Melody Bates & J. Stephen Brantley of “R & J & Z,” in conversation with Mariah MacCarthy

Hard Sparks presents R & J & Z at The New Ohio, written by Melody Bates and directed by Joan JubettIf you stop and think about it, of all the classics being overrun by zombies these days, Romeo & Juliet is kind of the most logical to receive the undead treatment.

Playwright Melody Bates was struck with just such a notion after seeing the Met’s opera of Roméo et Juliette, and the result, R & J & Z, is now playing at The New Ohio. Picking up Shakespeare’s story in Act V, Bates keeps the action going long after the dagger through her heart has turned Juliet’s white dress to crimson—and you might be surprised who the villain of the story is…

GSAS! sat down to chat with Melody (who also plays Juliet) after a performance of the show, and thanks to the brilliant suggestion of Hard Sparks Artistic Director J. Stephen Brantley (Mercutio in this production, and past podcast guest), we were joined by playwright Mariah MacCarthy, who’s also adapted Romeo & Juliet with her musical Ampersand.

Listen in as Melody, J. Stephen, and Mariah discuss their respective adaptations of Shakespeare, gender-swapping & cross-dressing, low opinions of Paris, upending the power structure of the world, and how death changes everything.

“…so frequently you have scenes in Shakespeare where the women just stop talking, and the scene continues for several more pages and the men do the talking. And that’s an interesting challenge as an actress because you’re like, ‘well, I have to figure out why I’m not talking—”

“—right, and why I’m still here, not talking—”

“—exactly. So I pointedly wanted to write a scene where that happened to a man.”

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David Andrew Laws, Laura Iris Hill, Jarret Kerr, Morgan Hooper, Travis Klemm, and Brian Gillespie of “Richard III”

Hamlet Isn't Dead presents William Shakespeare's Richard III, directed by Brian GillespieThe company Hamlet Isn’t Dead is on quite a mission—to produce all of Shakespeare’s plays, in the order in which they were written.

They’re up to Richard III, and as director Brian Gillespie (with the GSAS! hat trick!) points out at the top of the interview, it’s a pretty fortuitous time to be putting up what some might call the Bard’s first “hit,” what with the real, historical Richard’s body re-buried just last week. This production takes the idea of the infamous English monarch as “master manipulator,” and “explodes that metaphor—through puppetry.” Which is really cool to watch.

Listen in as Brian and five of the nine cast members—Jarret Kerr (Richard), Laura Iris Hill (Margaret and more, and also a returning podcast guest), David Andrew Laws (Buckingham, last on GSAS! with Brian for Twelve Nights), Morgan Hooper (Richmond and more), and Travis Klemm (Hastings and more)—discuss puppet workshops, working within your constraints, playing characters you’ve always loved, and the “magic trick” that comes from streamlining your cast.

“The more that I researched the play, the more I was like, ‘which characters don’t have any agency that might be controlled by others, that could be puppets?’…or, ‘there’s a lot of references to shadows, could we explore some of these nightmares with shadow puppets?’…”

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Brian Gillespie, David Andrew Laws, Jane May, Robin Rightmyer, and Amanda Tudor of “Twelve Nights”

Pull Together Productions presents Twelve Nights, written by Sean Graney and directed by Brian GillespieIn case the title, coupled with the poster art to the left, doesn’t make it obvious enough, Twelve Nights is Sean Graney’s adaptation of Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, set in the 1980s.

Gimmick? If you’re cynical, I suppose. Awesome? Indisputably, hell yeah.

I say that, and personally, I kinda hate ’80s nostalgia. This show, and production, just makes it irresistibly fun.

All the essential ingredients are there: bright polo shirts, mix-tapes on cassettes, brilliant Peter Gabriel and Say Anything and Bill & Ted and Poison references, the whole nine. And the whole story is told by only four actors rollicking thru it at full-tilt. And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s the goofing on the twelve nights of Christmas, very apropos for a show running the first couple weeks of December.

If you want some fun theatrical holiday cheer, but without all the, y’know, holiday-malarky, check this show out. Pull Together Productions is killin’ this one, y’all.

Listen in as director & Pull Together Artistic Director Brian Gillespie, along with the full cast of David Andrew Laws, Jane May, Robin Rightmyer, and Amanda Tudor discuss the benefits of forgetting, putting ’80s pop culture onto Shakespeare, joke science, She’s the Man, and acknowledging where we are and what we’re doing—even when it goes a little askew.

“…to see the audience having fun with you…they’re just so on our side from the very beginning, it’s so good to see that…'”

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Cristina Lundy of NY Shakespeare Exchange, on “Othello” and the upcoming ShakesBEER

The New York Shakespeare Exchange recently presented Othello, setting the play’s Venice in a contemporary urban setting, with the Bard’s military officers becoming ranking police officers.

For adapter/director Cristina Lundy, the analogues between Shakespeare’s tragedy set amidst the jealousies of military officers, and the contemporary world of police work—especially in “stop & frisk”-era NYC, where those who are trusted to protect, can be the ones most feared—made this production all the more urgent to present.

While the production has closed from the posting of this episode, I’d highly recommend a listen to this interview, because NY Shakespeare Exchange has got some really interesting stuff going on—like The Sonnet Project, featuring video adaptations of all 154 sonnets, and the upcoming ShakesBEER, which…well, listen to the episode for Christina to explain it. It sounds amazing, and it’s coming up very soon…

Listen in as Cristina and I discuss hidden off-off-Broadway gems, drinking with the Bard, and how Shakespeare can be for everyone.

“The people we most want, in a way, are the people who don’t think they like Shakespeare, and let us convince them otherwise…”

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Rachel Murdy & Lucille Duncan of “Little West Twelfth Night”

Little West Twelfth Night

Walking the streets of New York City, it seems there’s a performance at every corner — planned or not. But what if you could actually follow a “staged” performance around the streets of NYC?

Wonder not, and go see Little West Twelfth Night, presented by the folks behind Conni’s Avant-Garde Restaurant in the Underground Zero Festival.

Rachel Murdy (“Frankie”) & Lucille Duncan (“Maria”), and later Dave Bennett (“Orsino”), meet me at The Brass Monkey (which figures into the show, along with the Highline, the Standard Hotel, the Gansevoort Market, a creepy van, and more) to give some insight into the first non-“avant-garde restaurant” performance from the company — a historical walking-tour of the Meatpacking District, with a healthy dash of Shakespeare.

Listen in as Rachel, Lucille, Dave & I talk impossible love affairs, chance lighting design in an outdoor walking-tour show, getting towed & questioned by the police for the sake of your show, random allusions to Law & Order: SVU are made, and Lucille & Rachel give you mixing instructions for a brass monkey, “the poor man’s mimosa.”

Conni’s Avant-Garde Restaurant & the Underground Zero Festival present
Little West Twelfth Night

based on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
conceived by Rachel Murdy
written by Peter Lettre
directed by Cynthia Croot

remaining performances:
July 23 & July 29 at 8PM
July 30 at 7AM (yep — AM! sunrise special!)

tickets available via OvationTix

John Hudson & Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler of The Dark Lady Players

Romeo and Juliet Nurse's Scene, Annunciation to MaryThis week’s podcast features an interview with members of The Dark Lady Players—Artistic Director John Hudson, and ensemble member Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler (that’s her in the red, at left, as Lady Capulet).

Dark Lady is presenting Shakespeare’s Gospel Parodies, and the performance is FREE; go check it out (after you listen to the podcast)! Continue reading