Liz Allen’s ‘Mother’

Improviser, improv coach, and “ensemble whisperer” Liz Allen discusses her one-person show Tonight, I Am My Mother, her darkly comic exploration of her mother’s alcoholism, in which Liz plays multiple roles (seamlessly). Liz talks about moments of discovery in her childhood; reveals her script’s inspiration; shares stories of working with comedian Mike Birbiglia on his film, Don’t Think Twice; marvels over her show’s Shakespearean levels; confesses the importance of taking creative license; and celebrates the rewards of bringing a complicated family member back to life. (Length 24:39)

School Of Night

Oliver Senton, one of the co-founders of The School of Night, discusses the origins of the great British Shakespearean improv company (loosely inspired by the mysterious Elizabethan cabal of the same name) and its connection to the late, great actor, writer, and director Ken Campbell (pictured below with Senton). As also one of the co-founders of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Senton discusses the comparative difficulties of improvising songs vs. improvising in iambic pentameter and reveals Campbell’s shared connection with the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Senton also explores the secrets of how improvising Shakespeare informs one’s understanding of his plays; the surprising wonder of being big in Newfoundland; how being famous gets in the way of one’s writing; the distinction between Shakespearean characters and Marlovian grandstanding; and the ultimate challenge of improvising a complete, compelling narrative. (Length 20:57) (Pictured above, l-r: Michael Joseph Chance, Dylan Emery, Sean McCann, Alan Cox and Oliver Senton)

Adapting Kurt Vonnegut

Award-winning playwright and Lifeline Theatre ensemble member John Hildreth wrote an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical sci-fi novel Cat’s Cradle, now enjoying a spectacular revival at Lifeline through October 22, 2023. John discusses the origins of his adaptation and reveals the sources of his inspiration (including and especially the great comic actor Paul Lynde); how director Heather Currie not only “gets it” but is able to communicate it; the value of ignoring the passage of time; the shared experience of navigating multiple theatre worlds; and how his adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel about the fictional inventor of the atomic bomb achieves a perfectly-timed Barbenheimer level of synergy. (Length 19:19)

TV’s Neil Flynn (Pt. 2)

Neil Flynn (The Fugitive, Mean Girls, Scrubs, The Middle) returns to talk about how he manages to work both sides of the acting street: comedic and dramatic, improvised and scripted. A theatre vet, Neil marvels at the times he’s been allowed to frequently act onscreen in 4-5 page scenes (something that rarely happens), and shares the reasons he doesn’t do many talk shows; the bites he’s gotten to take out of dramatic apples; the best business decision he ever made; how basketball led to his role of the Janitor on Scrubs; the joy of getting lucky twice; and his absolute satisfaction about his place on the showbiz ladder. (Length 18:52)

Phony Winning Musical

Laura Hall (from TV’s “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”) discusses Phony Award Winning, the improvised musical comedy inspired by classic musicals that she co-created and which performs Sunday nights at the IO Theater in Chicago. Laura, who got her start at Chicago’s Second City and Annoyance theaters, reveals how her early training and connections led to this exciting new improvisational form. Laura shares which other musicals they’re considering for future performances (and why none of them will be Hamilton); how the cast is flexible enough to swap roles every performance; the extent to which doing televised improv differs from doing it onstage; how to make audiences completely relaxed right at the top of the show; the exciting motivation to see the show more than once; and how improvising in the language, style, and tropes of different musicals offers fun and specific new challenges. (Length 21:15)

Adam Felber: Memoirist

Improviser, novelist, TV writer, podcast host, panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and now memoirist Adam Felber is the co-author, with Charles Band, of Confessions of a Puppetmaster: A Hollywood Memoir of Ghouls, Guts, and Gonzo Filmmaking, and he discusses the extraordinary life he’s helped document; how he makes sure his writing is entertaining; his foray into the multi-podcast-verse; how his career has progressed in ways he didn’t anticipate; the futility of thinking one can “win” showbiz; the rewards of jamming with local dads; his ongoing adventures in writing for television; and, ultimately, how a bullshitter knows a bullshitter. FEATURING: a special appearance from Mr. Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me himself, Peter Sagal! (Length 17:09)

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)

Rachel Dratch Thanksgiving

Old friend (and Thanksgiving bestie) Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live) joins us for this very special 14th Anniversary episode! Rachel shares holiday memories; how she’s navigated her career; and reveals who she always associates with Abba’s “Dancing Queen;” the opportunities she’s had and the ones she’s fought for; how she’s drawn to more comedic roles than dramatic ones; how she’s made peace with the uncertainties of an acting career; the creation (with Paula Pell) of Debbie Downer (left); a shout-out to John Cariani and the late lamented Broadway-bound musical Minsky’s!; obscure silver dishes; a very special holiday meet-cute; doing Love’s Labors Lost with Shakespeare in the Park; and the glorious power of mid-level fame! (Length 22:22)

Here Are Frangela

Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton, better known as Frangela, host the essential funny political podcast The Final Word and this Saturday night September 26, 2020, are performing as part of Stephanie Miller’s Sexy Liberal Virtual Tour, appearing right in your living room (on your computer)! Frances and Angela talk about how they joined comedy forces and share tips about the importance of using your voices; bringing the funny to the people; mutual Second City origins; memories of the TBS pilot The Week Reduced; the myth of world hunger; finding comic angles; possible spoilers to Star Trek: Discovery, the valuable bond of having opinions about everything; the importance of remembering that we have options and things don’t need to be this way; and the cathartic release of breaking crockery. (Length 22:04)

Standup Vs. Improv

Liz Allen is an improviser and teacher who, among other things, coached the improv team in Mike Birbiglia’s film Don’t Think Twice. Liz’s trip to the Mayo Clinic became an existential crisis that caused her to reflect on her work and career, and she shares with us her revelations about angels on earth, comedy with a purpose, misdiagnoses, spontaneous jokes, enriching laughs, weird complications, having a face for comedy, surviving a long night of the soul, embracing life lessons, coaching movie actors, the surprising spiritual element of joke-telling, and best of all: solid endocrine humor! (Length 20:10)