Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast
A bright, breezy, and entertaining affair, well stocked with interviews, features, and excerpts from the shows!" So said The Telegraph (UK) when it named the RSC Podcast one of its Top Podcasts. Backstage drama. Touring trauma. Famous Guests. Infamous quests. Literary analysis. No urinalysis. All this and less – on the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast. Find a sample of the best podcast episodes here.
John Mayer – actor, director, and chair of the Theatre Department at Cal State Stanislaus – has written Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago: In Their Own Words, the (so far) definitive chronicle of Chicago’s groundbreaking theatre ensemble. A high school friend of two of the company’s founders – Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry – John interviewed dozens of artists and administrators who were instrumental in Steppenwolf’s evolution, and reveals such tidbits as Sinise’s early fundraising efforts (which involve a hubcap); the greatest summation of Steppenwolf ever; shout-outs to amazing influential teachers; what an MFA really gives you; tensions between art and commerce; memories of John Malkovich’s landmark production of Balm In Gilead; and, most importantly, how passion, chutzpah, drive, and the ability to adapt and change creates long-term artistry. (Length 21:31)
The animated film Balto celebrated its 25th Anniversary last month, and RSC members Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor played the sidekick sled dogs Nikki, Kaltag, and Star…until they, like most of the cast, were replaced with different actors. Their voices stayed in the film, however, and this week Reed (left, with the statue of Balto in Anchorage, Alaska in 2012) and Austin remember the process of how they got the gig, how it went, and what happened next. A fun and funny remembrance featuring revelations about the film’s original title; having one degree of Balto himself, Kevin Bacon; big thanks to director Simon Wells and producer Steve Hickner; clues to executive producer Steven Spielberg’s changing enthusiasm; shout-out to other film projects we were in (Carry On Columbus, Liquid Television: Dogboy); how animated films are recorded first; a special appearance from our co-star and fellow “extra voice” Mike McShane; and how Balto is, appropriately enough, the perfect pandemic movie. (Length 18:48)
Old friend (and Thanksgiving bestie) Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live) joins us for this very special 14th Anniversary episode! Rachel shares holiday memories; how she’s navigated her career; and reveals who she always associates with Abba’s “Dancing Queen;” the opportunities she’s had and the ones she’s fought for; how she’s drawn to more comedic roles than dramatic ones; how she’s made peace with the uncertainties of an acting career; the creation (with Paula Pell) of Debbie Downer (left); a shout-out to John Cariani and the late lamented Broadway-bound musical Minsky’s; obscure silver dishes; a very special holiday meet-cute; doing Love’s Labors Lost with Shakespeare in the Park; and the glorious power of mid-level fame! (Length 22:22)
Before he started hosting The Last Word on MSNBC in 2010, Lawrence O’Donnell was an executive producer, writer, and actor on The West Wing, and the creator, writer, and executive producer of his own show, Mister Sterling, which starred Josh Brolin and Audra McDonald in the story of an idealistic young senator who has to learn how to navigate the ins and outs of Washington DC while also conducting his personal life in the public eye. Cancelled after ten episodes, Mister Sterling featured storylines and conflicts that would find fuller expression in later seasons of The West Wing, and Lawrence talks about how the show was created and shares some fundamental Perry Mason precedents; revelations about Zoey Bartlet’s weird taste in birthday entertainment; the difficulty of writing drama set in Washington where there are now no consequences for terrible behavior; how Aaron Sorkin taught us about what drama is (or can be); what political TV zone opened up and which show filled it beautifully (and hilariously); and how he was able to pay tribute to a deep Washington legacy in Hollywood.
Christopher Moore talks about his new comic novel, Shakespeare For Squirrels, which sees his great creation Pocket of Dog Snogging (the Fool from Shakespeare’s King Lear) stranded in the Athenian woods amongst the characters from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s both a breezy entertainment and a tour de force and Chris explains how the research for one novel became the basis for another one; how he satirized lovers and reconceived fairies; the importance of grounding your mechanicals; taking inspiration from both Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; being both fantastical and of the moment; giving important agency to Cobweb; why basing your novel on a comic play is more difficult; the struggle with titles; and the challenge of being affected as much by the world one’s writing in as by the world one’s writing about. (Length 20:08)
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)
Peter Marks, theatre critic of the Washington Post and co-host of American Theatre magazine’s Three on the Aisle Podcast, famously loathes the song “Shipoopi” in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man and this week we try to convince him just how wrong he is. Featuring strong emotional reactions; unworthy yet sophisticated analysis; unprovoked disdain of garden gnomes; pilgrimages to Mason City, Iowa; reverse snobbery; comparing Act Two openings; anthropomorphizing a month; ideal Harold Hill casting (the less said about Matthew Broderick, the better); and ultimately a celebration of one of the American musical theatre’s greatest (give or take a song or two) shows. WARNING: No minds were changed in the recording of this podcast. (Length 20:13) (Pictured: Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as Marcellus Washburn in the Goodman Theatre production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, directed by Mary Zimmerman. Photo by Liz Lauren.)
Director and teaching artist Jerrell L. Henderson (left) discusses the history of Blackface, the troubling and racist practice of white people “blacking up” to portray demeaning African-American stereotypes (which was, incredibly, the most popular form of entertainment in America for over 100 years). Jerrell discusses its roots in minstrelsy, almost-Shakespearean levels of layers and multiple identities; shout-outs to great performers like Daddy Rice, J. Rosamund Johnson, Bob Cole, Ernest Hogan, George Walker, and Bert Williams (above, both in makeup and out); genuine love being the butt of the joke; how some entertainers are responding to issues of yellow- and brown face better than others; a legacy of trauma and historical objections; and how greater onstage and onscreen representation in entertainment matters. (Length 21:45)
The complete 46-minute audio production, first broadcast on Public Radio International in 1995 and released in its entirety as a podcast in December, 2019.
Devon Glover travels around the globe as The Sonnet Man, working with students of all ages and keeping the world safe from dry, boring, vomitless, beat-and-rhythm-less Shakespeare. This week Devon reveals his origin story and how he spreads the gospel of Shakespeare through hip-hop, and shares student revelations and discoveries, valuable niches, the importance of friends and mentors, the differences between Shakespeare taught as performance and as literature, issuing creative challenges, and the incredible value of using the arts to teach non-artistic subjects. (Length 26:00)
Playwright Lauren Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America, and has been near the top of that list for several years now. Her play Silent Sky was recently produced at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, she’s a resident playwright at Marin Theatre Company, she’s written a Shakespeare Cycle consisting of three plays (Exit, Pursued by a Bear; Toil and Trouble; and The Taming), and her play The Book of Will, a comedy about the creation of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, is having at least three productions this season (the first and midwest premiere of which at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago our own Austin Tichenor is in). In this fun conversation, Lauren clarifies who the real most produced playwright in America while discussing battling brothers, untimely deaths, capers and hijinks, the wonder of humanizing Shakespeare, and the fundamental value of gathering communally and telling stories. HEAR PART TWO OF OUR CONVERSATION HERE! (Length 22:33)
For the length and breadth of his scholarship and writing and editing and teaching, Sir Stanley Wells is our greatest living Shakespearean, and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, might well be the greatest Shakespearean of all time. Generously granting us a brief (reduced) audience, Sir Stanley discusses the many aspects of Shakespeare he’s focused on in his work, including the editing of his plays (and what that means in a non-reduced context), definitive thoughts on what might be considered Shakespeare’s greatest play, fascinating thoughts about Shakespeare’s acting company and colleagues, and the justified boast that he’s an ‘all-round Shakespearean’. (Length 19:58)
Artist Jennie Maizels and co-author Austin Tichenor appeared at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate the publication of their new book Pop-Up Shakespeare. This edited version of the very fun event features magnificent performances, impertinent Shakespearean comparisons, momentous first dates, unexpected tears (though it was during a tragedy so maybe they shouldn’t have been unexpected), and an exhortation to see a Shakespeare play live on stage (after buying many books, obviously)! (Length 23:22) (Photo taken by Julia Cunningham in the garden of Shakespeare’s birthplace, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.)
“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)
Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Scarborough discusses playing the Fool in the National Theatre production of King Lear, starring Simon Russell Beale and directed by Sam Mendes, and shares the challenges of interpreting the role, his initial reluctance to take it, some impenetrable babble, learning from Shakespeare’s original cast, investigating possible doubling, finding the humanity, trading in wit, loving Cordelia, appreciating fellow fools, indulging in offstage antics, and casting ideas for the next Bond film. Recorded in the Rising Sun Pub. (Length 24:38)
NOTE: On 27 January, 2014, less than 24 hours after this was posted, the artistic council of the theatre reversed its ban and the Newtownabbey Borough Council voted to uphold the artistic leadership of the theatre. Still – enjoy.) In a move that has put the RSC into the middle of an international media event, Theatre At The Mill cancelled what would have been the first two performances of our three-month, sixty-city UK tour of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). Co-author Austin Tichenor and producer Davey Naylor discuss what it’s been like scrambling to deal with the fallout, and talk about overwhelming shows of support, the difficulty of rescheduling, important theological questions, linguistic errors, evocations of John Cleese, support from Christians and Atheists alike, and the point that just because we’re laughing doesn’t mean we don’t take the Bible quite seriously. (Length 21:13)
New York-based director Kate Powers talks about her recent production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town which she directed at the fabled maximum security Sing Sing Correctional Facility as part of her work with a program called Rehabilitation Through the Arts. Featuring themes of regret, artistic and practical challenges, how to stage a cemetery scene, prison demographics, how Our Town is in fact every town, the power of the documentary OT: Our Town, and one of the greatest all-time arguments for the value of the arts ever. (Length 28:54)
Olivier Award and two-time Tony Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy recently closed the epic Goodman Theatre production of Eugene O’Neill‘s The Iceman Cometh, which co-starred Nathan Lane as Hickey and ran for almost five hours. Brian made a long day even longer by agreeing to talk with us before one of his final matinees, and 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 23:49)
“This week we dig that crazy Conti beat and go behind the scenes to deconstruct Dominic Conti‘s lengthy and show-stopping “dorkalogue” at the end of Completely Hollywood (abridged). Featuring the power and limitations of snorting as a character choice, the trust of an actor’s instinct, funky frank appearances by NPR‘s Korva Coleman, and proof that actors save playwrights. (MP3. Length 20:03)
‘Weird Al’ Yankovic squanders his celebrity this week by reflecting on his art, craft, influences, aspirations, and beauty tips. Featuring awesome practical advice (where to record for that cool ambience, how to avoid drive-by shootings), inspirational life lessons (sometimes accordion lessons can lead to greatness), and a special appearance by Ron Bottitta from Lost, it’s a veritable nerdapalooza! (MP3. Length 23:17)