Screwed-Up Teenagers

Scott Bailey’s new book Romeo, Juliet, and Other Screwed-Up Teenagers: An Irreverent Guide to Introducing the World’s Most Staggeringly Inappropriate Play to a Classroom Full of Confused Freshmen is a funny and frank look at Shakespeare’s arguably most popular play, and a great resource for educators, students, and even professional actors. Scott reveals his Shakespeare background, both onstage and for almost 30 years in the classroom; how his Renaissance Faire origin story coincides with the early days of the RSC; the surprise of taking a year off and discovering you have a book in you; and finally, the wonder of constantly discovering new things about a 400-year-old play. (Length 22:47)

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern

For his final production as thirty-year artistic director of Chicago’s Tony-winning Court Theatre, Charles Newell transforms Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead into an unexpectedly joyful celebration of legacy and theater. Newell reveals his lengthy relationship with not only Stoppard’s plays but with the man himself, and shares how he cast two halves of a whole; how he chose to respond instinctively to what was happening in rehearsal rather than adhere to an intricate plan; and how he embraced the counterintuitive and seemingly-oxymoronic phrase “joyful requiem.” (PICTURED: Erik Hellman and Nate Burger as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in the Court Theatre production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by Charles Newell. Photo by Michael Brosilow.) (Length 20:20)

Michelle’s ‘Green World’

Michelle Ephraim – a Professor of English and (with Caroline Bicks), the cohost of the Everyday Shakespeare podcast and the co-author of Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas – joins us this week to talk about her frank and funny new book, Green World: A Tragicomic Memoir of Love & Shakespeare. Michelle reveals she discovered Shakespeare surprisingly late; how “fun” is a a perfectly fine description of her sometimes fraught memoir; the shared curse of meeting hero Stephens; how Shakespeare became a source of both pain and solace in the wake of a parent’s death; how her relatively cushy job became surprisingly hazardous; and, finally, how Shakespeare – a dead European white man – became a very relatable force for inclusion. (Length 19:31)

Visiting ‘Shakespeare’s House’

Richard Schoch discusses Shakespeare’s House: A Window Onto His Life and Legacy, his wonderful new history of not only the building in Stratford-upon-Avon that William Shakespeare was born in, but how that building survived and became ground zero in the Shakespeare tourism industry. Schoch reveals how he discovered the dual focus of his book; how it took almost 200 years for people to realize the treasure that still stood in their midst; the shenanigans played by people who first depicted Shakespeare’s birthplace; the important distinctions between restoring a house and remaking it; the trick of hitting that sweet spot between writing an academic history and a popular one; and how the most important person in Shakespeare’s birthplace is not Shakespeare but the visitor. (Length 18:52)

All Our Yesterdays

Joel H. Morris discusses his debut novel All Our Yesterdays – no, not the penultimate episode of Star Trek: The Original Series – which tells the compellingly plausible story of the events that lead up to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Morris reveals his multiple inspirations, both literary and personal; how investigations into the actual historical couple Shakespeare based his play on informed his novel; the ways in which writing is a process of discovery; how he balanced the political and the personal, the natural and supernatural; how he summoned the courage to explore one of literature’s most famous characters; and the wonderful inability to let go of characters that won’t let you go. (Length 22:56)

Ides Of March Madness

What’s Shakespeare’s best speech? That question gets answered on this epic episode by director Nate Cohen and actor/educators Elizabeth Dennehy and Gregory Linington, who agonize over every match-up in this Sweet 16 selection of soliloquies and monologues. Highlights include remorse over the many speeches that didn’t make the tournament; the differences between speeches and soliloquies; how Juliet is the female Hamlet; origins of the phrase “rolling thunder;” the unsurprising dominance of fulcrum speeches; a brief “Rap Othello” interlude; and most importantly, how a full March Madness field of 64 would have included many many more of your favorite Shakespeare monologues. (Length 1:22:47)

Writing ‘Tragedy Averted’

Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri discusses her Shakespearean summer camp comedy Tragedy Averted, now having its midwest premiere at the IO Theatre in Chicago. Tragedy Averted showcases four Shakespeare heroines – Juliet, Cordelia, Desdemona, and Ophelia – who bond at summer camp while struggling with romance, friendship and difficult dads. In conversation with the production’s director Dee Ryan, Alexandra shares the origins of her humor; the depth of her nerdery; inspirational messages from W.H. Auden and T.H. White; the comfort of knowing she always wanted to be a writer; spoileriffic exegesis; her firm belief that any crisis can be addressed head-on, Hamlet-like, by writing a play about it; and how fan fiction means you love the source text but have a significant bone to pick with it. (Length 19:14)

Stick-Figure Hamlet

For our landmark 900th episode, Mya Gosling and her pocket dramaturg Kate Pitt discuss the epically comic A Stick-Figure Hamlet, Mya’s hysterical and surprisingly rich retelling of Shakespeare’s play from the creative mind behind GoodTickleBrain, the internet’s greatest (and possibly only) Shakespearean webcomic. Mya and Kate reveal the Hamlets they have known and loved; the marvelous elasticity of the comic form; whether Hamlet is legitimately a great play or merely an influential one; the fun of going behind the scenes of the play; how artists can transform the source material; the importance of bringing Ophelia to the fore; having a place to put all your favorite Hamlet Fun Facts; completely bonkers 19th-century productions of the play; and the immense value of taking not only Shakespeare’s play but the conversations about the play off their hifalutin pedestals. (Length 23:14)

Troilus And Cressida

Director Jemma Levy discusses her incredibly successful production of Shakespeare’s problem play Troilus and Cressida for the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern in the fall of 2023. Jemma reveals what makes the play so complicated to pull off; how she managed to craft a through-line for it with the help of talented actors and and wise dramaturgical archeology; the frustration of not knowing any of the Trojan War’s inside jokes; the problem of the title; the complication of not knowing who to root for; the play’s many shifts of tones; the ability to edit the play and give it a better focus; the degree to which Troilus and Cressida can be considered satire, pastiche, or parody; and the best way to handle “constant awful” – by laughing at it. (Length 20:29)

CST’s Edward Hall

Edward Hall, the new artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, discusses his return to Chicago and his new production of Richard III, starring Tony Award-nominated actor and double-amputee Paralympian medal-winning athlete Katy Sullivan in the title role. Edward reveals what went into his choice of play (and actor); the beauty of happy accidents and wonder of actor-driven Shakespeare; how Shakespeare’s plays are endlessly intriguing and endlessly relevant; the challenge of showing the things we’re saying; the musicality of the American approach to Shakespeare’s verse; inspiration from Game of Thrones, Succession and The Bear; and embracing the Chicago ethos of ensemble and the improv rule of making your scene partner look better. (Length 19:09)

School Of Night

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

Favorite Shakespeare Lines

For this first podcast of 2024, father and son authors David Crystal and Ben Crystal share their (many!) favorite quotations they’ve collected in their handy and handsome book, Everyday Shakespeare: Lines for Life. The two Crystals reveal they combined their perspectives as practitioner and linguist, and share how they’ve explored the corners of the canon and found gold; the satisfaction of breakfast-time rituals; how words and their meanings – and their pronunciations! – have changed over the centuries; and the wonder of discovering the diversity of Shakespeare’s voices and characters. (Length 20:05)

Everyday Shakespeare Lines

Ben Crystal and David Crystal – authors of multiple works, including Shakespeare’s Words and The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary – discuss their new book Everyday Shakespeare: Lines For Life, a collection of overlooked gems plucked from the canon, organized by monthly themes, and suitable for many situations and every reader. The Crystals share how they selected each quote (and how they wanted to avoid the famous ones); how when you pan for Shakespeare gold you find more than you expect; how their unique approaches to Shakespeare reflect their approaches to life; the variety of places they plant their geek flags; the wonderful realization that the more you dig into the words, the more the author recedes; and the surprising beauty of getting hit in the heart rather than the head. (Length 26:41)

Adrian Scarborough’s Churchill

Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Scarborough plays Winston Churchill in the Donmar Warehouse production of Jack Thorne’s new play, When Winston Went to War with the Wireless, about the government’s meddling with the independence of the fledgling BBC during Great Britain’s general strike of 1926. Adrian discusses bringing this iconic man to life while giving the audience a bit of what they expect from earlier portrayals of the older Churchill; the challenge and thrill of performing the text gymnastically; how training with Shakespeare helps you get on top of the language; the pride of doing one’s own lip work; a shout-out to Thorne’s other new play The Motive and the Cue; and finally, a bit of Shakespeare as performed by Winston himself. (Length 22:15)

More Bard’s Rest

Novelist Jessica Martin returns to her fictional town of Bard’s Rest, NH, for her second Shakespearean romcom, The Dane of my Existence. Her first book, For The Love of the Bard, focused on the character of Miranda Barnes, but the new book focuses on Miranda’s sister Portia, a high-powered lawyer who’s about to land the role of her dreams: becoming the youngest managing partner in her law firm’s history. But during her summer sabbatical at her family’s annual Shakespeare festival in Bard’s Rest, she encounters hunky hotshot developer Benjamin Dane, and hilarity, romance, and legal hijinks ensue. Jessica talks about how a single book has become a series; the importance of puppies in romantic fiction; how to construct a compelling romance while adding a soupçon of John Grisham; the difference between enemies and rivals; how fully fleshed-out all the supporting characters are, and which ones may get their own books; unintentional echoes of Taming of the Shrew; adjusting the amount of steam and the danger of writing non-gross sex scenes; and the important lesson of making room next to the work you love for the people you love. (Length 19:21)

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Don’t know your Bacons from your Marlowes, your deVeres from your Rutlands? Fear not. We addressed the so-called “Authorship Question” in our 2006 book, Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention-Impaired (abridged), outlining all the major candidates and computing the odds that someone other than Shakespeare actually wrote his keen plays and nifty sonnets. The answer may surprise you! This episode features the entire text of Chapter Five, “Who Wrote This Stuff?”, and offers iconoclasm and mischief-making, scandalous scholarship, wild supposition, equally unlikely possibilities, and a little thing we like to call “logic.” (Length 29:34)

Dee Ryan’s ‘Broadguess’

Actor, improviser, and playwright Dee Ryan has written Broadguess, her one-person comedy in which a hard-boiled Elsinore detective gets too close to some mysterious deaths amongst the Danish royal family and gets transferred to…Verona. As Detective Broadguess discovers murders most foul in Italy and Scotland, she uncovers the sick mind responsible and investigates what kind of man creates this level of carnage. Ryan, a Jeff nominated Second City alum, talks about the origins of the piece; how it was inspired by her Shakespeare book club; its debut as part of Flatwater Shakespeare Company’s “UnShaken Festival;” how she’s recreating Shakespeare’s connection to a broad (!) audience; her gratitude to Jeff Award-winning director Barb Wallace; and how her very funny comedy is a dee-construction of both Shakespeare’s canon and Shakespeare the Man. (Length 20:04)

Will’s Gender Play

The About Face Theatre world premiere production of Gender Play, or what you Will is a tour-de-force for its co-creator and star Will Wilhelm, who transforms their own story as a nonbinary actor into a funny and powerful evening that’s part seance and part dance party. Will shares their journey of discovery and how this play began as a thrown gauntlet; how Shakespeare’s plays are fundamentally queer, and how Will found themself in them; the difficulty of parsing gender identity, gender performance, and cross-dressing; the importance of creating easy on-ramps to appreciating Shakespeare; and how Gender Play will continue to be a gift to future queer performers who can make it their own. (Length 25:20)

Karen Ann Daniels

Karen Ann Daniels, Director Of Programming and Artistic Director of Washington DC’s Folger Theatre, discusses her journey with Shakespeare and her goal of making the resources of the Folger Shakespeare Library open and available to more people. Karen Ann shares her love of site-specific theatre; how the Folger is renovating and improving not just its physical space, but its metaphysical space; expanding the kinds of people who get called “emerging artists;” how her early training as a musician led to a life of Shakespeare; how Bugs Bunny and Duck Tales are part of many Shakespearean origin stories; how the Folger picked the perfect time to plan its multi-million dollar renovation; and how exposure to Shakespeare can help you find your voice. (Length 17:53)

Shakespeare’s First Folio

2023 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and Chris Laoutaris, the author of Shakespeare’s Book: The Story Behind the First Folio and the Making of Shakespeare, discusses his fascinating and readable account of the many people and factors that went into its creation. Chris shares how he became an expert in multiple disciplines just to write the human story behind what Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune called “one of the most crucial cultural acts in the history of Western civilization;” pushes back against the conventional wisdom that Heminges and Condell were the only ones responsible for the First Folio; whether The Winters’ Tale is somehow a tribute to Anne Shakespeare; his use of extended tree metaphors; how putting together a Folio takes a village; the many and varied historical synchronicities; how Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will (a fictional treatment of the same material) compares with what really happened; and how the First Folio is mostly responsible for the Shakespeare Industrial Complex we toil in today. (Length 21:40)

Shakespearean March Madness

Beware the Ides of March Madness! The question “What’s the greatest Shakespeare play?” gets a definitive answer from director Nate Cohen, who’s created a massive tournament bracket that pits Comedy v. Tragedy and History v. Romances. Nate shares how Shakespeare’s plays got seeded; which plays were the hardest to match up; how a play’s reputation affect its seeding; a production of As You Like It for which Barenaked Ladies wrote the songs (what??); the deep bench of Twelfth Night; tough decisions regarding Richard III; the unsurprising dominance of number one seeds; some surprising bracket-busters; a couple of heart-breaking matchups; what play would win out of ten games; and how the proof of each play’s strengths come in production. A warning to our affiliates: We will go long. (Length 37:26)

Shakespeare’s ‘Star Wars’

Author Ian Doescher wrote William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope and others in the Quirk Books Pop Shakespeare series (The Taming of the Clueless, Much Ado About Mean Girls, Get Thee Back to the Future), which imagine popular movies adapted into plays as they might have been written by William Shakespeare. Ian discusses his Jane Austen/zombie inspiration; how his bar idea transformed into an actual best-selling series; figuring out how Yoda speaks in Elizabethan English; his personal connection to Shakespeare; how film action translates to the stage; the delight of inserting deep cut Easter eggs into the narrative; and the huge fun of embracing limitations and visualizing theatricality. (Length 20:54) (Skywalker Hamlet image by Nicolas Delort.)

More Michael Chiklis

Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Michael Chiklis returns to discuss some of the roles he’s played and some of the roles he’d like to play. Michael shares his pride in doing The Thing (not to be confused with ‘the thing’); the downside of success in a specific kind of role; his love of music and performing live; how he deals with critics; receiving praise from Stan Lee; the importance of reinvention; which Shakespeare roles he’d like to tackle next; and his arguments for the person he thinks wrote Shakespeare’s plays. (For those wanting an authoritative refutation of the various Authorship Theories, download the free PDF, Shakespeare Bites Back: Not So Anonymous, written by Shakespeare scholars – and RSC Podcast guests – Paul Edmondson and Sir Stanley Wells.) (Length 22:40)

‘Shrew’ In Cincinnati

Director Jemma Levy discusses The Taming of the Shrew, now in rehearsal at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and opening this week. Jemma shares her thoughts about this famously complicated play and reveals that she considers it a feminist romantic comedy; how she emphasizes its themes of performance and the shifting relationships of masters and servants; her belief that Shakespeare’s women are always the smartest people on the stage; how we watch Katherine and Petruchio’s first “meet-cute,” then fall in love and learn each other’s moves in real time; the theatrical and thematic value of including the audience; the fun of putting a bar onstage; and how Shrew compares with another complicated Shakespeare “comedy,” The Merchant of Venice. (Length 20:45)

‘Dear Actor’ Letters

Janice L. Blixt, the producing artistic director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, discusses the very tiny percentage of clumsy and unfortunate inquiry letters she’s received, and the playfully helpful responses we wish we could send back. Blixt talks about how casting directors are genuinely rooting for every actor to be just what they’re looking for; the importance of self-direction; a Barbra Streisand example for young actors; how actors should be given opportunities to sit on the other side of the table; advice for young actors, or indeed, anyone who’s ever inquired about a job opportunity; how not to fly any unnecessary red flags; and the importance of not only learning about who you’re approaching, but not offering unsolicited advice to the person who has the power to hire you. (Length 22:56)

Meet Tré Tyler

Tré Tyler (above left) joins the Reduced Shakespeare Company for this spring’s tour of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), and endures the RSC rite-of-passage known as the introductory podcast interview. Tré shares how he first worked with Reed Martin in the African-American Shakespeare Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , and discusses how he first learned about the RSC; how his parents encourage and inspire; the unique training he’s had as both an athlete and nerd; how he loves paying homage to the greats; the rewards and challenges of navigating personal relationships with fellow artists; and the danger of too much table work when what an actor really wants to do is get up and move! (Length 18:33)

Teenage Shakespeare Take

Annabelle Higgins is the creator and host of “A Teenager’s Take on Shakespeare” podcast (available on Spotify), a series of fascinating conversations with various Shakespeareans in which Annabelle brings exactly what it says on the tin: her teenage take on both the plays and the artist. Her passion for Shakespeare began when she was still in single digits and because it hasn’t been tarnished by expectations of what Shakespeare is supposed to be, she’s better able to see what Shakespeare actually is. Annabelle reveals how she created the podcast; the power of personal family connections to Shakespeare; how Shakespeare’s text spoke to her at a young age; the happy realization that you can share your voice; taking inspiration from The Show Must Go Online and the Protest Too Much podcast; the wonder of experiencing Shakespeare in other mediums; and the charm of charting one’s appreciation of Shakespeare in real time. (Length 17:59)

Reviewing London’s ‘Streetcar’

Our ‘London Entertainment Correspondent’ (!) Elizabeth Dennehy reviews the transformative Almeida Theatre production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Rebecca Frecknall and starring Paul Mescal and Patsy Ferran (above). Elizabeth discusses how the direction and performances made it feel as if she was hearing Streetcar for the very first time, and how they scrape off the barnacles of affectation from previous productions; redefine the tragedy of Blanche DuBois; how her feelings are perfectly expressed in David Benedict’s review in Variety; how the magic of theatre is not an illusion and more effective when it doesn’t try to be; and the fundamental importance of trusting the words, trusting the actors, and most of all, trusting the audience. (Length 20:54)

Shakespeare And Fantasy

Bryan Cogman, a four-time Emmy-winning writer and co-executive producer of Game of Thrones and a consulting producer on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, discusses the rise of televised fantasy and how a grounding in Shakespeare enabled his ability to navigate fictional dynasties. Bryan shares his journey from acting at Juilliard to writing for films and television; insights about how Shakespeare begat Game of Thrones, which in turn begat The Hollow Crown; how early bafflement led to eventual success (and imitators); the challenge of failing at the business of being an actor; how the best fantasy is grounded by relationships; and how it’s a golden age for TV-watching geeks. Featuring a special appearance by the man who wrote the book about Shakespeare and Game of Thrones, Jeffrey R. Wilson. (Length 24:36)

Measure For Measure

Director Henry Godinez talks about his powerful Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Measure For Measure, how he loves Shakespeare’s famously problem play, and how his background informed his approach to it. Set amidst the glamour, music, and sensuality of 1950s Cuba, where Shakespeare’s Vienna becomes Havana just before Fidel Castro seizes power, Henry also discusses how this setting enriched his understanding of the play; how differing strands of self-righteous fanaticism and hypocrisy come into conflict; his own crazy childhood dreams; how this production manages to (amazingly!) end on a mildly positive and hopeful note; and how Shakespeare’s problem play is better the more nuanced and complicated it is. (Length 17:40) (PICTURED: The company of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Henry Godinez, in the Courtyard Theater, October 21–November 27, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

‘Owning Shakespeare’ Podcast

The first season of Rob Myles’ extraordinary Owning Shakespeare podcast is now available on all the usual platforms, and it’s a fantastic collection of six noted Shakespeare actors tackling (in real time) a speech they’ve never looked at before, and sharing their process, stumbles, and successes with the listener. Rob’s a wonderful guide, and he joins us to discuss how the podcast came together; how the RSC’s Austin Tichenor was a briefly unwitting test subject; what this and future seasons will accomplish; how he blushes at praise for his knowledge of Shakespeare and skills as a director; the joy of taking both Shakespeare and actors off pedestals; how a rushed rehearsal process led to a kind-of triage of Shakespeare; the importance of demystifying the idea that actors are only using “intuition;” how to avoid “impenetrable babble;” the value of showcasing the new generation of Approved Shakespeareans; and the hoped-for possibility of getting an Avenger on Season Two. (Length 21:40) (PICTURED, clockwise from top left, the six “text detectives” from Season One of Owning Shakespeare: Isabel Adomakoh Young, Austin Tichenor, Miguel Perez, Debra Ann Byrd, Paterson Joseph, and Adjoa Andoh.)

Ron OJ Parson

Ron OJ Parson is a multiple award-winning director and Resident Artist at the 2022 Tony-winning regional theater Court Theatre in Chicago, where his production of Arsenic and Old Lace opens this Saturday night. Ron’s extraordinary range includes over 30 productions of August Wilson’s plays, musicals, classics, and world premieres, and he discusses how he approaches each script, regardless of genre; how the best direction is collaboration; bonding with Brian Dennehy and formative mentoring from Marion McClinton and Stephen McKinley Henderson; the art of not doing all that much to the play while you’re doing the harder work of just doing the play; how he’s one of the folks responsible for it being a golden age of August Wilson in Chicago (and elsewhere); and how believes in the fundamental importance of laughter, not just as entertainment but as catharsis. Can you say #RonaissanceMan? (Length 18:33) (Photo of Ron OJ Parson by Joe Mazza.)

Playing Henry V

Chicago actor Sam Hubbard just finished playing the title role in the the Michigan Shakespeare Festival production of Henry V, directed by artistic director Janice L. Blixt. Originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, Sam talks about what changed with two additional years to think about his performance; where he got the freedom to let go of the bad ideas; how Henry succeeds (or doesn’t) in rallying his men; the joy of getting to play dream roles; investigating what effective leadership looks like, both centuries ago and now; the richness of adding memorable unspoken moments to Shakespeare; the temerity of imagining a God-appointed king as actually human in 1598; the gratitude of avoiding the “Intern Drop-off;” and finally, the great good fortune of considering doing the Don Knotts version of Henry V – and then rejecting it. (Length 24:25) (PICTURED: Sam Hubbard in the title role of Henry V, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, directed by Janice L. Blixt. Photo by Victor Yang.)

Where We Belong

Madeline Sayet’s one-woman show Where We Belong tells the story of her journey from discovering Shakespeare as a child to studying him in England and directing him (and others, and opera) around the world. Madeline is a director, educator, and writer, a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, and she discusses her play’s origins; how different audiences react to it; how Shakespeare became a part of her normal childhood fairy-tale world; the sometimes thorny challenge of adapting personal relationships to accommodate the art; an uncomfortable reminder about how history works; possible sequel titles; how everybody wants to be in the play now that it’s a success; the art – and importance – of loving a thing and still being able to criticize a thing; and how theatre can also be good medicine. Where We Belong ran at the Goodman Theatre and will play Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in August 2022, Seattle Repertory Theatre and New York’s Public Theatre in the Fall of 2022, and Portland Center Stage and Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2023. (PHOTO: Madeline Sayet in Where We Belong. Photo by Liz Lauren.) (Length 21:33)

Celebrating Anne Hathaway

(No, not that one.) This weekend is the 399th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, and to commemorate the occasion we talk to Dr. Katherine Scheil, author of Imagining Shakespeare’s Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway. Dr. Scheil discusses what drew her to Hathaway as a subject for study; how Hathaway is almost always portrayed in relationship to Shakespeare; what to make of the “second best bed” she received in Shakespeare’s will; the wonderful democratization and liberating opportunities of biofiction; how sex is frequently the default source of Shakespeare’s “inspiration;” a discussion of the relative merits of the films Shakespeare In Love and All Is True, the TV series Upstart Crow, and the novel Hamnet; and ultimately, how biofiction can be a more insightful way of understanding historical figures, and even how sitcoms can reveal greater story and character nuance than drama. (Length 25:59)

Starling Shakespeare Company

Heron Kennedy (left, below) and Jessie Lillis, the founding artistic directors of Starling Shakespeare Company, discuss the company’s origins, plans for the future, and the rewards and challenges – both artistic and practical – of performing Shakespeare with only five people. FEATURING: Exploring different institutional models; inspiration from Actors From The London Stage; the definition and comic possibilities of “extreme casting;” the importance of a playful rehearsal room; how they’ve added touring dates and educational residencies; and how, ultimately, Starling Shakespeare provides both an excellent focus on Shakespeare’s text – and a remarkable showcase for actors. (Length 21:40)

Summertime Shakespeare Rom-Com

“To go for it, or not to go for it?” That is the appealing question that drives For the Love of the Bard, the debut novel from author Jessica Martin, which is being published just in time to go to the top of your summer reading list, especially if you’re a Shakespeare nerd. The story involves our heroine Miranda Barnes returning to her hometown of Bard’s Rest, New Hampshire, and helping to run the theater festival run by her parents. But once there, Miranda struggles with her feelings for Adam, the hunky veterinarian who spurned her in high school but also looks great with his shirt off. Martin discusses an early pumpkin-related success led to her passion for writing; how writing gets easier only by doing it; how the book’s fantasy works on so many levels; the surprisingly tricky aspects of writing urban fantasy; how she started writing, how she came to Shakespeare, and how she came to write about Shakespeare; shout-outs to both Robertson Davies’s Tempest-Tost and the Hogarth series of Shakespearean novels; and how people who don’t like Shakespeare puns are sad and to be pitied. (Length 17:32)

Harlem’s Classical Theatre

Ty Jones, the producing artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, talks about how CTH has survived the pandemic; continues to provide theatrical productions and theatre-based educational and literary programs for free or at little cost to Harlem residents, businesses, schools, community-based organizations and all who seek Harlem as a cultural destination from around the world; and is trying to create a permanent home for not only itself, but all of Harlem’s classical institutions. FEATURING: how we define classics; unintended consequences of the last two years; the difficulty of keeping the drama on the stage; the possibility of transforming lives, especially for children; creating a sustainable organization; the importance right now of doubling down on support for theater; how costs have skyrocketed post-pandemic; connections to Steve Harris and The Practice; getting the tools, and then sharpening them; the challenge of creating a home for the arts while also bringing the arts to where the people are; adhering to the motto of “go big and get a home!”; and a hugely important push-back on the idea that a parent has failed if their child goes into the arts! (Length 21:00)

Shakespeare In Detroit

Sam White (left) is the founding artistic and executive director of Shakespeare In Detroit, currently presenting the African-American Shakespeare Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. On their first opening night in years, in their new home at Marygrove Conservancy, Sam sat down to discuss the history of @ShakesInTheD; her own origin story; how she has a new appreciation for King Lear after caring for aging parents; the important distinction between loving Shakespeare’s works and loving Shakespeare the man; the dangers of taking Shakespeare too seriously; the importance of changing the idea of who Shakespeare is for; how the best actors are funny; the crazy delight of becoming BFFs with Margaret Atwood; and how the pandemic has enriched and deepened our understanding of Shakespeare’s plays. (Length 18:15) (PICTURED: Tre Tyler, Lijesh Krishnan, and Gabe Ross in the Shakespeare In Detroit / African-American Shakespeare Company co-production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) , directed by Reed Martin. Photo by @chuknowak.)

Shakespeare Lightning Round

Austin Tichenor was a guest on the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Instagram Live series Shakespeare Lightning Round, a hugely fun format where guests from all corners of the Shakespeare world answer rapid-fire questions about all aspects of Shakespeare. Host Ben Lauer, the Folger’s Social Media and Communications Manager, hurls thirty rapid-fire questions at Austin, who reveals his favorite prop, his favorite Midsummer mechanical, and his favorite Shakespeare ghost; which Shakespeare moments have made him cry; how the RSC set a Guinness World’s Record; his favorite Shakespeare play he’s never got to work on; and how not getting #SnakesOnAPlane trending is such a missed opportunity. In the words of Shakespeare himself, strap in. (Length 23:14)

Thing Of Darkness

What if Shakespeare didn’t die on April 23, 1616, and instead sailed to the New World? Novelist Allan Batchelder (the Immortal Treachery series) dives into speculative historical fiction to investigate this very question in his new novel This Thing of Darkness, which imagines the aging playwright creating a new family of outsiders amidst tension between their fellow English settles, the suspicious Powhatans, and a creature out of legend. Allan discusses his novel’s origins; how much of the historical record fuels his imagination; how he dives into and refutes various Authorship theories; how spite is a powerful motivator; how his experience as an actor, educator, former stand-up comedian and Girl Scout (!) influences his writing; how he navigates the dangers of writing from on-high; and the fun of positing a different kind of a relationship between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. (Length 20:13)

Hail, Richard II

The African-American Shakespeare Company production of Richard II, in a new Play On! translation by Naomi Iizuka, runs this weekend and next April 15-24, 2022, at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Director L. Peter Callender and star Lijesh Krishnan discuss the creation of this production; the return to live performances with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)  (and how it will travel to Shakespeare in Detroit in May, 2022); the open secret of how Shakespeare gets adapted and translated all the time; unnecessarily nice words about Reed Martin; the distinction between common people and the masses; the difference between the quality of the jokes and the people saying the jokes; the promise of opening night drinks; and the importance of rewarding audiences for returning to live performances. (Length 21:31)

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)

Untamed Shrews Podcast

Dawn Tucker, Hannah Fontes, and Becki Zaritsky are the hosts of the Untamed Shrews Podcast, a production of Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival (where Dawn and Hannah are the Executive and Marketing Directors, respectively, and Becki is the former production manager). The three Shrews discuss their work with Flagstaff Shakes and how the pandemic inspired the podcast’s creation, and how they bring their irreverence and humor not only to podcasting but to Shakespeare and theater. FEATURING: an RSC Podcast first; how Dawn is livin’ the dream; how shrews need love, too; how their specific skillset allows a trapeze Winter’s Tale; the state of the arts in Arizona (or at least in Flagstaff); wisdom from a Shakespearean elder; and how FlagShakes may be the only theater company in Arizona that doesn’t own a fog machine. (Length 25:05)

To Decolonize Shakespeare

Nicolette Bethel, the co-founder of Shakespeare in Paradise, in The Bahamas, talk about the process of decolonizing Shakespeare in parts of the world where Shakespeare’s been weaponized as a tool of imperialism and a symbol of “superior” – meaning, white and English – culture. This second part of our conversation (part one can be found here) features discussion about the complicated symbolism of Caliban and Prospero; shifting the narrative of Shakespeare in the Caribbean; the frustration of external validation; how The Bahamas is slightly to the side of the typical Caribbean colonial experience; the number of people who actually travel to Nassau to see Bahamian theater (SPOILER ALERT: very few); how we look forward to larger international gatherings; and the trick of taking advantage of fantastic opportunities that are also huge challenges. (FOR FURTHER READING: see “Decolonizing Theater” by Annalisa Dias and Madeline Sayet. Artwork by Mya Gosling, aka GoodTickleBrain. Used by permission.) (Length 16:45)

Shakespeare In Paradise

Shakespeare In Paradise, an annual festival committed to exposing Bahamian audiences to a range of productions from classical theatre traditions around the world while celebrating and developing Bahamian Theater artists. Co-founded in 2009 by Nicolette Bethel, Shakespeare In Paradise is the only international theater festival of its kind in the Caribbean, and Nicolette talks about the festival’s origins; the complicated nature of what the words “Shakespeare” and “paradise” actually mean; how Shakespeare in Paradise is slowly but officially becoming the national theater of The Bahamas; why there’s been resistance to Shakespeare throughout the Caribbean; how a seven-person Measure For Measure transformed perceptions of how Shakespeare can be done; how certain of his plays speak to certain audiences; how certain of his plays maybe just shouldn’t be done anymore; and how Shakespeare In Paradise is creating new generations of people who aren’t afraid of Shakespeare. (Length 18:15)

Netta Walker’s ‘Homecoming’

Netta Walker, one of the stars of All-American: Homecoming and a stage actor who spent time in Chicago, discusses how her stage experience compares with her TV experience, and, amazingly, how one of her early formative experiences was with the Reduced Shakespeare Company (!). FEATURING: her debut on the stage of Lincoln Center; where she got her early professional experience; being blessed with supportive parents; the value of seeing Shakespeare performed (even by us) before studying it as literature; being part of the original cast of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley; how to avoid the stress of trying to guess what a director wants in an audition; and where she gets her (for want of a better word) confidence. (Length 16:07) 

New York Classical

Just what New York needs – another theater, right?! Yet New York Classical Theatre has carved a valuable niche by presenting all-free productions of popular classics and forgotten masterpieces in public spaces throughout New York City. Founding Artistic Director Stephen Burdman talks about how the company began; how the importance of access drives everything; the blessing of producing in a city filled with thousands of wonderful professional actors; the value of always telling the truth; the development of the concept of “panoramic theater;” and one of the greatest helicopter interruptions ever. #ThanksObama Did we mention their productions are all-free?! (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)

Running The Gamut

The Gamut Theatre in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hosted the 2022 Shakespeare Theatre Association conference last weekend, and artistic director Clark Nicholson sat down to talk about the theater’s origins, its evolution, and how they run many different operations under one umbrella. Featuring adventures in real estate; changing one kind of sacred space into another; the challenges and rewards of making much out of little; dealing with onstage Egos; the challenges of wearing many different hats; and – most importantly – how children’s theater is the new vaudeville in terms of giving actors the chops to handle any kind of audience. Plus! A special tribute to playwright Russell Lees, who died on January 4, 2022. Just a couple of pedantic jerks sitting around talking… (Length 20:05) (Pictured: Melissa and Clark Nicholson, executive and artistic directors, respectively, of the The Gamut Theatre in Harrisburg, PA. Photo by Rick Snizik.)

Amanda Drinkall’s Desdemona(s)

Amanda Drinkall plays Desdemona in Othello, The Tragedy of the Moor of Venice, at the Court Theater in Chicago – and, as it happens, she’s also played Desdemona before with the Back Room Shakespeare Project. Amanda discusses the differences between the two productions and reveals why she continues to be drawn to the role; the appeal of approaching the text irreverently; the advantages of intimacy; further attempts to make #TheatreInTheSurround happen; the question of whether Desdemona is a victim; how we see her through Othello’s eyes; how Desdemona is like other Shakespeare heroines like Juliet and Viola; and the importance of grounding tragedy in fierce love. (Length 17:25) (PICTURED: Kelvin Roston, Jr. and Amanda Drinkall in the Court Theatre production of Othello, The Tragedy of the Moor of Venice, directed by Charles Newell and Gabrielle Randle-Bent. Photo by Michael Brosilow.)

Shakespeare’s Marriage Play

Shana Cooper directed the outstanding five-actor American Players Theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (which runs in person and online until November 14, 2021) and returns to the podcast to discuss how this production differs from the previous two times she’s directed it. Featuring pandemic producing on the fly; changing identities; learning how to watch to play; embracing chameleonic warriors in a pandemic-inspired minimalist aesthetic; how Shakespeare continues to interrogate our society; how the play redefines the power of vulnerability; complicated feelings; and which of Shakespeare’s Histories, Comedies, and Tragedies should more accurately be designated as Satires. (Length 20:50)

Othello’s Powerful POV

Chicago’s Court Theatre is producing a powerful and intimate production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, and they are absolutely leaning into the play’s full, proper title. Kelvin Roston Jr. (as Oedipus, left, and Othello, above) stars in the title role and discusses how he was brought in early in the process by directors Charles Newelland Gabrielle Randle-Bent, and shares fantastic insights about he approaches Shakespeare’s text; how it’s sometimes better to find physical alternatives to the text; the similarities between Shakespeare and August Wilson; how you can’t stage a vehicle without getting a good driver; the importance of specificity in language; the power of presenting an epic tragedy on a human scale; the valuable lesson that it’s not what or how the classics speak to us, but how and what we say to the classics; and a determination to make the phrase #TheatreInTheSurround happen. Now playing – and streaming! – until December 5, 2021; visit courttheatre.org for more information. (Length 20:34) 

Kate And Petruchio

Friends of the pod Alejandra Escalante and Daniel José Molina are playing Kate and Petruchio in the five-actor American Players Theatre production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Shana Cooper, until November 14, 2021. Alejandra and Daniel discuss how they decided to do the play; how they approached their characters; what the play is about now; how the language defines the play; the advantages of seeing many previous productions; how it’s a play about navigating relationships, the various worlds of the play, marriage; and, ultimately, two misfits in a patriarchal, transactional society. BONUS: Here’s where you can watch this production online! (Length 26:27) (PICTURED: Alejandra Escalante and Daniel José Molina in Taming of the Shrew at American Players Theatre, directed by Shana Cooper, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Fan Fiction Finn

Dr. Kavita Mudan Finn is an independent scholar (late of Georgetown University, George Washington University, and most recently, MIT) who is both a creator and scholar of Fan Fiction Studies, and who recently filmed an hour-long interactive conversation with Austin Tichenor on The Shakespeareance. In this excerpt, Dr. Finn discusses how “fan fiction” might be best defined; how fan fiction is a surprisingly new field of study, despite it being a centuries-old practice; some of fan fiction’s earliest examples, including the identity of two OG slashers; the distinctions (such as they are) between performance studies and fan studies; what the actual opposite of fandom is; ridiculous casting uproars; and how the shows of the Reduced Shakespeare Company – including the RSC name – are forms of fan fiction themselves. (Length 21:17)