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.) 

Hamlet’s Prequel Adventure!

Dramaturg Kate Pitt joins us for a deep dive into the creation of the script for Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel), on which she cast her dramaturgical magic (and which we’ll finally get to tour once this stupid pandemic is over). Kate discusses HBA’s intertextual conversation with Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, its biofictional elements, and reveals the identity of the most confusing Hamlet ever; how a prequel can (and should) reveal insights into Shakespeare’s play; how old Hamlet is; the importance of double confirmation; how both Ophelia and Hamlet have All. The. Feels; the value of deploying random skills; the question of how old Hamlet is, anyway; how the gravedigger is an unreliable narrator; the struggle of theater as a career and what to say about it to your kids; and finally, possible spoilers (especially if you know anything at all about the career of UK comedian Tommy Cooper). Plus: jokes for everyone! Poster Art by Lar DeSouza. (Length 32:01)

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)

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 students to professionals 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 reconsiderations about the American criminal justice system; and how the community of Grover’s Corners is always populated anew by the community of actors and audiences 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) Featuring excerpts from:

Episode 186: The Conti Beat June 27, 2010

Episode 133. ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic June 22, 2009

Episode 289. Mr. Brian Dennehy June 17, 2012

Episode 500. Playwright Ken Ludwig July 11, 2016

Episode 178. The Ballet Book May 3, 2010

Episode 580. Redeeming Time Project January 29, 2018

Episode 707. Lawrence O’Donnell’s Sterling June 29, 2020

Episode 567. Sir Stanley Wells October 23, 2017

Episode 657. We Debate “Shipoopi” July 25, 2019

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 (left) 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)

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)

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)

Directing Sketch Shows

Like many theaters in Chicago, Second City shut down on March 13, 2020, the same day we were scheduled to chat with actor, writer, and improviser Frank Caeti, who was directing their current production. We kept our appointment and recorded this interview with the Second City alum anyway, thinking we’d post it once everything re-opened “in a few weeks”. Ha! Nonetheless, enjoy this fascinating conversation about the process of creating a sketch show out of nothing, and listen as Frank shares Bull Durham analogies; how a director acts as a head writer; the importance of compassion, empathy, and understanding; the value of group ownership; being patient as ideas go from half-baked to more fully-baked; embracing relative autonomy; gives shout-outs to institutional memory; the endurance required for encore late-night sets; the importance of audience feedback and the uncertainty of not knowing when we might get it again; and finally, the challenge of getting used to not touching your face and how philosophers are really the forgotten victims during this pandemic. (Length 23:17) (Pictured: Frank Caeti, left, with Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) in The Second City’s Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo by Craig Schwartz.)

Chris Interviews Austin

It’s our 700th episode!! And because it happily coincides with the publication of Christopher Moore‘s Shakespeare For Squirrels, the New York Times best-selling author turns the tables and interviews RSC co-artistic director Austin Tichenor in an epic un-reduced unabridged almost one-hour conversation. The two Fauxspeareans celebrate the release of Chris’s book by getting lost in the weeds of craft and discussing the importance of inoculating people against Shakespeareaphobia; the value of learning to keep 5-7 year olds entertained; the difficulties of working with living playwrights; understanding who got Shakespeare’s jokes and who didn’t; writing a Hitchcock adaptation for Disney animation; the dangers of unskilled labor; learning comic timing from stand-ups and Gilbert & Sullivan; using a five-act structure; the value of memorizing Shakespeare; the art of capturing Shakespeare’s exquisite mixture of tones; the perfectly understandable struggle to explain Shakespeare’s greatness; plausible explanations for why Shakespeare left his wife his second-best bed; snappy answers to listener questions; and being members in the small club of authors rewriting Shakespeare. (Length 58:17)

90 Sondheim Songs

Stephen Sondheim turned 90 two weeks ago and to commemorate the event (and because he’s quarantined at home like all the rest of us), NYU MFA student (and Austin’s nephew) Andrew Moorhead compiled his list of the great lyricist/composer’s top ninety songs. Like all lists like this, it provokes lively discussion about such topics as teenage discoveries; being a great artist and a great teacher; the beauty of starting ridiculous arguments; an argument for the first ten songs from Sweeney Todd; a diatribe against some (well, one) terrible and unnecessary song; uncalled-for aspersions against Andrew’s friend Jordan; reverence both genuine and irreverent; what it’s like being a Sondheim savant; some frankly scandalous opinions that Mr. Sondheim definitely won’t like; and how there isn’t much blue in The Red and the Black. Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! (Length 21:57)

 

STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S TOP 90 SONGS
By Andrew Moorhead (as of April 6, 2020)

  1. Finishing The Hat
  2. Color & Light
  3. Losing My Mind
  4. Marry Me A Little
  5. Being Alive
  6. Could I Leave You?
  7. Worst Pies in London
  8. Send In The Clowns
  9. Another Hundred People
  10. A Little Priest
  11. The Miller’s Son
  12. Joanna/Joanna (Reprise)
  13. Move On
  14. Opening Doors
  15. We Do Not Belong Together
  16. Not A Day Goes By
  17. Sunday in The Park With George
  18. Sunday
  19. Everyday A Little Death
  20. Company
  21. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd
  22. No One Is Alone
  23. Pretty Women
  24. No One Has Ever Loved Me
  25. Take Me To The World
  26. Ladies Who Lunch
  27. Moments in the Woods
  28. A Weekend In the Country
  29. Franklin Shepard, Inc
  30. Beautiful
  31. Anyone Can Whistle
  32. My Friends
  33. Your Fault
  34. Buddy’s Blues
  35. Someone In A Tree
  36. Broadway Baby
  37. Putting It Together
  38. I’m Still Here
  39. Not While I’m Around
  40. Old Friends
  41. The Road You Didn’t Take
  42. Steps of the Palace
  43. Epiphany
  44. Getting Married Today
  45. By The Sea
  46. Loving You
  47. Any Moment
  48. Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You
  49. You Could Drive a Person Crazy
  50. I Know Things Now
  51. Sorry-Grateful
  52. Waiting for the Girls Upstairs
  53. Unworthy of Your Love
  54. You Must Meet My Wife
  55. Everybody Loves Louis
  56. You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow
  57. The Ballad of Booth
  58. Barcelona
  59. Everybody Says Don’t
  60. Into The Woods
  61. Agony
  62. Our Time
  63. Someone Is Waiting
  64. The Day Off
  65. Giants in the Sky
  66. Stay With Me
  67. Last Midnight
  68. Children Will Listen
  69. It’s Hot Up Here
  70. Children and Art
  71. God, that’s Good!
  72. It takes Two
  73. Now You Know
  74. The Little Things You Do Together
  75. The Gun Song
  76. Lesson #8
  77. Remember
  78. In Buddy’s Eyes
  79. Happiness
  80. The Glamorous Life
  81. That Frank
  82. It Would Have Been Wonderful
  83. Everybody’s Got the Right
  84. So Many People
  85. I Read
  86. Free
  87. Good Thing Going
  88. Now
  89. Hello, Little Girl
  90. In Praise of Women

693. Phone Porn Voices

Playwright, actor, and musician Deb Hiett discusses one of her most interesting survival jobs, many years ago in the heyday of the 900 number, and how it allowed her to flex her storytelling muscles and skills as a character actress. Featuring writing and performing both audio erotica and Quarantunes; creating stories; involuntary gag reflexes; an arsenal of accents; crafting monologues; being co-lead singer in the band Orson Welk; an extensive resume of appearances in film and television; the limited imagination of Tower Records; and the profitable power of delaying gratification. A perfect tale for these times of social distancing and self-isolation! (Length (23:10)

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)

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)

Holy Land Hamlet

It’s a podcast bar mitzvah! The Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast became a man last week when it celebrated its 13th birthday while we were performing Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) in Israel. To honor that special occasion, we gathered in Molly Bloom’s, Tel Aviv’s traditional Irish pub, to talk about how Israeli audiences responded to the show. Featuring universal cultural references, slowing down the pace, dealing with the heaviest sword in the world, people surprised by the number of actors, miraculous costume changes, combining parodies in a The Court Jester/Hamilton mashup, and the pleasure of pleasing both Shakespeare nerds and neophytes. (Length 23:35)

Red Fox Theatre

Playwright Ellen Margolis (left )saw the Red Fox Theatre production of Catch of the Day (short-listed for Best Musical at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe) and the experience of seeing it was as wonderful as the show itself. Ellen discusses how all the extra-theatrical elements combined to make a magical evening at the theatre even more so, and shares insights into the nature of crazy fish stories, excellent marketing materials, local hand-held guidance, uniting the audience through the power of a Van Morrison singalong, tales of Fungie the Dolphin, kindred reduced spirits, worldwide Fringe experiences, and further adventures within the comedy industrial complex. (Length 19:09)

Steadfast Tin Soldier

Doug The Time-Traveler

All About Ophelia

Glory Of ‘Ensemble’

Hamlet’s Big Adventure!

‘Ma Rainey’s’ Band

Episode 619. Critic Chris Jones

Episode 617. Remy Bumppo’s ‘Frankenstein’

Episode 615. American Revolutions Onstage

Episode 594. ‘Caged’ World Premiere

Episode 589. Chicago’s Northlight Theatre

Episode 584. The Comedy “Plantation!”

Episode 581. Reagan And Gorbachev

Episode 579. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries

Episode 559. Technical Theatre Textbook

Episode 549. Remembering A.R. Gurney

Episode 535. What’s A Play?

Episode 534. Writing About ‘Veils’

Episode 515. Baby Wants Candy

Episode 514. Streamlining ‘Julius Caesar’

Episode 500! Playwright Ken Ludwig

Episode 478. Reading Stage Directions

Episode 452. Beyond The Stage

Episode 449. Workshopping ‘Long Lost’

Episode 420. Satan Sings Sondheim

Episode 397. Science Fiction Theatre

Episode 393. Multi-Tasking Actors

Episode 391. The Director’s Job

Episode 389. Jacques Lamarre’s Journey

Episode 364. Constructing The Narrative

Episode 362. Design For ‘Comedy’

Episode 361. A Comedian’s Prayer

Episode 360. Austin Tichenor’s ‘Frankenstein’

Episode 352. Our Comic Inspirations

Episode 342. ‘Bible’ Down Under

Episode 341. Development Of Comedy

Episode 201. Endings Are Important