Back To Rehearsal

Last week we gathered in the RSC’s hometown of Sonoma, California to finally return to Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) since the last time we performed it back in 2019. Original cast members Doug Harvey, Austin Tichenor, and Chad Yarish talk about what it’s like to back on their feet; how they survived this “long intermission;” how it was time to retire from cracking nuts; the promise of a possible live RSC D&D one-shot; some important pandemic pivots; the importance of crystallizing our purpose; the (hopefully only temporary) end of an RSC tradition; and how the themes of Hamlet’s Big Adventure! (a prequel) have become surprisingly resonant and more comically powerful in the intervening two years. (Length 18:41)

Troubador Theater’s ‘Lizastrata’

Matt Walker is the founder and artistic director of the Troubador Theatre Company, the LA-based ensemble that combines classic texts with classic Top-40 songs to create such astonishing mashups as Much A-Doobie Brothers About Nothing, The Comedy of Aerosmith, Fleetwood MacBeth, Santa Claus is Coming to Motown, The Little Drummer Bowie, Julius Weezer, Abbamemnon, As U2 Like It, A Christmas Carole King, Hamlet – the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark, A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream, and It’s a Stevie Wonderful Life. The Troubies’ most recent magnum opus, which just closed its sold-out run at LA’s Getty Villa, was Lizastrata, which combined Aristophanes bawdy political comedy with music associated with Liza Minnelli. Matt explains how “The Troubies”, after more than 18 months, finally made the show go on; hired a COVID Compliance Officer; got advice from classical scholars; received letters anyway from “concerned” patrons; held a funhouse mirror up to nature…and hung it over the bed; and were visited by royalty: the Divine Miss Liza with a Z herself. BONUS! Austin reveals how Kander & Ebb’s “New York, New York” became the official anthem of New York City. (Length 25:29)

Once Again: Mr. Brian Dennehy

“The dream is the most important part of our lives.”
Brian Dennehy, 1938-2020

We remember Brian Dennehy, the acclaimed actor who passed away last night, April 15, 2020, with this repost of our podcast interview with him from 2012, recorded during his run of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Brian offers praise for his fellow actors, identifies the weather phenomenon O’Neill’s plays can best be described as, reveals what can happen when you succeed in an O’Neill play, shares who he thinks should be considered the Iron Man of the American theatre (the requirements for which sound strangely familiar), and laments the disturbing lack of 73-year-old vampires in the American cinema. (Length 19:09)

Playing Historical Characters

Three members of the fantastic ensemble gathered together for the Goodman Theatre production of Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet – William Dick, Gregory Linington, and Larry Yando – gather to discuss the particular obligations that must be considered when playing real historical figures. Featuring extensive dramaturgical research, actual archival video, the wild imaginative leaps required to be able to portray a 19th-century critic as if he were human, tributes (or ripoffs?) from Trader Joe’s, the invention of merch, arguments about Hamlet’s age, similar pressures playing the famous historical figure Ebenzeer Scrooge, the ultimate dedication to the playwright’s text, and a play ostensibly about a diva that’s actually about an ensemble. (Length 22:43) (Pictured (l to r): William Dick, Larry Yando, and Gregory Linington in the Goodman Theatre production of Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet, directed by Donna Feore. Photos by Liz Lauren.)

Into The Woods

The Writers Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods combines professional artistry with community theatre charm to create a very immediate and powerful version of this popular musical. Directed by Gary Griffin, one of the world’s leading interpreters of Sondheim, the cast features McKinley Carter as Jack’s Mother, Brianna Borger as the Baker’s Wife, and Bethany Thomas as the Witch, all of whom discuss the challenges of going into the Woods multiple times and making new discoveries every time you do. Featuring impertinent references to The Fantasticks; doing the Lord’s work; creating characters instead of types; heightening the immediacy and stakes; the danger of gateway Sondheim drugs; Borscht Belt energy; and an emphasis on the frequently-fraught (“fraught than I thought,” to quote another Sondheim show) relationships between parents and children. (Length 21:05) (Pictured, l to r: Bethany Thomas, Brianna Borger, and McKinley Carter in the Writers Theatre production of Into The Woods, directed by Gary Griffin. Photos by Michael Brosilow.)

Episode 632. Preparing And Doing

There’s a difference between rehearsing and performing and this week actors Dan Saski and Austin Tichenor, plus stage manager Elaine Randolph, talk about the specific challenges of touring a show with multiple combinations of actors to different venues around the country. Featuring unabashed fondness for The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), many comings and goings, the trick of doing a show you can only perform 4-5 weeks a year, unconventional processes, how much preparation can you actually do without the other actors, what’s language-driven and what’s movement-or-music-driven, incorporating new technicians in every city, speedy backstage changes captured on video, keeping theatre a living thing, how sometimes the lack of preparation brings magic, and ultimately the joy of seeing what different actors bring to the same roles. (Length 21:48)

Episode 631. Joe Dempsey’s Mechanical

Chicago actor Joe Dempsey plays William Shakespeare’s most autobiographical character, Peter Quince, in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joe talks about playing this prototypical actor-manager, the rehearsal process for this gloriously funny production, the importance of listening to director Joe Dowling, the joy of rehearsal invention, the freedom of actor ownership, the balance of hustling for auditions, the delight of working with T.R. Knight (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy) as Bottom, the incorporation of many Shakespearean deaths, memories of working with the late great John Mahoney (Frasier), and the fundamental difference between being interpretive and creative artists. (Length 18:33) Peter Quince (Joe Dempsey, with bullhorn) directs Francis Flute (Alec Silver), and helps Nick Bottom (T.R. Knight), assisted by Tom Snout (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis) and watched by Snug the Joiner (William Dick) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joe Dowling, December 6, 2018 – February 3, 2019. Photos by Liz Lauren.

Episode 611. Burbage to Burbage

Kevin Kenerly is a 22-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is currently playing Richard Burbage in Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will (after having played Burbage in Shakespeare in Love in 2017). Kevin talks with Austin Tichenor (who played Burbage in the Northlight Theatre production in 2017 and blogged about it for the Folger Shakespeare Library) about his approach to playing Shakespeare’s leading man, how he first came to Shakespeare, how the role of Burbage resembles Cyrano de Bergerac, inspirational teacher shoutouts, impressive instruments, the magic of different interpretations, a love for language, the pleasure of needing no clue, Michael Caine aphorisms, how theatre sleeps when we do, and ultimately how Shakespeare and microbrew prove to be an unbeatable combination. Featuring a special appearance from Lauren Gunderson herself! (Pictured: David Kelly as Henry Condell, Kevin Kenerly as Richard Burbage, and Jeffrey King as John Heminges. From the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, directed by Christopher Liam Moore.) (Length 22:56)

Episode 583. Short Rehearsal Process

Jim Ortlieb and Gregory Linington, who played John Hemings and Henry Condell in the midwest premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will last fall of 2017, return to the RSC Podcast to discuss the challenges and rewards of a “reduced” rehearsal period. Over pizza and beer at Chicago’s Candelite restaurant, Jim and Gregory chat about being prepared but also staying open, similar-but-different approaches to the work, the liberating importance of “pre-hearsal”, the artistic value of pub time, the time-honored dilemma of religion vs entertainment, the subleties of defining character, the beauty of playing against the text, the gift of intimacy, and the values that constitute true “Chicago theatre.” (Pictured (left to right): Austin Tichenor, Jim Ortlieb, and Gregory Linington recording this podcast live at the Candlelite in Chicago, while Dana Black hovers.) (Length 27:32) 

Episode 578. Shakespeare In Prague

Back in October of 2017, we had the great good fortune of visiting Prague Shakespeare Company in the beautiful Czech Republic, and we got to speak with Jared Doreck, Steve Josephson, and John Boston, the cast of PSC’s production of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). Featuring expat adventures, working with Ray Bradbury, bilingual productions of The Winter’s Tale, crazy performance schedules, multiple casting in repertory, playing in Mozart’s footsteps, getting to play the coveted role of Tiberio, bows that go on forever, and the craziness of completing Shakespeare’s entire canon in a single year — including Shakespeare’s long lost first play! Recorded LIVE at Prague’s famous Cafe Louvre. (Length 20:45)

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 340. Directing A Comedy

”We share thoughts about comedy with director William Brown, who talks about his Writers’ Theatre production of David Ives’ The Liar which is earning rave reviews this month in Chicago. Featuring the joys of being at the epicenter of the action, the advantages of actor investment, the truth about technique, the Read more…

Episode 330. Our April Fools

”The four gentlemen of the 2013 cast of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) — Gary Fannin, Matt Pearson, Matt Rippy, and Benjamin Stratton — share their backgrounds and expertise as they prepare for their twelve-week UK tour. Featuring a surprisingly fast sense of ensemble, the joys of doubling, the Read more…

Episode 254. Being An Understudy

”When Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor directed the non-RSC cast in the premiere of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), Kyle Stoner, Phil Ferrero, and Rafael Manzo were the understudies, and they talk about what it’s like to rehearse a script that’s still being written, and when improv works and when Read more…

Episode 92. UK Bible Boys

”Meet Jack Bennett, Simon Cole, and William Meredith — along with John Kielty, they’re the newest members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and will perform The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) in fifty-three UK cities this fall. Find out their backgrounds and hear tales of drama dorks, Matt Read more…