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Upstage Left | Intimate Conversations with New York Theater
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Upstage Left | Intimate Conversations with New York Theater

Author: Rachel Lin

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Rachel Lin speaks with the theater artists shaping the landscape of American Theater today. Join her, as she chats with the most exciting theater makers of our generation about their careers, the challenges, and how they lead a life in the arts.
36 Episodes
Daniel K. Isaac is a very busy man! So we were especially excited that he made the time to chat with us. In this episode Rachel & Daniel discuss:the upcoming 2022-23 theater season and the Asian theater-makers on stage!how he turned a 2 line role on Billions into 72 episodes and counting being the only children of single, immigrant mothers (and how they humble us)It was truly a delight to chat with Daniel. Not only is he incredibly prolific, but he's also such a graceful and lovely human. Is there a more soothing voice you could listen to for 50 minutes? We think not.Check him out in Noah Diaz's You Will Get Sick currently playing at Roundabout Theatre Company, and catch him any time on Showtime's Billions.----Intro music by: David HilowitzSupport the show
We are thrilled to chat with Downtown Theater Icon: Paul Lazar. From making appearances in movies that became cult classics (Married to the Mob, Silence of the Lambs, Old Boy, Snowpiercer), to his recent Broadway appearance in Macbeth directed by Sam Gold with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga -- following Paul's career is like a game of Where's Waldo?  You never know where you'll spot him next!In this episode we talk:Early beginnings - how Paul found his way into the Downtown worldThe current state of "Downtown Theater" - what is it? And where is it now?What it's like to work so closely with his wife, choreographer and co-founder of Big Dance Theater, Annie-B ParsonsYou can currently see Paul in Maria Irene Fornes's seminal work: Mud/Drowning at Mabou Mines, alongside May 2019 guest: Wendy Vanden Huevel. If you liked this episode and want to hear more -- check out Manhattan Theatre Club's Beyond the Stage podcast! The latest episode features our host chatting with playwrights: Martyna Majok and Jeff Augustin.  With a handy discount code to their upcoming plays at MTC in the shownotes!-----Intro Music by David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode, Rachel speaks with veteran TV, stage, and film actor: Deirdre O'Connell. Didi is the 2022 Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Dana Higginbotham in Lucas Hnath's Dana H. She is also the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement award this year, and has racked up multiple awards over the years, including a 2005 Obie for Sustained Excellence. Rachel was eager to find out more about Didi's process and what it takes to maintain such a storied career.Tune into this episode to learn:Didi's trick for auditioning for TV & FilmHer experience doing Corsicana right after her Tony winWhat it was like for her starting out as a newbie in New YorkFor any theater practitioner, this is truly not an episode to be missed. You can catch Didi in this Lincoln Center's production of Sarah Ruhl's Becky Nurse of Salem this fall.  Or watch her Tony acceptance speech as a reminder to keep doing what you're doing.Follow the podcast at: @upstageleftpodcastLike,  subscribe, or leave us a review here!----Intro music: Angles of Light by David HilowitzSupport the show
For the 32nd episode, we decided it might be a good idea to introduce our listeners to the host of this podcast: Rachel Lin. After much convincing, Rachel zooms with social media manager and actor, Kendall Cafaro, to discuss Rachel's time in the theater and how this podcast came to be.Recorded in April of 2022, turn in to learn about the actor, writer, and person asking the questions. Kendall & Rachel discuss:the artistic communities & spaces Rachel has been a part ofsome goals and hopes for the podhow Upstage Left has fared through the pandemic, and how we're feeling about theater at large now that shows are up and runningThank you so much for tuning in. As always, you can find us on IG @Upstageleftpodcast and on Twitter @Upstageleftpod----Intro music by David HilowitzSupport the show
Rachel chats with playwright & screenwriter, Anchuli Felicia King, whose play Golden Shield  is currently running at Manhattan Theatre Club through June 12. Her work also includes White Pearl which world premiered at the Royal Court in London and has received productions at the Studio Theatre in DC, as well as Sydney Theatre Company earlier this year. She is also on the writing team of the new HBO Max original series The Baby.In this episode Rachel & Felicia discuss:how Felicia ended up becoming a writer, despite not having set out to be oneFelicia's relationship to writing BIG plays and tackling global issues in multiple languagesher ambitions, which actually fall outside the realm of theaterTickets and info for Golden Shield can be found HERE. Did you know if you are under 35 you can access $30 tickets at MTC? Learn more HERE.The article in Howlround Rachel mentions briefly HERE.Follow us on Instagram @UpstageLeftPodcast----Intro music by David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode, Rachel chats with Taylor Reynolds -  one the most in demand theater directors currently working off-Broadway, and a producing artistic leader of The Movement Theatre Company. This season her work included: Tambo & Bones at Playwrights Horizons, Man Cave by John J. Caswell Jr. presented by P 73, and Songs About Trains playing at the New Ohio Theatre through April 18.Rachel & Taylor talk about:Taylor's approach to these larger than life theatrical new worksHow Taylor made her way as a director, forgoing the assistant/associate routeTaylor's relationship to the 'white gaze'  and how it's continually changingVisit our sponsors: Northwestern University Press and use POD20 to receive 20% offFollow us on Instagram @upstageleftpodcast or on Twitter @upstageleftpod -- we love to hear from you!----Intro & Outro Music: Angle Of Light by David HilowitzUnderscore:Arcadia by Dream-ProtocolSupport the show
Rachel chats with Billy Carden, the current leader of her artistic home, Ensemble Studio Theatre. With almost 50 years in the biz and close to 30 as an artistic director (first at HB Playwrights Foundation & Theatre, then at EST), Billy is a wealth of theater history and knowledge.The two speak about:- the acting job that took him to the Public & Lincoln Centre- what it was like to direct Uta Hagen- and the legacy he's leaving behind: "the quality of the how people talk to each other on stage"It was a thrill to walk down memory lane with Billy, and remember the places he's been and consider what he hopes next for the historic theater he's leaving behind.This episode is made possible by Northwestern University Press and their new release: This is my Office and Notes on my Mother's Decline two plays by Andy Bragen with a foreword by Sarah Ruhl. Get 20% off this book and all other titles by the imprint with code POD20 at Be sure to visit their website to see what's available!_______Intro music by: David HilowitzSupport the show
Rachel chats with the dramaturg behind the newsletter, Nothing For the Group, Lauren Halvorsen. Before starting the weekly missive offering theater round-ups, reviews, and takes, Lauren was the associate literary manager at Studio Theatre in DC. Prior to that she worked at the Alley in Houston and the City Theatre in Pittsburgh.These two nerd out on the current state of theater and what might be coming up next in the 2022-2023 season.  Lauren talks about how no longer working in the industry has landed her in the perfect position to be a voice that speaks to the inequities and hypocrisies within our institutions. Tune in to hear her clear-eyed perspective now that she longer drinks the kool-aid.You can subscribe to Nothing for Group HERE - it's free! Wishing you a happy & safe holiday season. Congratulations! You made it through 2021. We will see you in the new year.___Intro music by David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode Rachel chats with Tedra Millan, one of New York's most celebrated young talents! Teddi originated the role of #46 in Sarah Delappe's The Wolves that world premiered at Playwrights Realm, and went on to Lincoln Centre production (that was made available for streaming earlier this year). Teddi has also been on Broadway in the revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter (starring Kevin Kline), as well as the New York premiere of On the Shore of the Wide World by Simon Stephens at the Atlantic, and Happy Talk by Jesse Eisenberg produced by the New Group.These old friends catch up about:where it all startedhow everything changed for Teddi after grad schooland what's up next for this busy actorBut really...these two just shoot the shit for a little while.The movie she is currently shooting is a thriller called The Lot . You can catch her next in LA at the Geffen Playhouse in the west coast premiere of Power of Sail with Bryan Cranston and Amy Brenneman. Thanks for tuning in!------Intro music by David HilowitzSupport the show
It's back-to-school season, and in this episode Rachel is taking notes from multi-hyphenate theater maker Vichet Chum. Rachel & Vichet met years ago working on a festival of short plays written by high school students, and since then Rachel has watched as Vichet has grown from actor to actor/writer to sought after playwright and industry leader. In this episode, they recount parts of his journey together.Highlights include:Vichet's experience writing, producing, and performing in his one man showHow Vichet first came to writing and how his process has developedVichet's involvement with AAPAC and the Visibility Report released earlier this yearThe importance of penning the Cambodian-American experience in different formsWe're thrilled to catch up with this writer/performer before two of his newest plays premiere in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 seasons at the Alley Theatre (Houston, TX) and Steppenwolf, respectively. Look out for all the things Vichet is up to!------For more info about Vichet: music by David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode we speak with casting director: Conrad Woolfe, who has worked in casting for over a decade. He cut his teeth at Telsey and Company, one of New York's largest casting offices focused on film, theater, and television. Now, based on the West Coast, Conrad has started his own company: Conrad Woolfe Casting.Rachel & Conrad reminisce about the early years of their friendship, and how Conrad found his way to casting. They also chat about:The role of the casting director in bringing projects to lifeThe responsibility of the casting director in shaping the worlds we see on stage & screenConrad's hopes for the future, and how the industry might changeFor more information about Conrad visit:'s IMDBFollow him on Instagram: @ConradWoolfe---Intro music by David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode Rachel catches up with acclaimed stage, film, and TV actor: Catherine Curtin. After making her Broadway debut in Six Degrees of Separation in 1990, Cathy made her way onto stages large and small before appearing on screens everywhere. Today she is known for her roles as Wanda Bell on Orange is the New Black, Claudia Henderson on Stranger Things, Joanne on Insecure , and many many more.In this episode we chat with the Cathy about:Growing up in New York CityThe early years of her careerWhy she doesn't work in the theater anymoreHow she built her career in TV & FilmThis month, Cathy's latest film, Werewolves Within premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival. We so enjoyed recording this conversation with the hilarious and effervescent Cathy Curtin. Give this episode a listen to find out more about one of New York's busiest actors.----Intro Music: David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode Rachel speaks with one of the directors of Soho Rep and a co-founder of Radical Evolution: Meropi Peponides. The two met over a decade ago while Meropi was still an MFA student at Columbia. As the theater industry continues to have conversations about change, and what that might look like, we were excited to 1.  gain a better understanding of what leadership looks at one of downtown's bedrock institutions. 2. Learn more about what how those decisions were made, and where they might be going.They chat about:Dramaturgy!the organization of theatrical organizationswhat makes a Soho Rep artistthe piece of advice Meropi would give in a development process Learn more about Soho Rep and its initiatives here.Check out Radical Evolution.-------Intro music: David HilowitzSupport the show
Josh Gelb is a director, performer, writer, & producer whose work is often visceral, surprising, and bold. Pre-pandemic his play Jazz Singer, which he co-wrote, directed, and performed in, received a critically acclaimed run at Abrons Arts Center. After performance venues closed, Josh built out his closet and created Theater in Quarantine, streaming fully realized theatrical experiences live from his home.Theater in Quarantine is free to watch, and available on #TiQ's Youtube Channel. Co-helmed by Katie Rose McLaughlin, TiQ presents a brand new show live, every three weeks. Recent productions have included collaborations with some of theater's most exciting players. If you're new to TiQ, Heather Christian's I Am Sending You the Sacred Face is a great place to start. In this episode Rachel & Josh talk about:the creation of Theater in Quarantine and its evolutionhow Josh keeps up with the demanding production schedulehopes & expectations for theater out of quarantineFor more info on the artist and the work visit: Joshua William GelbTheater in QuarantineIntro music: David HilowitzSupport the show
Rachel & Martyna recorded this episode in late April. While it was only 5 months ago, in some ways, it feels like an entirely different lifetime. As summer draws to a close, and we head into fall, Rachel can't think of a better time to share this episode with one of her theater heroes. Martyna Majok is the 2018 pulitzer prize winner in drama for her play, Cost of Living. Other plays include: Queens, Ironbound, and Sanctuary City. She is a Yale School of Drama and Juilliard alum, a former PoNY fellow at the Lark, Women's Project Lab member, and Ensemble Studio Theatre Youngblood. In this episode Rachel & Martyna talk about what she's finding comfort in during these unprecedented times, how she ended up working in the theater during her University of Chicago days, and the advice she'd give her former self during her first year in New York.More about Martyna at: about her latest production Sanctuary City here.Follow us on Instagram: @upstageleftpodcastTwitter: @upstageleftpod---Music by David HilowitzSupport the show
Monet Hurst-Mendoza and Ugo Chukwu are #relationshipgoals. They also happen to both be fantastic theater artists in their own right. Monet's play Torera was slated for production at the Long Wharf Theatre this fall, pre-pandemic. She is former Emerging Writers Group member, current member of the Kilroys, and a staff writer for Law & Order: SVU. She also has her own Wikipedia page. And you've probably seen Ugo in a play at one of the many Downtown Theater Establishments. In fact, Helen Shaw dubbed him "one of our best downtown actors." Most recently spotted in: House Plant by Sarah Einspanier at NYTW Next Door, and was in rehearsals for Lunch Bunch, also by Einspanier before the City shut down. Other recent work includes: Do You Feel Anger?, [Porto], and What To Send Up When It Goes Down.I miss the theater. I miss seeing plays. I miss seeing friends in plays, and seeing friends at the plays we're seeing friends in. Chatting with Monet & Ugo felt (almost) like old times. We talk about astrology, what we hope to see change in our industry, and why Ugo is always talking about quitting acting.___Follow the show on Instagram @upstageleftpodcastor on Twitter: @upstageleftpodLeave us a friendly review or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!Music by: David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode, Rachel speaks with C.A. Johnson - the playwright of All the Natalie Portmans, which premiered at MCC this February. C.A.'s play The Climb was part of the 2019 Cherry Lane Mentor Project, and her work has also been produced at the Contemporary American Theater Festival, and Strawdog Theatre in Chicago.C.A. and Rachel speak about life during COVID, and the state of the American Theater during this long overdue uprising. C.A. talks about the experience of her first New York run - what it was like to be in the room, the ups, and the downs. We talk about the uncertain future of theater, and what she wishes she had known before starting out on the journey of being a playwright.More information about C.A. HERE.Mentioned in this episode:MCC TheatreAmerican Contemporary Play FestivalStrawdog TheatreC.A. also writes for T.V.___Intro music by: David HilowitzSupport the show
In this episode, Rachel chats with Erin Daley, the associate artistic director of Primary Stages. They recorded this episode on March 25th (two months ago), when New York City was only two weeks into quarantine. While things were much less certain then, it might have also been easier to be more optimistic. With this in mind, listen in, as the two discuss what the realities of the industry might look like on the other side of this pandemic and what organizations are thinking about as they navigate the current state of affairs.Having met almost a decade ago at the Flea theater, Rachel was excited to chat with Erin about organization structure, and what it takes to run a theater. They talk about her roles and responsibilities as associate artistic director, her experience working with emerging artists, and what she's thinking about when reading new scripts.Mentioned in this episode: Dorothy Strelsin New Writers GroupPrimary Stages----Music by David HilowitzSupport the show
A special Mother's Day episode with Tony Award nominated actor, Maria Dizzia. The celebrated stage & screen actor, director, & teacher chats openly and honestly with Rachel about her career, and the challenges she faced early on. They talk about how she got an 'unsatisfactory' in grad school, her experience playing Eurydice in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, and how being a mom has changed her work. In this episode:On school: "I knew as a person who did well in institutions... I knew I needed to have a little sense of "fuck you"-ness."On moving to New York: "I was very fortunate, but I was not having a good time."On her first job: "I was scared the whole time. I was terrified. I was afraid people were going to discover I didn't know what I was doing and fire me."We're so excited to share this episode that is filled to the brim with anecdotes & wisdom. AND, listen to the end to catch a very special surprise guest!!Mentioned in the episode:Actors at WorkThe Neighbor's Window__Music: David HilowitzSupport the show
Rachel chats with one of theater's most sought after actors, Matthew Maher (The Flick, Mr. Burns, Chinglish) who has originated roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off. Most recently he appeared in Will Eno's Gnit, and is slated to appear in NYTW's upcoming Three Sisters, adapted by Clare Barron directed by Sam Gold. Rachel and Matt chat about his early years in New York - working in the downtown theater scene, and how he came to be someone playwrights write roles for. He talks about an unsuccessful move to LA, and how he resolved to only work with friends after returning to New York. Learn how he approaches text, and what he does to bring new plays to life.Mentioned in this episode:The Race of the Ark TattooTFANA GnitNYTW Three SistersMusic:David HilowitzSupport the show
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