Episode 800! Hail, ‘King James’!

For our landmark 800th episode, we’re joined by Rajiv Joseph, the Obie-winning playwright and screenwriter whose Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, talking about his new play King James, now in its final week at Steppenwolf Theater before its month-long run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Rajiv talks about how the play found its ultimate shape; the bona fides and credibility he brings to the topic; the theatrical pageantry of sporting events, and how some of that invaluable arena energy is brought into the theater; the largely unexplored area of the emotional impact of sports; and our shared belief that the subject of sports remains fruitful and largely unexplored territory in the theater. (Length 17:44)

Are You Here?

A veteran of film, TV, and Broadway, Jim Ortlieb stars in John Kolvenbach’s Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, a tour-de-force one-person play about what it means to struggle to survive, to move on, to connect, and to find community again. Now in its Chicago premiere at the American Blues Theater, the noted film, stage, and TV actor talks about the challenge of acting by himself…but with an entire audience; how behavior reveals meaning; how the death of Hal Holbrook inspired the play; the importance of mourning and how we, as a culture, aren’t that good at at; that moment when spouses figure you out; how this one play might become a life’s work; and navigating that line where the character stops and where the actor begins. (Length 19:53)

Expanding The Canon

Emily Lyon and Shannon Corinthen are the artistic and producing directors of the Hedgepig Ensemble in Brooklyn, NY, and two of the hosts of “This is a Classic: The Expand The Canon Theatre Podcast,” an outgrowth of Hedgepig’s mission to uplift the legacy of women and non-binary writers. Shannon and Emily talk about the plethora of plays out there by underrepresented writers; how they curate their annual “Expand The Canon” lists; how many plays they read each other to create their suggestions; how Hedgepig is committed to expanding the canon by commissioning new works and new translations; the surprising timelessness of so many of these plays; and how so many of them would fit into a theater’s season so much better than some of the overdone and less-worthy plays that get done now. (Length 20:35)

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)

Introducing The Shakespeareance!

There’s a reason this week’s episode is shorter than usual, and it’s because Austin’s special guest is…himself! Austin talks about his new project — The Shakespeareance — a new monthly web series that talks about Shakespeare in our life and culture and features live Q&A conversations that you can be part of. He also shares how he offers private monologue coaching and play or novel manuscript review, and how you can become a Patreon supporter and get exclusive free content. If you’ve ever wanted to work with Austin, this is your chance! Join the Shakespeareance! (Length 13:39) (Shakespeareance Flag & Banner by Jennie Maizels.) 

Something Wonderful Now

Jeffrey Sweet’s Something Wonderful Right Away, an oral history of The Compass Players and Second City was first published in 1978 and it’s arguably still one of the definitive works about the rise of Chicago improvisation and maybe the defining actor training method of the second half of the 20th-century. Jeffrey discusses how the book came to be and talks about his encounters with such greats as Barbara Harris, Sheldon Patinkin, Jules Feiffer, Mike Nichols, Anne Meara, and Elaine May; how specific movies and plays revealed to him a specific style; reveals the joy and wonder of shared realities; what it means to have gotten a B from Martin Scorcese; gives a shout-out to oral history pioneer Studs Terkel; how poverty can be theatre’s friend; how the only two essential elements to theater are actors and audiences (not playwrights!); the devastating truth that playwriting is not literature; and finally, further proof that following your passion can frequently lead you to a career. (Length 20:45)

Meet Kamilah Long

Kamilah Long is the new managing director of Play On Shakespeare, the company dedicated to exploring the world of Shakespeare by commissioning living playwrights — many of them women, many of them playwrights of color — to create new translations and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Like all of us, Play On Shakes is changing and evolving through the course of this pandemic, and Kamilah discusses how they’re continuing the meet the needs of its audiences, both now and in the future. Featuring the looming presence of Shakespeare’s shadow; biblical comparisons; a commitment to doing no harm; the consequences of the pandemic, both good and bad; the wonder of playwrights getting paid and being in the room; a soon-to-come exciting new podcast; and the unfortunate demise of Shakespearean phrases like “jive turkey.” (Length 17:53)

Anthony Clarvoe’s ‘Living’

Anthony Clarvoe’s play The Living takes place in London during the plague year of 1665, and its echoes to our current moment are unmistakable. Anthony discusses how The Living (written in 1990) was inspired by the AIDS crisis of the 1980s; how he discovered his primary play’s sources; how he was galvanized by Daniel Defoe’s 18th-century novel A Journal of the Plague Year; moving descriptions of empty streets; the value of current events; being simultaneously both intimate and epic; loving group protagonists; celebrating the father of population statistics; sharing themes, actors, and a director with Tony Kushner’s Angels in America; how you can order both physical and digital copies; and reference to an ancient and obscure research technology known as “a card catalogue.” (Length 22:06)

Madhuri Shekar, Storyteller

Award-winning playwright, audio dramatist, and now screenwriter Madhuri Shekar is an alum of Julliard’s playwriting program and has an MFA from USC in Dramatic Writing and a dual Master’s degree in Global Media and Communications from USC and the London School of Economics. Madhuri was awarded the 2020 Lanford Wilson Playwriting Award and her audio drama Evil Eye won the 2020 Audie Award for Best Original Work, and now Evil Eye has been turned into a movie for Amazon Prime. Madhuri talks about how she first started writing stories as a child and discusses our shared Bay Area roots; how she felt seen at a performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged); the gift of parental encouragement; the perfection of a scary movie directed by identical twins; the marvel of accurate trailers; huge love for (and the difficulty of achieving) genre tonal shifts; the challenge of performing in empty space; a time to slow down; and the power of theatre and the importance of artist safety. ALSO FEATURING: Our unabridged joy at being a reduced part of Madhuri’s origin story! (Length 22:06) 

Play On Shakespeare

Lue Douthit is the creator and Executive director of Play On Shakespeare, a series of translations and adaptations of the entire Shakespeare canon written by some of the most interesting and talented playwrights working today. Lue talks about the program’s origins and aims, and underscores how these adaptations are not meant to replace Shakespeare’s originals, even though they frequently offer insight into them. Featuring the ability to treat Shakespeare as a living playwright and his works as “new plays;” the importance of putting the playwright in the room; the dangers of editing Shakespeare; how flexible these texts are; establishing rules and then bending them; the importance of contrast in Shakespeare; the genius of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy and structure; how 90% of current Shakespeare productions are already adaptations; and the bold and radical idea of giving living playwrights living wages. Recorded in February, 2020. (Length 27:39)

690. Alchemy Of Gender

Lisa Wolpe, currently playing Cassius in Julius Caesar at Playmakers Repertory Company, is an actress, director, teacher, playwright, and producer; the founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company; and the creator and performer of Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender, her solo show which explores the transformational power of empathy. Lisa, who’s “probably played more of Shakespeare’s male leading roles than any woman in history,”  talks about creating her show and exploring the masculine in Shakespeare’s plays; how this helped understand her father’s PTSD; reveals the true definition of ingenue; investigates a re-gendered Taming of the Shrew; and shares the urgency and importance of putting the quest in the question. (Length 23:59)

Steadfast Tin Soldier

The Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago is remounting Mary Zimmerman’s production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier this holiday season, and the Tony-winning director and adapter herself talks to us about how the show came to life. Featuring seeking and finding, bittersweet qualities, being drawn to outsiders, staging an advent calendar, music hall influences, Masterpiece Theatre memories, colonizing the mind, actor contributions, a tribute to longtime collaborator Christopher Donahue, the value of taking a break, kitty sneezes, ending on a pun, toggling back and forth between literary and theatrical storytelling, and the value of beautiful legitimate sentiment. (Length 25:05) (Pictured: Alex Stein in the title role in the Lookingglass Theatre Company production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, directed and adapted by Mary Zimmerman (left). Photos by Liz Lauren.)

Doug The Time-Traveler

Meet Doug Harvey (center, above), the newest member of the RSC and also the author and star of the one-man show The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Present, which earlier this summer won the Paul Koslo Memorial / MET Theatre Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Doug reveals his RSC origin story and shares some live musical spaghettification; his feelings about the need for adventure and more shows about science; how a one-man show became a sci-fi romance; day gigs at LA’s Griffith Observatory; references to the darkest timelines; a couple of harmonizing triads; the Michael Faulkner conduit; growing up with Bay Area theatre like California Shakespeare Company and American Conservatory Theatre; tales of successful auditions; the importance of serious clowning; and the answer to the ultimate question: What’s the closest we have to a time machine? Not a Delorean, not Bill and Ted’s phone booth, but…a theatre. (Length 21:29) (Pictured: Austin Tichenor as the King, Doug Harvey as Hamlet, and Chad Yarish as Yorick in the Reduced Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel).)

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)

Hamlet’s Big Adventure!

It’s the comedy of the prince of Denmark! Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel) will be the eleventh stage show performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company and the tenth RSC script by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, who discuss the origins of the script; where it’s being workshopped as part of Napa Valley College’s Emergence Festival; how the transitive property applies to ranking plays; the incredible insight given to us by our dramaturg Kate Pitt; echoes of Hamlet as well as Henry IV Part 1; the feeling of being both Queen Elizabeth demanding a new play about Sir John Falstaff and the Shakespeare who gets to write it; the hesitation of getting rid of our usual framing device; the challenge of creating a comedy that’s funny to people who don’t know the original; the balancing act of finding the right ratio of highbrow to lowbrow; and the fun of answering questions inspired by Shakespeare’s original tragedy. Poster art by the incomparable Lar DeSouza. (Length 20:45)

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 617. Remy Bumppo’s ‘Frankenstein’

Nick Sandys is the artistic director of Chicago’s Remy Bumppo Theatre and is currently playing both Victor Frankenstein and the Creature in the Nick Dear adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, which opens this week and runs through November 17, 2018, now also celebrating its 200th anniversary (he alternates roles with Greg Matthew Anderson). Nick talks about the power of this tale of monstrousness and how it fits into Remy Bumppo’s mission of great language driving great ideas. Featuring ways in which Shelley’s novel continues ideas expressed by Shakespeare in The Tempest, early modern analogues to rap battles, how one can highlight (and quite possibly confuse) certain issues, the precision with which one handles cultural negotiation, how the use of language — even in Shakespeare — tells you how a scene must be staged, how literature can also be a verb, how monsters are not born but made, and how one addresses the ultimate question: Who, really, is the monster? A star is shorn! (Length 22:42)

Episode 615. American Revolutions Onstage

Julie Felise Dubiner is associate director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, a multi-decade program of commissioning and developing 37 new plays sprung from moments of change in United States history. On my recent trip to Ashland, I was able to meet and chat with Julie about OSF’s program and the wonderful plays that have already come out of it, a couple of which — Lynn Nottage’s Sweat and Paula Vogel’s Indecent — appear on this season’s list of Most Produced Plays in the US compiled by American Theatre magazine. Featuring the question of what it means to be American, dramatizing moments of change and the problem with tying those moments to US presidents, watching the first run-thru of this generation’s Death of a Salesman, overcoming one’s shameful past in improvisation, fueling comedy with rage, how a sense of humor might save us, and the importance of writing the history of your people on to the stage. (Length 22:49)

Episode 601. More Lauren Gunderson

Playwright Lauren Gunderson continues the conversation we began with her last November 2017, talking about her amazing play The Book of Will, a valentine about the creation of the First Folio, the first collection of all (most) of Shakespeare’s plays in 1623. WARNING: This is a slightly spoiler-y conversation (our first spoiler-free conversation can be found here) but in it Lauren reveals the process of research, dramaturgy, and creation; and also discusses the value of preparing for loss; being present; the wonder of ephemera; Shakespeare’s amazing women (both onstage and off); practicing memory as an active thing; favorite brilliant actors; and the absolute magic of double-casting. Featuring a special appearance by Oregon Shakespeare Festival Executive Director Cynthia Rider. (Length 17:23) (Pictured: Cristofer Jean in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of The Book of Will. Photo by Jenny Graham)

Episode 579. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries

Anne Morgan is the literary manager of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, which has created the “Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” project, a ground-breaking undertaking to discover, develop, and produce a new canon of 38 plays inspired by and in conversation with Shakespeare’s originals. Anne sat down at this year’s Shakespeare Theatre Association conference, hosted by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, to discuss the origins of this very exciting project, its ultimate scope, and what’s involved with administrating this wide-ranging, blind-reading, open-application process. Featuring outstanding opportunities for emerging or unrepresented playwrights, the power of embracing Shakespeare’s original staging practices, the importance and value of learning from your actors and learning from your audience, the removal of unconscious bias, and the important difference between dramaturgs and dramaturds. Recorded LIVE at the 2018 Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference. (Length 17:45)

Episode 569. Playwright Lauren Gunderson

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]Playwright Lauren Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America, and has been near the top of that list Read more…

Episode 515. Baby Wants Candy

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”Baby Wants Candy creates a completely improvised musical at every performance based on a single audience suggestion, and Tim Read more…

Episode 426. Marin Theatre Company

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”Jasson Minadakis is the Artistic Director of one of our favorite hometown Bay Area theaters, the Marin Theatre Company, Read more…

Episode 424. Comedy’s Seriously Funny

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”Austin Tichenor talks about The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) with Julie Motz, host of Arts Desire on KWMR in Point Reyes, Read more…

Episode 389. Jacques Lamarre’s Journey

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”From the box office to the Vatican to drag queens (oh my)! Jacques Lamarre has not had a typical Read more…

Episode 383. Meet The Darwins

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”Playwright Sara Gmitter talks about her new play In The Garden: A Darwinian Love Story (now getting its world Read more…

Episode 354. Playwright Anthony Clarvoe

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”top” equal_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving-fade” slider_images=”12004″ slider_animation=”fadeZoom” overlay_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” css=”.vc_custom_1512315432253{background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-size: contain !important;}” anchor_link=”top”][vc_column width=”2/3″ offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2″][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”30″ color=”#2b272c”][rowshape type=”rowshape_4″ position=”bottom” height=”50″ color=”rgba(166,115,81,0.6)”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” anchor_link=”intro” css=”.vc_custom_1451644722488{padding-top: 60px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_column_text]”Anthony Clarvoe‘s plays (Pick Up Ax, Ambition Facing West, Ctrl+Alt+Delete, etc) have been produced all over the US in Read more…