Steppenwolf’s new podcast debuts

While Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s stages remain dormant, its new podcast, Half Hour, officially launched today.

The series is hosted by four of the company’s newer ensemble members. ACtors Caroline Neff, Audrey Francis, Glenn Davis and Cliff Chamberlain all joined the group between 2016 and 2018, under the tenure of current artistic director Anna D. Shapiro. If the first episode is a template, the podcast will feature one-on-one interviews between one of the hosts and a fellow ensemble member, which could make for some interesting generational conversations.

That’s the case with the premiere, which has Chamberlain talking with Jeff Perry, one of the company’s three co-founders. They delve into Steppenwolf history and actorly process, without getting too far into the weeds in either direction; Perry repeats some anecdotes about the early years that, if you’re enough of a Steppenwolf fan to subscribe to its podcast, you’re likely to have heard or read from him before.

But I was struck by his candor in recalling a period a bit later: After the Steppenwolf productions of True West and Balm in Gilead transferred to New York in 1982 and 1984, respectively, compatriots like John Malkovich, Joan Allen and his ex-wife, Laurie Metcalf, were finding success in film and television.

When Roseanne took Metcalf and their daughter to the west coast, Perry found himself in his thirties, the founder of a nationally acclaimed theater company in Chicago, auditioning for bit parts in L.A.—“what felt like the bottom of the potato-chip bag,” he says. “The thing that was most present for the actor psyche in me was, I’m jealous. I am feeling envy. It’s the worst fucking feeling in the world. I have never felt this—I have only felt happy for my friends. And this—it’s horrible, this amount of comparison, this jealousy.”

The next episode of Half Hour will feature K. Todd Freeman, and will be out in two weeks. If that release schedule holds, it will take nearly two years to get through the current ranks of Steppenwolf’s ensemble. Find the podcast on Steppenwolf’s website, Spotify and Stitcher.

The latest streaming theater

  • The Goodman Theatre says it’s holding out hope it can resume performances of School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, which was in previews when Gov. Pritzker issued his first guidance on limiting public gatherings last month. In the meantime, though, it’s worked out a deal to stream a recording of the production made at one of those early preview performances. Through April 26, visit the Goodman’s website to purchase a virtual ticket, starting at $15, and you’ll be emailed a login and password for a one-time viewing.

  • On Thursday, April 16, Pride Films & Plays will present a live online reading of Terrence McNally’s Mothers & Sons—the play I was just gushing about in this space in the wake of McNally’s death two weeks ago. It’s $10 to register; find out more here.

  • The Back Room Shakespeare Project will hold a live reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Monday, April 20 as a YouTube Watch Party. The stream will be free, but donations to The Actors Fund are encouraged. RSVP to this Facebook event to receive instructions on how to “attend.”

  • The science-fiction and fantasy–focused Otherworld Theatre is making recordings of several recent productions available for Patreon subscribers, along with some free content on YouTube. Find a rundown here.

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