiet audience is enthralled or simply bored. HEAR HERE! (Length 20:36)

Holiday Murder Mystery

In a delightfully macabre bit of counter-programming, Northlight Theatre is producing the classic Dial M For Murder, which has already been extended into 2024 and whose director Georgette Verdin talks about why it’s the perfect kind of play for the holiday season. Georgette reveals the fantastic run of mystery-thrillers she’s been on; the opportunity and payoff of leaning into genre programming; the fundamental need for catharsis; how the theatre industry struggles to market new work and reach new audiences (and sometimes succeeds); and the powerful beauty of finding light in the darkness. (Length 17:47)

Let’s Build Forts!

Julie Ritchey, the founding artistic director of Chicago’s Filament Theatre, and scenic and installation designer Eleanor Kahn are two members of the team that created Forts!, the play that turns the audience loose in a controlled environment to create their own event. Julie and Eleanor discuss the creation of Forts! and how it changes despite somehow staying the same; how they’re exploring the intersection of play (the noun) and play (the verb); the challenge of creating a Forts! signature cocktail; the important question of why only toddlers get to wear fun fashions; and why Forts! is a play, not a show, and definitely not an experience. Welcome to podcasting on the edge! (Length 17:23)

The Nacirema Society

Chicago director Lili-Anne Brown brings extraordinary levels of funny and heart to the Goodman Theatre production of Pearl Cleage’s wonderful comedy of class, The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years. Brown discusses the kind of rehearsal room she creates; how she worked her way up the theatrical ladder; how we don’t talk enough about the value of comedy; how the comedy basics of high status versus low status goes too frequently unrecognized; how she gives license to her actors to explore and invent; how the best and funniest idea wins; and how the recipe always begins with great actors and giving them permission to try. (Length 21:08)

Meet Braden Abraham

Braden Abraham, the new artistic director of Chicago’s Writers Theatre, just announced the theater’s 31st season, the first one he’s programmed since joining the company. Braden talks about what goes into planning a season (and how that thinking never really ends); how a theatre season is like a great album; the importance of being in a learning and discovery phase; remaining in conversation with various overlapping communities; how programming a show in one city leads to a different show in another; the challenge of making each show an event; finding the right balance of scale and intimacy; and the value of bring some west coast energy to the north shore. (Length 19:18)

Karen Ann Daniels

Karen Ann Daniels, Director Of Programming and Artistic Director of Washington DC’s Folger Theatre, discusses her journey with Shakespeare and her goal of making the resources of the Folger Shakespeare Library open and available to more people. Karen Ann shares her love of site-specific theatre; how the Folger is renovating and improving not just its physical space, but its metaphysical space; expanding the kinds of people who get called “emerging artists;” how her early training as a musician led to a life of Shakespeare; how Bugs Bunny and Duck Tales are part of many Shakespearean origin stories; how the Folger picked the perfect time to plan its multi-million dollar renovation; and how exposure to Shakespeare can help you find your voice. (Length 17:53)

Goodman’s 98th Season

Susan V. Booth, the new artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, talks about her recently-announced 2023-2024 season, the first she’s programmed upon returning to Chicago. Susan reveals the challenges of not only selecting a season, but in finding the right language to talk about it; the value of diminishing “capital-I importance;” her obsession with how elastic the definition of ‘theatre’ can be; the wonderful durability of this art form; the excitement of non-traditional spaces and theatre that happens outside of theaters; how every season is a chapter in an epic theatre saga; an exclusive tip for how to avoid a reputational “sh1tshow;” and finally, the trick of curating a season while also getting out of its way. (Photo by Joe Mazza.) (Length 18:39)

Shakespearean March Madness

Beware the Ides of March Madness! The question “What’s the greatest Shakespeare play?” gets a definitive answer from director Nate Cohen, who’s created a massive tournament bracket that pits Comedy v. Tragedy and History v. Romances. Nate shares how Shakespeare’s plays got seeded; which plays were the hardest to match up; how a play’s reputation affect its seeding; a production of As You Like It for which Barenaked Ladies wrote the songs (what??); the deep bench of Twelfth Night; tough decisions regarding Richard III; the unsurprising dominance of number one seeds; some surprising bracket-busters; a couple of heart-breaking matchups; what play would win out of ten games; and how the proof of each play’s strengths come in production. A warning to our affiliates: We will go long. (Length 37:26)

‘Shrew’ In Cincinnati

Director Jemma Levy discusses The Taming of the Shrew, now in rehearsal at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and opening this week. Jemma shares her thoughts about this famously complicated play and reveals that she considers it a feminist romantic comedy; how she emphasizes its themes of performance and the shifting relationships of masters and servants; her belief that Shakespeare’s women are always the smartest people on the stage; how we watch Katherine and Petruchio’s first “meet-cute,” then fall in love and learn each other’s moves in real time; the theatrical and thematic value of including the audience; the fun of putting a bar onstage; and how Shrew compares with another complicated Shakespeare “comedy,” The Merchant of Venice. (Length 20:45)

‘Dear Actor’ Letters

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)

Reviewing London’s ‘Streetcar’

Our ‘London Entertainment Correspondent’ (!) Elizabeth Dennehy reviews the transformative Almeida Theatre production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Rebecca Frecknall and starring Paul Mescal and Patsy Ferran (above). Elizabeth discusses how the direction and performances made it feel as if she was hearing Streetcar for the very first time, and how they scrape off the barnacles of affectation from previous productions; redefine the tragedy of Blanche DuBois; how her feelings are perfectly expressed in David Benedict’s review in Variety; how the magic of theatre is not an illusion and more effective when it doesn’t try to be; and the fundamental importance of trusting the words, trusting the actors, and most of all, trusting the audience. (Length 20:54)

Growing Up Nutcracker

A family affair this week as host Austin Tichenor is joined by his brother John Tichenor and sister Amy Tichenor Moorhead to discuss their early years performing The Nutcracker for the Metropolitan Ballet Company in Oakland, CA, in the 1970s. The siblings share memories of teacher, choreographer, and director Vern Nerden; discuss favorite Nutcrackers; celebrate the rewards of following in your sister’s footsteps; remember the exact craving tech rehearsals and the smell of greasepaint continue to trigger; how one is connected to Tchaikovsky’s music on almost a cellular level; how the Nutcracker is an almost religious experience; and how early exposure to ballet led to lifetimes in the performing arts. (Length 30:58) (PICTURED: Tom Larson’s poster for the Metropolitan Ballet’s Nutcracker, circa 1970. Courtesy of Amy Tichenor Moorhead.)

Goodman’s Christmas Carol

Jessica Thebus directs the Goodman Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, and this year she’s brought our own Austin Tichenor along to play Scrooge at ten designated performances. Jessica and Austin discuss how much the production changes from year to year (and, surprisingly, how little); how heaping helpings of Dickens’ actual text is present in the production; the willingness of returning veterans to investigate the script anew; the eagerness of artists and audiences to revisit this ritual; how a story is only as good as its bad guy; how everyone is invited to the Christmas Carol party; and how Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the great roles in the theatrical canon. (Length 17:43) (PICTURED: Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Jessica Thebus. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Happy 16th Anniversary!

Mya Gosling, aka GoodTickleBrain, joins us to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast, new episodes of which have dropped weekly since early December, 2006. Mya interviews producer/host Austin Tichenor, who discusses the podcast’s origins and evolution; the greatest gift the podcast has turned into; how it was partially inspired by physical media; how much of a Shakespearean he was to begin with (and how much of one he’s become); how the RSC’s shows evolved into longer narratives; and the fun of filling existing spaces with your own stories. (Length 26:18) (Stick-figure Mya and Austin courtesy of Mya Gosling/GoodTickleBrain. Used by permission.)

Measure For Measure

Director Henry Godinez talks about his powerful Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Measure For Measure, how he loves Shakespeare’s famously problem play, and how his background informed his approach to it. Set amidst the glamour, music, and sensuality of 1950s Cuba, where Shakespeare’s Vienna becomes Havana just before Fidel Castro seizes power, Henry also discusses how this setting enriched his understanding of the play; how differing strands of self-righteous fanaticism and hypocrisy come into conflict; his own crazy childhood dreams; how this production manages to (amazingly!) end on a mildly positive and hopeful note; and how Shakespeare’s problem play is better the more nuanced and complicated it is. (Length 17:40) (PICTURED: The company of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Henry Godinez, in the Courtyard Theater, October 21–November 27, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Doug’s Time Traveling

RSC Actor Doug Harvey (Hamlet in Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel)) performs his one-man show A Time Traveler’s Guide to the Present at the United Solo Festival in New York City on November 5, 2022 (an important date in the space time continuum). The show’s director Abigail Deser joins Doug to discuss how the show evolved for its run at last summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe; how the show helps them (and us!) survive in the worst timeline; the expedience of rehearsing over pizza; dealing with pandemic loss; finding the show’s spine; the excitement of virtuosity; the value of stripping away extraneous bells and whistles; the wonder of sacrificing your babies so as to not kill your momentum; how the best time travel stories are also love stories; and the beauty and satisfaction of fulfilling the promise of the time-travelly premise. (Length 21:57)

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.)

‘Owning Shakespeare’ Podcast

The first season of Rob Myles’ extraordinary Owning Shakespeare podcast is now available on all the usual platforms, and it’s a fantastic collection of six noted Shakespeare actors tackling (in real time) a speech they’ve never looked at before, and sharing their process, stumbles, and successes with the listener. Rob’s a wonderful guide, and he joins us to discuss how the podcast came together; how the RSC’s Austin Tichenor was a briefly unwitting test subject; what this and future seasons will accomplish; how he blushes at praise for his knowledge of Shakespeare and skills as a director; the joy of taking both Shakespeare and actors off pedestals; how a rushed rehearsal process led to a kind-of triage of Shakespeare; the importance of demystifying the idea that actors are only using “intuition;” how to avoid “impenetrable babble;” the value of showcasing the new generation of Approved Shakespeareans; and the hoped-for possibility of getting an Avenger on Season Two. (Length 21:40) (PICTURED, clockwise from top left, the six “text detectives” from Season One of Owning Shakespeare: Isabel Adomakoh Young, Austin Tichenor, Miguel Perez, Debra Ann Byrd, Paterson Joseph, and Adjoa Andoh.)

Ron OJ Parson

Ron OJ Parson is a multiple award-winning director and Resident Artist at the 2022 Tony-winning regional theater Court Theatre in Chicago, where his production of Arsenic and Old Lace opens this Saturday night. Ron’s extraordinary range includes over 30 productions of August Wilson’s plays, musicals, classics, and world premieres, and he discusses how he approaches each script, regardless of genre; how the best direction is collaboration; bonding with Brian Dennehy and formative mentoring from Marion McClinton and Stephen McKinley Henderson; the art of not doing all that much to the play while you’re doing the harder work of just doing the play; how he’s one of the folks responsible for it being a golden age of August Wilson in Chicago (and elsewhere); and how believes in the fundamental importance of laughter, not just as entertainment but as catharsis. Can you say #RonaissanceMan? (Length 18:33) (Photo of Ron OJ Parson by Joe Mazza.)

Celebrating ‘Lookingglass Alice’

David Catlin is a founding Ensemble Member, actor, writer, director, and former Artistic Director of the Tony-winning Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago, and, whose adaptations and productions, which include Moby Dick and The Little Prince, “has sculpted the Lookingglass aesthetic.” David discusses the origins of Lookingglass Alice and the art of combining multiple skillsets; how the show is reshaped to the specific skills of its cast members; how David’s less of a director and more of an air traffic controller; the challenge (and joy!) of creating theater that shatters boundaries and explores possibilities; a proposed title for a new reduced version of a Herman Melville classic; and how Lookingglass is one of several models of college kids forming a theater and making a go of it. (Length 23:57)

Starling Shakespeare Company

Heron Kennedy (left, below) and Jessie Lillis, the founding artistic directors of Starling Shakespeare Company, discuss the company’s origins, plans for the future, and the rewards and challenges – both artistic and practical – of performing Shakespeare with only five people. FEATURING: Exploring different institutional models; inspiration from Actors From The London Stage; the definition and comic possibilities of “extreme casting;” the importance of a playful rehearsal room; how they’ve added touring dates and educational residencies; and how, ultimately, Starling Shakespeare provides both an excellent focus on Shakespeare’s text – and a remarkable showcase for actors. (Length 21:40)

Shakespeare In Detroit

Sam White (left) is the founding artistic and executive director of Shakespeare In Detroit, currently presenting the African-American Shakespeare Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. On their first opening night in years, in their new home at Marygrove Conservancy, Sam sat down to discuss the history of @ShakesInTheD; her own origin story; how she has a new appreciation for King Lear after caring for aging parents; the important distinction between loving Shakespeare’s works and loving Shakespeare the man; the dangers of taking Shakespeare too seriously; the importance of changing the idea of who Shakespeare is for; how the best actors are funny; the crazy delight of becoming BFFs with Margaret Atwood; and how the pandemic has enriched and deepened our understanding of Shakespeare’s plays. (Length 18:15) (PICTURED: Tre Tyler, Lijesh Krishnan, and Gabe Ross in the Shakespeare In Detroit / African-American Shakespeare Company co-production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. Photo by @chuknowak.)

Hail, Richard II

The African-American Shakespeare Company production of Richard II, in a new Play On! translation by Naomi Iizuka, runs this weekend and next April 15-24, 2022, at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Director L. Peter Callender and star Lijesh Krishnan discuss the creation of this production; the return to live performances with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)  (and how it will travel to Shakespeare in Detroit in May, 2022); the open secret of how Shakespeare gets adapted and translated all the time; unnecessarily nice words about Reed Martin; the distinction between common people and the masses; the difference between the quality of the jokes and the people saying the jokes; the promise of opening night drinks; and the importance of rewarding audiences for returning to live performances. (Length 21:31)

Untamed Shrews Podcast

Dawn Tucker, Hannah Fontes, and Becki Zaritsky are the hosts of the Untamed Shrews Podcast, a production of Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival (where Dawn and Hannah are the Executive and Marketing Directors, respectively, and Becki is the former production manager). The three Shrews discuss their work with Flagstaff Shakes and how the pandemic inspired the podcast’s creation, and how they bring their irreverence and humor not only to podcasting but to Shakespeare and theater. FEATURING: an RSC Podcast first; how Dawn is livin’ the dream; how shrews need love, too; how their specific skillset allows a trapeze Winter’s Tale; the state of the arts in Arizona (or at least in Flagstaff); wisdom from a Shakespearean elder; and how FlagShakes may be the only theater company in Arizona that doesn’t own a fog machine. (Length 25:05)

Shakespeare In Paradise

Shakespeare In Paradise, an annual festival committed to exposing Bahamian audiences to a range of productions from classical theatre traditions around the world while celebrating and developing Bahamian Theater artists. Co-founded in 2009 by Nicolette Bethel, Shakespeare In Paradise is the only international theater festival of its kind in the Caribbean, and Nicolette talks about the festival’s origins; the complicated nature of what the words “Shakespeare” and “paradise” actually mean; how Shakespeare in Paradise is slowly but officially becoming the national theater of The Bahamas; why there’s been resistance to Shakespeare throughout the Caribbean; how a seven-person Measure For Measure transformed perceptions of how Shakespeare can be done; how certain of his plays speak to certain audiences; how certain of his plays maybe just shouldn’t be done anymore; and how Shakespeare In Paradise is creating new generations of people who aren’t afraid of Shakespeare. (Length 18:15)

New York Classical

Just what New York needs – another theater, right?! Yet New York Classical Theatre has carved a valuable niche by presenting all-free productions of popular classics and forgotten masterpieces in public spaces throughout New York City. Founding Artistic Director Stephen Burdman talks about how the company began; how the importance of access drives everything; the blessing of producing in a city filled with thousands of wonderful professional actors; the value of always telling the truth; the development of the concept of “panoramic theater;” and one of the greatest helicopter interruptions ever. #ThanksObama Did we mention their productions are all-free?! (Length 19:53)

Running The Gamut

The Gamut Theatre in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hosted the 2022 Shakespeare Theatre Association conference last weekend, and artistic director Clark Nicholson sat down to talk about the theater’s origins, its evolution, and how they run many different operations under one umbrella. Featuring adventures in real estate; changing one kind of sacred space into another; the challenges and rewards of making much out of little; dealing with onstage Egos; the challenges of wearing many different hats; and – most importantly – how children’s theater is the new vaudeville in terms of giving actors the chops to handle any kind of audience. Plus! A special tribute to playwright Russell Lees, who died on January 4, 2022. Just a couple of pedantic jerks sitting around talking… (Length 20:05) (Pictured: Melissa and Clark Nicholson, executive and artistic directors, respectively, of the The Gamut Theatre in Harrisburg, PA. Photo by Rick Snizik.)

Shakespeare’s Marriage Play

Shana Cooper directed the outstanding five-actor American Players Theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (which runs in person and online until November 14, 2021) and returns to the podcast to discuss how this production differs from the previous two times she’s directed it. Featuring pandemic producing on the fly; changing identities; learning how to watch to play; embracing chameleonic warriors in a pandemic-inspired minimalist aesthetic; how Shakespeare continues to interrogate our society; how the play redefines the power of vulnerability; complicated feelings; and which of Shakespeare’s Histories, Comedies, and Tragedies should more accurately be designated as Satires. (Length 20:50)

Flatwater Shakespeare’s ‘Unshaken’

Flatwater Shakespeare Company is hosting its first (and hopefully annual) “Unshaken Festival,” five solo pieces that engage with Shakespeare comically, poignantly, and powerfully (including Dee Ryan’s Broadguess, featuring actor Fred Vogel). Summer Lukasiewicz is Flatwater’s outgoing executive artistic director, and she shares how these new pieces were selected; how the festival came to be, and how it’s a reaction to the pandemic; the importance of getting changes to the tech crew; the differences between working with living playwrights (as opposed to dead ones), including why the royalty line-item suddenly has numbers in it bigger than zero; whether (and how) the “Unhaken Festival” will continue; and why seeing Shakespeare through difference lenses and from different perspectives is one reason why Shakespeare continues to live. (Length 20:25)

The False Exit

Barbara Wallace, who, along with her writing partner Thomas R. Wolfe created the TV series Welcome To New York (starring Christine Baranski and Rocky Carroll), talks about one of her biggest pet peeves, an almost indefinable bit of stage business that always feels forced (and is not to be confused with an actual exit). Barb also discusses her creative journey from sketch comedy in Chicago to writing and creating TV series in both Hollywood and New York. Featuring: whether or not actors should be allowed to breathe; conflicting definitions of “hugely successful;” the importance of writing the best thing you can, not what you think people will like; fighting for gender parity at Second City in the early 1990s; the mixed benefits of multiple streaming platforms; getting close enough to the glass ceiling to fog it up but not break it; the joys of working with TV legend Christine Baranski; and finally, the ABCs of surviving in showbiz – Always Be Creating your own content. (Length 21:15)

Cutting The Plays

If you’ve ever wanted to cut down a massive Shakespeare play – or indeed any epic already in the public domain – but wanted a more sophisticated understanding of how it could best be done, directors and dramaturgs Aili Huber and Toby Malone have done that work for you. They’ve written Cutting Plays for Performance, a practical guide on how to go about…not reducing, but…shortening your play for any and all kinds of reasons, from the practical to the craven to the artistic. Featuring: the open secret that almost every Shakespeare play is for performance, every single time; how an initial argument led to a great partnership; tricks and philosophies for cutting and focusing; how these tips work for everyone from high schools to New York’s Shakespeare in the Park; why there’s so little pushback; what plays you emphatically cannot cut; and what The Complete Iceman Cometh (abridged) might sound like. (Length 23:45)

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)

Drawing On Shakespeare

Drawing on Shakespeare is a 16-episode webseries hosted by Austin Tichenor and the ridiculously talented Gary Andrews, where we talk about Shakespeare with witty, wonderful, and wise people while Gary draws what we’re talking about. As a possible second season/series gets closer, Gary and Austin remember how Drawing on Shakespeare began, discuss how different actors bring new meaning to a character; how every conversation leads to new insights about a play; how Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be like Keith Richards; and how audience figures are staggering into the several. (Length 17:40)

My Favorite Hamlet

John Vickery (above, as Antonio in The Tempest at the Stratford Festival in 2010 and Orak the Klingon on Star Trek: Enterprise in 2003) starred as Hamlet in Richard E.T. White’s production at the California Shakespeare Theater (then the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival) in 1982, and it remains, almost 40 years later, Austin’s favorite performance of that role he’s ever seen live. Richard discusses how that production came to be; how returning to Shakespeare allows such powerful explorations of class, wealth, and power; what favorite scenes we share; the danger (and rewards) of rewriting copyrighted material; the frustrations of college drama departments everywhere; how the streets of New York City became Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley; interesting collaborations and treasures discovered in the second quarto; how Shakespeare is open and available to any culture and any society; and who Hamlet’s final climactic sword should really be with. (Length 21:27)

Doing. Teaching. Learning.

Director and outgoing chair of the Cornish College of the Arts Theatre Department Richard ET White returns to discuss the reciprocal nature of directing and educating: about how creating art leads to the ability to teach the art, and how both creating and teaching leads to much unexpectedly wonderful learning. Featuring the value of simple acts of necessary communication vs. mad conceptual skills; the sting of painfully truthful recommendations; the advantages of them paying you vs. you paying them; an historic season at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco; how using theatre to teach English in Japan opens up whole new worlds; the pomposity of holding forth; and the incredible universality of Marowitzian deconstruction. (Length 14:29)

Everything Is Theatre

Richard ET White is the former artistic director of the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago, and the outgoing and longest-serving chair of the Cornish College of the Arts Theatre Department in that institution’s 103-year-old history. Richard was also an acting and directing teacher at the University of California Drama Department where many RSC members got their early training. RSC co-artistic director Austin Tichenor talks with his former professor about how theatre can be anything and everywhere; how comedy about serious issues from the San Francisco Mime Troupe became life-changing; the influence of Richard Schechner and the Performance Group; sneering at prosceniums; what people forget about Brecht; the value of immaturity; the immediacy of improv; the storytelling and performance art of stand-up; being both expansive and inclusive; the value of sharing your lived experience; and how you want theatre to have the visceral impact of a great rock concert. (Length 24:06)

Truth In Silliness

We tell our RSC actors to always ask themselves, “Yes, it’s silly…but is it Truly Silly?” This week, we talk to the man who taught as that: film editor Doug Purgason (left), an alum of the University of California, Berkeley, Drama Department (along with Reed, Austin, RSC founding member Jess Winfield, and RSC performing alums David Letwin (UK), John Tichenor (US), and Phil Abrams (US, Israel).) Doug explains how he came upon this youthful wisdom and discusses the dangers of short-changing the audience; the importance of spelling and punctuation; committing to the extreme belief and behavior of what you’re saying; how the truly silly “ethos” applies to his current work; the importance of not rejecting absurdity; and finally, the fundamental understanding that, if the actors don’t care enough to invest in the truth of what’s happening, then why should the audience? (Length 20:59) 

Remembering Christopher Plummer

The “grand old man of the theatre” energy of the late Christopher Plummer lives on in our production of Completely Hollywood (abridged), through our old friend, actor and Broadway fight director Thomas Schall (left), who, in this special bonus podcast episode, remembers the extra-close encounter he had with the legendary actor while appearing in the ill-fated (is there any other kind?) 1988 production of William Shakespeare’s Scottish Play. Featuring: rehearsals with Mr. Plummer’s golden retriever; a revolving door of actors, directors, and designers; bon mots from Lady M herself, Glenda Jackson; old-school grandness; immense charm; some unfortunate emergency dentistry; and how the story has both grown in theatrical legend, and — until now — mercifully been forgotten. (Length 16:51) 

Another Day’s Begun

Author, journalist, and theater advocate Howard Sherman talks about his new book, Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century, a fascinating oral history featuring conversations with over a hundred theater artists talking about productions of this seminal work from Chicago to Miami, from off-Broadway to the UK, and from professionals to students to Kate Powers’ transformative production at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Featuring the two plays that framed World War II; how Howard’s opinion of Our Town changed during the writing of this book; how every production is telling its own story to its own community; how the play prompted dramatic new considerations about the American criminal justice system; and how the community of Grover’s Corners is always populated anew by the community of actors and audience members coming together at every performance. (Length 28:07)

My Podcast Faves

For this last podcast of 2020 (and thank goodness this annus horribilus is over!), we present highlights from our favorite episodes from over 14 years of regular weekly podcasting! Featuring solid categorization; excessive candidates; important work; stories of process; helpful tips; new partners and old friends; and ultimately, passionate chats about things both serious and ridiculous. (Length 23:05)

Hartford Stage Company

Melia Bensussen (l) and Cynthia Rider, respectively the Artistic and Managing Directors of the Hartford Stage Company, talk about the history of their multiple Tony-winning institution, and how they are managing and programming to reflect the various crises hitting their theatre specifically and the American theatre industry generally. Featuring a surprising number of laughs; gratitude at being in charge of an institution during a pandemic; the difficulty of hitting moving targets; the challenge of meeting the needs of multiple communities; how the best comedy is also the smartest comedy; a possible podcast scoop; some fantastic new brochure copy; and the opportunity and obligation to be of service to an audience and industry that’s battling crises on multiple fronts. (Length 19:43)

Shakespeare And Trump

Jeffrey R. Wilson, a lecturer in the Writing program at Harvard University, has written the new book Shakespeare And Trump, which examines not just which Shakespearean villain or tyrant Trump most resembles, but the more richly Shakespearean world of the politicians who enable him and the populace that continues to support him. Jeff explains how reluctant he was to write the book, but how he was drawn to more of a cultural conversation (as opposed to character criticism); weak kings versus dangerous clowns; whether we’re living in one of Shakespeare’s Histories or one of his Tragedies; the trick to finding the comedy in tragedy; the value of using Shakespeare as a lens through which we can look at a specific historical moment; how using Shakespeare as a look at cultural history might reveal things more traditional history might not; and what Shakespeare play most resembles the whole year of 2020. (Length 19:06)

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)

West Side Story

Remember live theatre? Remember when the big story back in late February was the controversial Ivo Van Hove production of West Side Story on Broadway? Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a professor of Shakespeare, English, and Gender Studies at Linfield College in Oregon, and a contributing writer to the New York Times and Atlantic magazine, wrote an article for the latter entitled, “Why West Side Story Abandoned Its Queer Narrative,” and, in this interview recorded on March 3, 2020, discusses the merits of the van Hove production and his insights into the original narrative. Featuring the peril of picking one’s prepositional poison; how a dorky 50s musical speaks to modern concerns about racism and police violence against communities of color; the struggle for Tony’s body; the problems with “I Feel Pretty;” Jerome Robbins’ lost play; expressing Jewish identity in the 1950s through ethnic minstrelsy; how Arthur Laurents “improved” on Shakespeare in particularly troubling ways; the rightness of questioning problematic aesthetics; the casting controversy in the recent Broadway production; and, most importantly, the feeling that when you love something you want to know and discuss everything about it. (Length 34:51)