Stacy A. Donovan, Tali Custer, Julia Hansen, & Ellen Jenders of “That Which Remains”

Improbable Stage presents THAT WHICH REMAINS, adapted from Titus Andronicus, directed by Stacy A. DonovanListen in as Improbable Stage Artistic Director Stacy A. Donovan, who also directs the company’s current production of That Which Remains (adapted from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus), joined by performers Tali Custer, Julia Hansen, and Ellen Jenders, discuss the company’s unique approach to casting, meeting your new collaborators through free workshops, finding contemporary music for your mid-show dances, being open to changes, and how to get bloody without actually getting bloody (hint: the answer to everything is “collaboration”).

“…I was like, ‘how can I get my hands on Tarantino?’ And I thought, the best way would be Shakespeare’s bloodiest: Titus…”

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Ross Williams of NYSX’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” plus talkback with Shane Breaux and Dr. Jaime Wright

New York Shakespeare Exchange presents MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGListen in as New York Shakespeare Exchange Artistic Director and director of Much Ado About Nothing, Ross Williams, discusses finding resonance with the “fake news” of today in Shakespeare, getting rid of unnecessary jokes, blending characters (and why you might want to), achieving a sense of inclusion with your audience, and getting around having all those pesky messengers in Much Ado.

…and, after the brief interview with Ross, stay tuned for a recording of the post-show talkback between him, Dr. Jaime Wright, Associate Professor at St. Johns University, and the show’s dramaturg Shane Breaux.

“…Shakespeare was all about the exchange between the audience and the players, and I think all too often, Shakespeare done contemporarily is done with our contemporary understanding of the fourth wall…what I really like to encourage is a sense of exchange between the audience and the actors…”

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Yuriy Pavlish and Mitch McCoy of “Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon”

Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon, adapted from William Shakespeare by Omri Kadim, presented by Combative Theatre Company and Shakespeare in the SquareThere’s some pretty intense fighting in many of Shakespeare’s works—intense fighting that, in most productions, gets pared down to a couple of sword-clinks in the absence of a skilled fight choreographer, actors prepared to follow said choreography, and the budget and space to make that choreography come to life. Sadly, this is especially true in the independent theatre…

In the case of Combative Theatre, and their partners in Shakespeare in the Square, however, the fight is put front and center. For their show Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon, Omri Kadim adapts the tragedy to really get to its combative core. And as you’ll hear from the background noise in this interview, there’s more than just a few sword-and-shield hits to be seen…

Listen in as director Yuriy Pavlish and fight director Mitch McCoy discuss how they fill in what’s missing from most productions of Coriolanus, finding the right actors for your fight-heavy show, bringing together theatre companies, resonance with current events, and when you should hold on to a production.

“…my belief is that if you just tell the story that Shakespeare put down, and not try to twist it to an agenda, and really ask yourself, ‘what was Shakespeare trying to say?’ and just do it, you will find all of the connections you need to current events, and a thousand years ago, and a thousand years from now…”

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Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “As You Like It”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents As You Like It and Julius CaesarFor the 10th year running, Hip to Hip Theatre Company brings free Shakespeare to Queens (and Harlem, and Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Jersey City…check out the full schedule!).

In honor of the anniversary, they’re returning to the first show they ever produced, taking you to the Forest of Arden with As You Like It, before heading to Rome to bring the pain with the ever-so-appropriate-in-an-election-year Julius Caesar.

I won’t retread all the info about what they’re up to—instead, you should listen to last year’s episode with the fine gentlemen Jason Marr, Artistic Director and actor in the company, and David Mold, Associate Artistic Director and director of one of this year’s shows—then, come back and listen to this episode, where they expand on those ideas, and talk about this year’s productions.

Take a listen as Jason and David discuss the celebratory nature and notions of identity in As You Like It, why you should pay attention in your technical theatre classes, layers of performance, why actors are eager to work in random parks around the city, and what it takes to do what they do.

“Do it. That’s what we did…our first season we produced for $2,500. It was me with a big trunk full of the props, and I would wheel it on a little dolly into the park. If you’re heart’s in it, you’ll find a way.” Continue reading

The Cast and Playwright/Director of “Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary”

Pulse Ensemble Theatre presents Harlem Summer, Shakespeare's Presidential Primary, written and directed by Alexa KellyNo robo-calls.

No obnoxious, omnipresent ads.

No idealistic young campaign workers knocking at your door, interrupting dinner.

Just a good, ol’ fashioned, wholesome (and of course, often antagonistic) debate between some of your favorite Shakespearean characters—Phoebe, Bottom, Malvolio, and Lady Macbeth—as they try to win your vote as candidates in Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary.

On this episode, listen in as the show’s writer/director Alexa Kelly, along with co-conceptualist Brian Richardson (who plays Malvolio), and the rest of the cast of Karim Sekou, Marcia A. Berry, Denise Marie Whalen, Samantha Osborne, Celine Havard, Colleen McGloin, Camille Mazurek, and Michael Gilpin, discuss writing your free summer Shakespeare piece to your convention-hall-like setting, how the audience affects their participatory show, the friendly competition between the candidates/actors, and Chris Christie as an actual ass.

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Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “The Merchant of Venice”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents Free Shakespeare in the Park 2015 in QueensSummer means free Shakespeare in the Park! But not just Central Park…

Hip to Hip Theatre Company has been bringing the Bard’s classics to parks throughout Queens for years now—and this summer, they’re expanding to the Bronx, to New Jersey, and even to the NY Fringe’s Al Fresco series.

They’re running The Merchant of Venice, which this podcast was able to catch in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, under the Unisphere, in rep with The Merry Wives of Windsor, driving their props, costumes, and modular set around in a box truck and setting up for communities to come and enjoy theatre in their local park. GSAS! tries not to editorialize too much, but I’ve got to say, free, accessible theatre for the public is undoubtedly a really, really great thing.

Listen in as Hip to Hip Artistic Director Jason Marr (who also plays Antonio in Merchant)  and Associate Artistic Director (and director of MerchantDavid Mold discuss creating your own opportunities, tackling kids (for their safety, of course), taking inspiration from your democratic principles, directing for the outdoors, and the beauty of the liveness of theatre out in the community.

“…even though we might have a significant number of people in our audiences who aren’t avid theatre-goers, I think as long as we’re presenting the story in a way that’s really clear, and really intentional, that they’re going to go along on that journey…”

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Jonathan Emerson, Chris Rivera, Serena E. Miller, Christina Sheehan, and V. Orion Delwaterman of “Julius Caesar”

What Dreams May Co and Queens Shakespeare present William Shakespeare's Julius CaesarQuestion 1: In a fallen, dangerous, post-apocalyptic world, what would you do to preserve the state from tyranny?

Question 2: In a difficult independent theatre landscape, what do you do to get a production of a Shakespeare classic mounted, and available to the broadest audience you can?

Answers: If you’re setting William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in that theoretical post-apocalyptic world…well, if you’re reading this blog and listening to this podcast, you probably have a good idea of what happens…

…and why not bring together two Shakespeare-focused companies, What Dreams May Co and Queens Shakespeare Inc., to answer the second posited query, joining forces to bring this new and unique take on the classic to audiences.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears and listen in as director Chris Rivera, along with actors Jonathan Emerson (Mark Antony), Christina Sheehan (Caius Cassius), Serena E. Miller (Julius Caesar), and V. Orion Delwaterman (Marcus Brutus) discuss sangria, imagining New York City as the only place in the world, talking with your young fans after the show, keeping up your stamina for a longer indy theatre run, and where this play meets Highlander (hint: there can be only one).

“When we set these pieces in a modern world, sometimes there’s a lot of creative work we have to do to make it fit. Not in this case. If you look at the political landscape that we’re in, these sort of things happen all the time…”

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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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