Jack And Louise

Two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig has written Dear Jack, Dear Louise, a funny and charming romantic comedy that won the Helen Hayes award in 2020 for Best New Play and opens this week at the Northlight Theatre in the suburbs of Chicago. Dear Jack, Dear Louise depicts the unlikely courtship of Ken’s parents during World War II, and he discusses the origins of a play that is both right in his wheelhouse and a departure from the rest of his oeuvre; the joy of discovering subject matter that’s both freeing and always surprising; the wonder of actors becoming new people who also have his parents’ essence; whether it’s easier to think of your parents as real people or as characters in a play; how he’s writing a brand-new jukebox comic opera, using music by Rossini, called Tenor Overboard; a shout-out to the Chichester Theater Festival; and how Dear Jack, Dear Louise is ultimately a love letter to Ken’s – any maybe all – parents. (Length 18:45) (PICTURED: Casey Hoekstra and Sarah Price as the title characters in the Northlight Theatre production of Dear Jack, Dear Louise, directed by Jessica Fisch. Photo by Greg Inda.

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)

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, and 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 about it; 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 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)

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)

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)

CLICK THROUGH TO SEE THE ENTIRE LIST!

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

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).)

All About Ophelia

The RSC’s 11th stage show, Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel), is really all about Hamlet’s best friend Ophelia, at least according to Jessica Romero, who originated the role in the workshop production, and Austin Tichenor, who co-wrote the script and will be playing Ophelia this fall in California and Israel. Hear them chat about reconciling the many interpretations of Ophelia, and discuss professional memorization methods, weaponizing feelings, how one person’s comedy can be another’s tragedy, shared inspiration from Taming of the Shrew (both pirate- and commedia-themed), playing bucket-list roles, favorite Shakespeare characters, and the reality of the curse of saying the title of the Scottish Play. (Length 23:09) (Pictured: Jessica Romero as the King (with Peter Downey as Hamlet) and Ophelia (with Chad Yarish as Yorick) in the Shakespeare Napa Valley workshop of Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel). Photos by Julie McClelland.)

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)

‘Ma Rainey’s’ Band

August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is getting an amazing production right now at the Writers Theatre in Chicago , directed by Ron OJ Parson and starring Tony-nominee Felicia P. Fields in the title role, and the four outstanding actors who play her musicians — David Alan Anderson as Toledo, Kelvin Roston, Jr. as Levee, A.C. Smith as Slow Drag, and Alfred H. Wilson as Cutler (pictured above, left to right) — sat down for a roundtable discussion about the roles they play; the extraordinary bond they’ve forged; comparisons to Shakespeare; dialogue as music and words turned into poetry; the familiarity of the characters; shout-outs to King Oliver and Buddy Bolden; strong communities; August Wilson’s incredible legacy, the shape of his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, and his ability to turn innate speech into poetry and familiar characters into titans. A one an’ a two…y’all know what to do… (Length 22:01) Photos by Michael Brosilow. Courtesy of Writers Theatre.

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 594. ‘Caged’ World Premiere

We’ve talked on this podcast about theatre and Shakespeare in prisons, but we’ve never heard about theatre created by the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated outside prisons. Director and teaching artist Jerrell L. Henderson directs the world premiere of Caged at Passage Theatre in New Jersey, and discusses the challenge of finding the narrative, radical love, predatory systems, the trick of navigating the demands of thirty living playwrights, mourning alone, and how to avoid the dangers of directorial slather and getting art on you. (Length 18:52)

Episode 589. Chicago’s Northlight Theatre

Artistic Director BJ Jones (left) talks about Northlight Theatre, the fourth largest theatre in the Chicagoland area and producer of an extraordinary body of new work. BJ discusses the importance of understanding one’s audience while raving (positively!) about student matinees, commissioning new work, remembering John Mahoney, challenging the current generation while training the next generation of theatergoers and theatre makers, and, most importantly, encouraging compassion and improving one’s perspective through theatre and art. (Length 17:07)

Episode 584. The Comedy “Plantation!”

Kevin Douglas’ new play Plantation! is having its world premiere right now at the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago, in a production directed by Lookingglass founding member David Schwimmer and starring eight phenomenal actresses. It’s a family comedy that deals with race and legacy and family and atonement, and in addition to its many laughs, some of which are definitely uncomfortable, its ending takes audiences absolutely by surprise and bring them to tears. Kevin discusses his creative process, explaining why he decided to create a comedy in the first place, and features the danger of clinging, the benefit of listening to actors, the value of a spoonful of sugar, and how Kevin’s next play will solve all the world’s problems. (Length 25:05)

Episode 581. Reagan And Gorbachev

The Goodman Theatre in Chicago’s latest production, a world premiere by Rogelio Martinez called Blind Date, chronicles the courtship and ultimate conference in Geneva between American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Chicago actors Rob Riley and William Dick play Reagan and Gorbachev and talk about the challenges and rewards of playing two such seemingly familiar historical figures. Featuring the wonders of YouTube, the dangers of sketch comedy, massive and mostly-read biographies, reboot opportunities, gifts for character actors, the challenges of rewrites, and best-selling Broadway Play Publishing playwrights. (Length 24:08)

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 559. Technical Theatre Textbook

As students and teachers head back to school, it’s the perfect time to talk to Tal Sanders, assistant professor of theatre at Pacific University in Oregon, who has written a new textbook about technical theatre — and it’s absolutely free! Tal discusses the strengths and limitations of the books currently Read more…

Episode 549. Remembering A.R. Gurney

”Our good friend Howard Sherman remembers his good friend A.R. Gurney, the celebrated playwright and so-called “chronicler of contemporary America’s most unfashionable social stratum — upper-middle-class WASPS” (according to Frank Rich), who died this week at the age of 86. Howard talks about Gurney’s work and style, both onstage and Read more…

Episode 535. What’s A Play?

”Last summer, while performing William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we saw all sorts of theatrical events that led us to ask, “What’s a play?” Over drinks at the pub after a performance, we discussed this question as well as the fundamental qualities that make theatre unique Read more…

Episode 534. Writing About ‘Veils’

”Playwright Tom Coash has written Veils, the story of a culture clash between two Muslim women — one American, one Egyptian, both college students — and how their friendship is tested by their different expressions of faith. After six professional productions, Veils recently had its college production premiere at Pacific University in Oregon Read more…

Episode 515. Baby Wants Candy

”Baby Wants Candy creates a completely improvised musical at every performance based on a single audience suggestion, and Tim Sniffen is one of its featured players in addition to being a playwright and parodist. Tim talks about what goes into creating musicals on the spot, his latest Wagner parody, whether improv Read more…

Episode 514. Streamlining ‘Julius Caesar’

Chicago’s Writers Theatre opened its first full season in its award-winning new performance space with a glorious and timely production of Julius Caesar. Actor, co-director, and adaptor Scott Parkinson (left) discusses the process of streamlining this classic by focusing on its dual protagonists, finding echoes in the current political moment, augmenting the language, losing extraneous characters, Read more…

Episode 500! Playwright Ken Ludwig

Ken Ludwig (right) is the prolific American comic playwright responsible for such Tony- and Olivier-award winning shows as Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy For You, Moon Over Buffalo, Shakespeare In Hollywood, Baskerville, and almost two dozen more plays and musicals that have been produced in more than 30 countries in over 20 languages. For this special milestone episode, Ken talks about his work, his process, his new book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, future projects, the importance of being in touch with Twelfth Night, the difference between farce and muscular comedy, the contrast between prose and poetry, the power of comic engines, and the all-important value of romance. (Length 31:22)

Episode 478. Reading Stage Directions

”Are you the kind of actor or director who boasts, “I don’t read stage directions”? Playwrights Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor have some thoughts for you about the value of stage directions, plus helpful tips, lessons for playwrights too, favorite stage directions, the importance of “business” and using your time Read more…

Episode 452. Beyond The Stage

Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor, and Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival workshop cast members Chad Yarish, Dan Saski, and Teddy Spencer discuss the development of the new script William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) as part of NDSF’s “Beyond The Stage” series. Featuring questions from NDSF Artistic Director Grant Mudge and members of the audience, and discussion about the power of story, outrageous tales of audience participation, the challenges of working with two directors, the tricks of telling the truth and interacting with the public, inevitable comparisons, and the wonder of Shakespearean inspiration. (Length 22:18)

Episode 449. Workshopping ‘Long Lost’

”Shakespeare Napa Valley actors Chad Yarish, Teddy Spencer, and Damn Sexy Dan Saski, talk about rehearsing and performing the workshop production of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged), and address the challenges of memorizing lines that are constantly changing, dramaturgical distinctions, learning curves, collisions of characters, keeping track of multiple arcs, excessive Read more…

Episode 420. Satan Sings Sondheim

”No, not Santa — Satan. For this most festive time of year, we present news of RSC founding member Adam Long‘s most recent project, Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim, the script of which has just been published by The Sondheim Review. At the Review’s request, Austin Tichenor interviews Adam and they discuss Read more…

Episode 397. Science Fiction Theatre

”Science fiction as a genre isn’t particularly well-represented in the theatre, but playwright Michael Bernard is hoping to change all that. His play Alien The Family was recently presented at Sci-Fest: The Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival, and this week discusses the scarcity of science fiction in theatre, Read more…

Episode 393. Multi-Tasking Actors

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

Episode 391. The Director’s Job

”Jessica Thebus teaches Directing at Northwestern University and has directed classics and world premieres across the country at such theaters as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Huntington Theatre in Boston, the Kennedy Center, Steppenwolf, the Goodman, and Lookingglass Theatre, so she’s the perfect person to explain just what it is a Read more…

Episode 389. Jacques Lamarre’s Journey

”From the box office to the Vatican to drag queens (oh my)! Jacques Lamarre has not had a typical journey to becoming a playwright, yet his most recent work I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti is being produced around the country, including at one of our favorite places Cincinnati Read more…

Episode 364. Constructing The Narrative

”Sometimes the hardest work goes completely unnoticed — which is as it should be. Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor discuss the narrative conceit they created for The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), other company’s failed attempts to create something similar, the problems of being too close to the subject matter, Read more…

Episode 362. Design For ‘Comedy’

”A production manager’s job is never done. Phil Rundle from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park talks about the challenges of his job, which right now includes designing the set for the world premiere of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), and shares with us surprising complications, interesting thematic elements, creative juggling, Read more…

Episode 361. A Comedian’s Prayer

”Reed Martin, Dominic Conti, and Austin Tichenor take a break from rehearsing the world premiere of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. The boys talk about how it’s going and share typical rehearsal room antics, excerpts from the show, a discussion of fools both Shakespearean Read more…

Episode 360. Austin Tichenor’s ‘Frankenstein’

Austin Tichenor’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is getting new life, with a new production and published acting edition. Austin talks to director Rob Richards about the current production and consider the ideal interpreters of 19th-century Romantic authors, some genius casting notions, the dangers of polite acting, the close relationship between laughter and screams, a special appearance by newly elected Senator Cory Booker, dodgy Jeff Goldblum impressions, and the nature of monstrosity. (Length 19:15) (Pictured: Matthew Geary as The Creature in the 2013 Phillips Exeter Academy production. Photo by Cheryl Semter. Used by permission.)

Episode 352. Our Comic Inspirations

”On the opening weekend of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), authors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor reflect on how their early comic influences have inspired the writing of the show. Featuring favorite movies, formative stand-ups, fundamental lessons, a celebration of Blackhawk Films, and the importance of parents with excellent Read more…

Episode 342. ‘Bible’ Down Under

”Finally! We return to Australia, with RSC veterans Michael Faulkner, Jerry Kernion, Mick Orfe, and Dominic Conti performing The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, and Sydney. This week, playwrights and directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor chat with original cast member Matt Croke about putting together the original Read more…

Episode 341. Development Of Comedy

” Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin take time out from their writing to talk about how the creation of their eighth collaboration, The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), is going. Featuring off-color terms of art, new (but self-imposed and good) pressures, the advantages of finding a structure, the challenges of narrowing Read more…

Episode 201. Endings Are Important

”We’ve discussed our writing process before, but this week we talk about designing effective openings and killer endings. Featuring stumbles and fumbles, happy accidents, show construction, meticulous planning, adherence to form, template deviation, and impertinent comparisons to both Shakespeare and the Beatles. (MP3. Length 22:15)