Are You Here?

A veteran of film, TV, and Broadway, Jim Ortlieb stars in John Kolvenbach’s Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, a tour-de-force one-person play about what it means to struggle to survive, to move on, to connect, and to find community again. Now in its Chicago premiere at the American Blues Theater, the noted film, stage, and TV actor talks about the challenge of acting by himself…but with an entire audience; how behavior reveals meaning; how the death of Hal Holbrook inspired the play; the importance of mourning and how we, as a culture, aren’t that good at at; that moment when spouses figure you out; how this one play might become a life’s work; and navigating that line where the character stops and where the actor begins. (Length 19:53)

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)

#TheShowMustGoOnline In Person

LIVE FROM LONDON, ENGLAND! The Show Must Go Online – the international phenomenon that performed Shakespeare’s uncut complete works once a week during the pandemic on Zoom – had an in-person reunion at the Globe Theater in London on September 22nd and 23rd, and Austin Tichenor and Elizabeth Dennehy (who each performed in three of the shows) were there to surprise co-creators Rob Myles and Sarah Peachey, and the several dozen alumni who came from all over the world to celebrate this community born of lockdown. Enjoy the surprise, the fear of anti-climax, the possible double surprise, the excited reunion, the loving testimonials, and revel in the possibility and hope for the future The Show Must Go Online represents. (Length 22:18)

Flatwater Shakespeare’s ‘Unshaken’

Flatwater Shakespeare Company is hosting its first (and hopefully annual) “Unshaken Festival,” five solo pieces that engage with Shakespeare comically, poignantly, and powerfully (including Dee Ryan’s Broadguess, featuring actor Fred Vogel). Summer Lukasiewicz is Flatwater’s outgoing executive artistic director, and she shares how these new pieces were selected; how the festival came to be, and how it’s a reaction to the pandemic; the importance of getting changes to the tech crew; the differences between working with living playwrights (as opposed to dead ones), including why the royalty line-item suddenly has numbers in it bigger than zero; whether (and how) the “Unhaken Festival” will continue; and why seeing Shakespeare through difference lenses and from different perspectives is one reason why Shakespeare continues to live. (Length 20:25)

Teaching During Quarantine

Two Northwestern University professors — Cindy Gold (above, right) from the Theater department and Dee Ryan (above, bottom left) from the Radio, Film, and Television department — talk about how their classes and teaching methods changed and evolved over the fifteen months of the COVID pandemic. Featuring the reinvention of mask work; cancelled performances and career opportunities; being an adorable drunk; how many students got COVID (surprisingly few); being paralyzed by fear (not of COVID, but of technology); spectacular threshing metaphors; a mention of and appearance by Jill Talley (the voice of Karen from SpongeBob SquarePants); and the incredible value of Zoom’s Chat feature. (Length 20:58)

Quarantine Panto Lives!

RSC UK member James Percy (William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)) is playing “Silly Billy” in Dick Whittington at the King’s Theatre in Portsmouth, England, from December 8 through (God and COVID willing) January 3rd, 2021. James (left, on the right, with Austin and Joe Maudsley) talks about how they’re doing it, how it’s all going, who he’s playing, and how it feels to be back in a theatre putting on a play again. Featuring the challenge of “playing Tetris in the auditorium” to reduce capacity; rehearsing in the actual hall; how emotional it is to be back onstage again; the danger of contagious luvvies; switching comic roles, depending on the show; a special appearance from Ebenezer Scrooge himself from the Goodman Theatre audio production of A Christmas Carol; and sweet memories of meeting up in bars after live performances. (Length 16:36) 

Hartford Stage Company

Melia Bensussen (l) and Cynthia Rider, respectively the Artistic and Managing Directors of the Hartford Stage Company, talk about the history of their multiple Tony-winning institution, and how they are managing and programming to reflect the various crises hitting their theatre specifically and the American theatre industry generally. Featuring a surprising number of laughs; gratitude at being in charge of an institution during a pandemic; the difficulty of hitting moving targets; the challenge of meeting the needs of multiple communities; how the best comedy is also the smartest comedy; a possible podcast scoop; some fantastic new brochure copy; and the opportunity and obligation to be of service to an audience and industry that’s battling crises on multiple fronts. (Length 19:43)

The Hark Journal

Another creation born of quarantine, The Hark Journal is a daily email service that offers quotes and lessons from and features about William Shakespeare and the many people who interact with and perform Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Michael Van Osch talks about how this passion project grew out of his clothing company Bard Shirts, who we already follow on Instagram but didn’t know the two organizations were related. Featuring different kinds of storytelling, turning passion projects into growing businesses, how to sign up for this totally service, and theories about what’s next for both theatre and Shakespeare once things get back to “normal” [sic]. (Length 18:21) 

Lockdown Shakespeare Pioneer

Rob Myles, along with his producing partner Sarah Peachey, is the creator of The Show Must Go Online, which, since March 19, 2020, has been creating fully if madly rehearsed productions of Shakespeare’s canon in the order in which they were written, once a week, using actors and fight directors from all over the world. With over 100,000 views on YouTube in just 12 weeks, Rob talks about how this has become huger than he ever imagined, and how he’s learned to work in this new space; how his early studies in psychology led to understanding characters and delivering an actor-driven experience; excellent new opportunities for both audience engagement and audience research; iambic discoveries expressed in actual iambic pentameter; developing his singular obsession; shout-outs to The Barnsley Civic; being leaders in a movement rather than a company; and the realization that our moment cried out for a Rob Myles — and thankfully we have one. (Length 28:16)

Globetrotting Shakespeare’s Tempest

Brave new world, indeed: Globetrotting Shakespeare is presenting a live and virtual performance of The Tempest on Saturday, July 11, 2020, featuring multiple actors in four different countries and at least six time zones from Shakespeare Napa Valley, Shakespeare by the Sea, Prague Shakespeare Company, Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, and Shakespeare at Notre Dame. Directors Jennifer King (l) and Suzanne Dean (r) discuss how the project came together; how they see challenges as opportunities to create relationships and communities through Shakespeare; how they’re seizing this opportunity to Rethink, Reframe, and Resume; the unfortunate problems with technology; how a disruptive pandemic has its own tempestuous qualities; and how we must continue finding (despite sometimes losing) our humanity in crisis. (Length 19:27)

Marvel Musical Movies

What movie musical pairs best with what Marvel superhero movie? Nate Burger and Laura Rook, two married Chicago actors, are surviving the quarantine in the most entertaining and delightful of ways: Pairing Nate’s favorite Marvel superhero movies with Laura’s favorite movie musicals. Listen as they describe their method to this madness, and describe some similarities to Chris Pratt and Robert Preston; the beauty of healthy shirtless men in every genre (above); the glory of big musical numbers; which superhero movie qualifies as The Jesus Story (spoiler: most of them); the perfection of pairing Avengers: Age of Ultron with Little Shop of Horrors; surprisingly perfect pairings for Mamma Mia!, A Chorus Line, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; two terrific pairings for the two Ant-Man movies; and the importance of giving yourself permission to realize that enjoying fluffy garbage is the point. (Length 20:32)