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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.
27 Episodes
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 (
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 (
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 (
Rachel speaks with old friend and actress, Keilly McQuail, whose work can be see in the HBO mini-series The Plot Against America, and the upcoming Lunch Bunch by Sarah Einspanier produced by The Play Company. They discuss why Keilly avoids social media, how she dealt with the close calls & rejections early on in her career, and how she achieved her dream of being a "Nicky Silver woman." Listen in to find out she navigates her burgeoning stage & TV career.More information about Keilly at: updated on Lunch Bunch at: hope all our listeners are staying safe and responsibly social distancing at this time. Big thanks to all our health care workers and essential workers who are keeping our City running.Please consider leaving a review or following us @upstageleftpodcast (Instagram) or @upstageleftpod (Twitter).--Intro music: David HilowitzSupport the show (
In the midst of this crazy time, we're excited to come back on air with this episode recorded with Haruna Lee before the shut-down of theaters city & nationwide. We hope you're staying safe and indoors at this time. May this episode offer some inspiration and reprieve in this time of isolation.Haruna Lee is a multi-hyphenate artist, included between hyphens are the titles: playwright, performer, activist, and more. Their play Suicide Forest, which they wrote and starred in, was remounted this year at the ART/NY Theater as a co-production between Ma-Yi Theater and the Bushwick Starr. In 2019, Suicide Forest was listed in Vulture's Top 10 Theater of 2019. In this episode, Rachel & Haruna talk about immigrating from Tokyo to Mercer Island, Washington, performing in a play with their mom (a hauntingly beautiful Butoh performer), and the Asian/Asian-American relationship to sex and sexuality. More info about Haruna at: you for listening. Sending well-wishes to all the artists and performers out there. May your work grace our stages again in the near future!---Intro/outro music: David HilowitzSupport the show (
We kick off 2020, and a new decade with an interview with Artistic Director of Montana Repertory Theatre, Michael Legg. Montana Rep is the only full season, equity theater in the state of Montana (population: 1 million). Rachel & Michael talk about his journey to Artistic Director, after a brief stint as a talent agent in New York, and 11 years as the director of the professional training program at Actor's Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky. As someone who selected a small cohort of young actors for a prestigious training program, Rachel picks his brain about what he responded to when auditioning young artists. Michael shares what excites him most about working on new plays, and what's important to him about growing a regional theater in a rural community.Learn more about Montana Repertory Theatre. Please consider leaving a review or following us on Instagram @upstageleftpodcast or Twitter @UpstageLeftPod! Thank you for listening!___Music by: David HilowitzSupport the show (
In the last episode of 2019 - Rachel speaks with Margaret Odette, a first generation Haitian American actor from Harlem, NY most recently seen as Hero in the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Danielle Brooks and directed by Kenny Leon. If you missed it, you can stream it for free at PBS.Org as part of their Great Performances Broadway's Best of 2019 series. In this episode, Rachel and Margaret talk about how cultural institutions go from being mammoth-sized mountains to human-sized rocks, her journey from Brown to the MFA program at NYU, and the hardest parts about being a working actor.More info about Margaret HERE.Follow us on Instagram @UpstageleftpodcastSubscribe or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!Send us a message with thoughts/feedback for 2020. Thank you for listening!Support the show (
Will Arbery is a playwright & filmmaker raised in Wyoming and Texas. His latest play, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, is about a group of Catholic Conservatives reuniting in the Path of Totality, in their Wyoming hometown on the night before the solar eclipse.Will & Rachel talk about his experience sharing this deeply personal play on an Off-Broadway stage, how he came to playwriting, what he most loves to see on stage, and the importance of allowing mess as a preventative measure against forgetting.More information about Will at: Heroes of the Fourth Turning at Playwrights Horizons until October 27. Info & tickets HERE.Music by David Hilowitz.Support the show (
Abby Rosebrock is a brilliant and hilarious actress (Dido of Idaho, Women), and equally brilliant and hilarious playwright (Blue Ridge, Dido of Idaho, Different Animals), and lastly incredible friend. I had the honor of interviewing her back in January 2019 when her play Blue Ridge premiered at the Atlantic starring Marin Ireland.In this episode we talk about how she juggles both acting and writing, the most important advice she wish she had known 6 years ago when she began, and why it is female friendships can sometimes be unfairly challenging. "It's to everyone's benefit that, I, not feel small. That no one feel small." us on Instagram: @upstageleftpodcast.If you enjoyed this episode, please considering leaving 5 stars or subscribing!----Opening Music: David HilowitzSupport the show (
Noel Allain started out as an actor... once playing a "large dwarf" as part of Richard Foreman's ensemble. After attending Skidmore, and meeting his now, long-time collaborators - he would go on to become a founding member and Artistic Director of the Bushwick Starr.Noel and Rachel talk about his early years in New York City, how he ended up at Juilliard, and how the Bushwick Starr has grown over the past decade from DIY performance space to a leading institution for the theater vanguard. They discuss the artists he's been drawn to over the years, and the role of allies in leadership positions in the art making world. The Bushwick Starr 2019-2020 season kicks off on September 4th. For more info about their upcoming season visit music by: David HilowitzEdited by: Phillip OsterdaySupport the show (
Diana Oh's work encompasses multiple performance categories, including but not limited to: music, art, storytelling, and theater. Earlier this year, Diana's The Infinite Love Party was hosted at the Bushwick Starr and is described as "barefoot barefoot potluck dinner, dance party, and sleepover for QTPOC and Their Allies." Their residency at A.R.T. in Boston culminated in Clairvoyance, "an installation series that culminates into a concert and tree planting." For more information about Diana, please visit: Dianaoh.coTheir work challenges the status quo, calls out systemic issues, and creates spaces for healing. In this episode Rachel and Diana talk about Diana's process, J. Lo, sexual liberation, and Diana's latest project My H8 Letter 2 the Gr8 American Theatre. As a fellow Asian artist and maker, Diana and Rachel go deep into why we do what we do, and why affinity spaces are powerful and important to create and maintain.Quick shout-out to the Artist Co-op, a membership space for freelance artists and makers. Visit their website for more info: episode is edited by: Phillip OsterdayMusic by: David HilowitzSupport the show (
Jaclyn Backhaus is the 2018 Horton Foote prizewinner for her play India Pale Ale. Her play Men on Boats has been produced at Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks, Playwrights Horizons, & regionally in the US. Her new play Wives will be opening Playwrights Horizons' 2019-2020 season, running from August 23-October 6. She is a co-founder of Fresh Ground Pepper, a theater company committed to developing new work, and a member of the Kilroys.Listen in as Jaclyn and Rachel talk about how she came to realize playwriting was her path, the challenges of moving her work to more established institutions, and how she's allergic to Final Draft.Info & Tickets for Wives available here.Support the show (
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