Theater Forward

Jen Uphoff Gray, Julie Swenson, and Mike Fischer | Forward Theater Company

From Forward Theater Company, a podcast featuring Jen Uphoff Gray, Julie Swenson and Mike Fischer as they discuss theater issues on a local, regional, and national level.

All Episodes

It's that time of year where we reflect on where we are, how we got there, and what helped us along the way. In this episode the team discusses the things that make us feel thankful, including our return to live theater (and the audiences that followed us), the institutions that support us, and the artists that inspire us each day. 

Nov 23

23 min 6 sec

Countless shows were cancelled in the COVID spring/summer of 2020. Many of those productions are being revived this season, and we sit down with cast members of 'The Amateurs' to talk about the process of returning to the stage and what it means to bring this relevant comedy back to life. Featuring Matt Daniels, Emily Glick, Josh Krause, and Kat Wodtke.

Nov 1

32 min 39 sec

We go to the mailbox for this episode! Topics include: gender parity in theater, cultivating new theatergoers in a pandemic, and the good things we're taking from the 20-21 lockdown.

Oct 20

28 min 4 sec

Budgets are a definitive expression of values for a theater company, but how often do we get to see and understand them? We discuss the growing trend of financial transparency by theaters, and deep dive into a realm that goes unexplored by the average theatergoer.

Oct 5

26 min 57 sec

We sit down with Dramaturg Khalid Y. Long, PhD and dive into the what/how/why of dramaturgy in theatermaking. We also discuss the world and work of Adrienne Kennedy, playwright of 'Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles?', playing in Madison, WI in September 2021. 

Sep 14

33 min 20 sec

We go in-depth with two artists that are bringing to life Adrienne Kennedy and Adam Kennedy's 'Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles?' - Actress Marti Gobel and Director Baron Kelly. 

Sep 7

25 min 23 sec

Theater artists across Wisconsin share stories about productions that had a profound impact on them as an audience member or as a creator. Volume 4 features Stage Manager Jacqueline Singleton, Director & Educator Tyler Marchant, Actress & Advisory Company Member Rána Roman, and Actress Angela Iannone.

Aug 24

33 min 37 sec

When is an oldie no longer a goodie? We talk about the often-problematic classic Broadway musical, and how it fits into our contemporary thoughts about programming. 

Aug 16

34 min 48 sec

Wisconsin theater artists share more great stories about inspiring productions. In this installment, we sit down with Educator/Director Dr. Baron Kelly, Director/Actor Mary MacDonald Kerr, Voice & Speech legend Susan Sweeney, and Director Joseph Hanreddy.

Jul 30

46 min 38 sec

Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times. America is returning to in-person theater at a breakneck speed, amidst ambiguous safety protocols and union rules. We discuss our return to the stage and what it means for artists and audiences. 

Jul 13

30 min 15 sec

Wisconsin theater artists share more stories about productions that made an impact on them as an artist. This episode features Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Artistic Director Brent Hazelton, American Players Theatre company member Brian Mani, Composer & Sound Designer Joe Cerqua, and Actor/Director/Producer DiMonte Henning.

Jul 1

31 min 58 sec

We dive into one of our beloved-but-much-ignored assets in theater: the monologue. We talk about the role monologues serve, what makes them great, and which ones we love. We also give a nod to our upcoming monologue festival, 'Within These Walls: Stories of Home,' presented June 24-27 at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. 

Jun 16

27 min 25 sec

Our first in a series of summer podcasts that feature WI theater artists sharing stories about productions that made an impact on them, as an artist or as a creator. This episode features stories and conversation with Noele Stollmack, Laura Gordon, Jim Pickering, and Jo Chalhoub.

May 28

29 min 35 sec

We sit down with Chicago theater pioneers and former Neo-Futurists Chloe Johnston, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Bilal Dardai, and Andy Bayiates - and discuss the creation of their genre-bending look at gender, race, and everything else your history teacher never taught you about America. 

May 12

23 min 24 sec

We take a detour to discuss Forward Theater's recent announcement of their 2021-22 season, which includes plays by Adrienne Kennedy and Adam P. Kennedy, Jordan Harrison, Quan Barry, and Sarah Gancher.

May 2

30 min 52 sec

The directors of 'Lewiston/Clarkston' discuss the unique process of creating this back-to-back theater experience in-person, confronting the challenges that theatermakers face as they return to the stage. 

Apr 19

37 min 48 sec

The inside scoop from Carrie Hitchcock and Josh Krause, who describe the rigorous safety protocols required by Actors' Equity Association to rehearse and perform 'Lewiston/Clarkston' by Samuel D. Hunter. Presented as a stage-to-film production by Forward Theater Company.

Apr 12

23 min 16 sec

The team debates whether an artistic urban/rural divide exists in America. From the types of plays that get produced outside of New York to playwrights that find great success in the absence of critical acclaim - does this divide exist, how does it play out, and why does it matter?

Mar 15

30 min 1 sec

We share our thoughts on a recent article on "identity-conscious" casting, which looks beyond the concepts of color-blind and color-conscious casting and reimagines the lens through which we create. The article we discuss features an insightful conversation between Lavina Jadhwani and Victor Vasquez, which can be viewed here. 

Mar 4

34 min 10 sec

It's a big question. After being knocked off our path due to COVID, what's in store for theater as we look at the months and years ahead? In this episode, we speculate wildly about the future of performing arts, and the role that digital/streaming will play in our industry going forward. 

Feb 17

28 min 50 sec

We join nationally-recognized arts administrator and writer Howard Sherman to discuss his new book, "Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century." Of course, being theater nerds we end up talking about all sorts of stuff. A must-listen for stage fans. 

Feb 2

40 min 28 sec

A chat with Christie Chiles Twillie, Composer/Sound Designer for 'The Niceties' at Forward Theater. We get to know this musical does-it-all, and gain some fascinating insight into her process of creating the themes for this intimate drama. 

Jan 14

22 min 30 sec

In the face of a painful year for artists and arts organizations, this episode celebrates the bright spots in 2020, focusing on reasons for optimism and the opportunities that lie ahead for all of us. 

Dec 2020

27 min 30 sec

Michael Cotey is one of Chicago's most innovative new directors, and we were excited to sit down to discuss his new project, #Enough: Plays to End Gun Violence. This virtual festival of plays was written by high schoolers, selected by some of America's best playwrights, and performed by professional actors.  

Dec 2020

36 min 8 sec

You asked, we listened. This episode digs into questions we've received from our listeners, and we had a blast talking about everything from comedy, casting, and the future of unions to what historic productions we would time-hop to see. 

Dec 2020

33 min 57 sec

On the date of this interview (10/28), Milwaukee Rep was one of the first companies in the US to create a health and safety program that would grant them the ability to perform for live audiences. However, due to increasing COVID cases in WI their production will now be digital only (announced 11/5). This interview highlights the planning process of a company working around the clock to create live theater in the midst of a pandemic. 

Nov 2020

33 min 50 sec

With the 2020 election just around the corner, this is the perfect time to dive into our favorite political plays, and the thought process behind producing them for the general public. 

Oct 2020

27 min 31 sec

We dish about plays that made it to the top of our wish lists, but that we never ended up producing. Learn about the myriad of reasons that prevent a show from reaching the stage, regardless of how passionately a theater may want to produce it. 

Oct 2020

31 min 8 sec

Interview with the artistic team that coordinated, rehearsed, and recorded a fully remote production of 'The Lifespan of a Fact.' We discuss the entire project, from storyboards and rehearsal logistics to home recording rigs for actors. Insight for any theater looking to produce during the pandemic. 

Sep 2020

37 min 56 sec

In honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we explore what's necessary to truly achieve gender parity in theater. Where has progress been robust, and where do we still have work to do? 

Sep 2020

32 min 48 sec

We sit down with DPT Artistic Director Courtney Burkett to discuss a company that has quickly become an artistic touchstone for Detroit artists and audiences. From commissioned plays headed to Broadway, to the inclusion of playwrights Dominique Morisseau and Noah Haidle in their Board of Directors, Detroit Public Theatre is making a splash for all the right reasons. 

Aug 2020

33 min 35 sec

We sit down with a group of artists immersed in all levels of theater education in quarantine, from teaching artists to college professors to a student entering their sophomore year at Juilliard.  A spectacular conversation about how the arts continues to adapt and educate, even in the confines of a pandemic.  Guests include: David Daniel, Education Director at American Players Theatre Marcy Kearns, Instructor at Carthage College and First Stage Milwaukee Chantae Miller, Actress and student at The Juilliard School

Aug 2020

31 min 36 sec

It's crunchtime for theaters that are surviving the pandemic. In this episode we discuss the myriad of questions that arts orgs try to answer as our collective season approaches. Creating safe rehearsal and performance spaces, presenting digital productions, and choosing appropriate (and budget-friendly) plays for 2021-22 are just a few of the pickles that theaters find themselves in.

Jul 2020

27 min 35 sec

We interview Michael Barakiva, Artistic Director of Hangar Theatre! Michael not only helped create an open dialogue among American theaters during the COVID-19 crisis, but he is also leading his Ithaca, NY company through a summer season of virtual productions. Get ready to take some notes, fellow producers. Check out their virtual summer season of plays and concerts: Hangar Theatre Company

Jul 2020

30 min 56 sec

In this episode, we take a break from our own voices and share an episode of a podcast that we love. 'Blacker the Berry' is produced by Di'Monte Henning and Lights! Camera! Soul! in Milwaukee, and features stories that celebrate and explore the Black experience. Highly recommended. Check it out HERE.

Jun 2020

35 min 3 sec

Preface: We recorded this episode prior to the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, and prior to the collective (and hopefully permanent) shift in focus within the American theater community. We assure you that future episodes will address this conversation.  The ethereal and impermanent nature of theater is, well, THE THING, right? It's why we love it, it's why we return to the experience every chance we get. In this episode, the team shares their favorite live theater experiences, from obscure storefronts to big-time Broadway blockbusters. 

Jun 2020

26 min 22 sec

Just kidding, we have no idea. But we break down the COVID-19 puzzle from a regional theater standpoint, share what we're seeing from other theaters in America, and dream of plays we hope we'll be reading (and producing) in 2021-22.   

May 2020

28 min 21 sec

In this episode, we celebrate the current online theater phenomenon and share our favorite arts-in-quarantine content, created by brilliant artists and organizations worldwide.  Quick links to the content we discuss in this episode: NY Times Sondheim Birthday Review Play at Home Geffen Playhouse "Stayhouse" Arizona Theatre Company Digital Backstage Milwaukee Rep at Home

May 2020

32 min 38 sec

In this episode, we sit down with Broadway dynamo and Tony Award winner Karen Olivo, who shares her experience during the initial COVID-19 crisis. We also discuss the pressure on artists to create during this time, and what this "intermission" may provide as they prep for their return to the stage.

Apr 2020

36 min 44 sec

In our first episode following the COVID-19 crisis, the team discusses our new normal, how other theaters are responding, and what the future might hold for the arts organizations worldwide. 

Mar 2020

33 min 24 sec

Mike Fischer sits down with 'The Amateurs' cast members Emily Glick and Matt Daniels to discuss their dual lives as educators and actors, and what role the arts can play when times get tough. 

Mar 2020

21 min 1 sec

In this episode, the team discusses the elusive nature of religion on American stages. Although there is no shortage of plays that represent faith in modern life, we dive into the issues that keep us from producing them. 

Mar 2020

23 min 18 sec

There are a lot of great new plays in theater right now that feature characters (and entire casts) that are younger or older than the average age of the casting pool. In this episode, the team discusses the exciting opportunities these plays provide and the challenge they present to producers.

Feb 2020

21 min 34 sec

In this episode, the team discusses the ways in which theaters collaborate to create and cultivate productions and projects. But this budget friendly practice is now bringing under-produced voices to larger audiences on bigger stages. 

Feb 2020

25 min 2 sec

We go behind the scenes of 'Every Brilliant Thing' at Forward Theater for an interview with actor David Daniel and Director Tyler Marchant. Get some insight into their rehearsal process, as well as the inspiration behind transforming our thrust stage into a theater-in-the-round for this unique production.

Jan 2020

27 min 24 sec

What's akin to "going to the gym" for theater makers? The team tries to answer that question with some theater resolutions in 2020. There are some doozies in here, from addressing cultural appropriation to deciding to read the entire canon of Caryl Churchill. 

Jan 2020

26 min 28 sec

In no other business is pro bono work so prevalent than the arts. The team puts this accepted (and many times expected) practice under the microscope and looks for ways to change how we value and compensate artists in America.

Jan 2020

22 min 20 sec

This holiday bonus may not be a swimming pool, but it's better than a jelly of the month membership. It's selections from our bi-annual monologue festival! Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, our 2019 monologue festival theme was Two Steps Forward, which encompassed a wide variety of perspectives on and interpretations of our state’s long progressive tradition.

Dec 2019

25 min 20 sec

Happy Holidays! In this episode, the team shares their favorite holiday gifts for the theater fans in their lives. From repurposed Broadway scenery to some brilliant book ideas, there are some real show-stoppers in here. It will be hard to remember this is the season of giving, not "getting for yourself."

Dec 2019

15 min 50 sec

In this episode, the team gets grateful for all things theater in 2019. We thank our favorite regional theaters and theater makers, give high fives to some great critics, and send a love letter to the current American theater scene. 

Nov 2019

21 min 39 sec