1K Playwriting with Ken Ludwig

Ken Ludwig is a Tony Award-winning playwright whose 25 plays and musicals have spawned six Broadway productions and seven in London’s West End. His first trip to Broadway materialized when an English director friend passed along the play that would become Lend Me a Tenor to a “producer friend” you might have heard of: Andrew Lloyd Webber. He loved the play, and six months later, it opened in the West End. Not long after that, Tenor hopped across the pond to Broadway.

Referred to as “America’s preeminent comic playwright,” he’s received acclaim for his original works (Lend Me a Tenor, Leading Ladies) as well as his adaptations of literary classics like Treasure Island and The Three Musketeers.

For a man of his talent, he’s exceedingly humble and not sensitive about his writing. In this podcast, he discusses his recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, which found him taking notes from the Queen of Mystery’s grandson, “How would legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot deliver this line?”
More highlights from Ludwig include the joy when great actors breathe life into his words, the seemingly daunting task of teaching children Shakespeare, how writing plays longhand gives a better connection to the material, and, as an author who’s penned stories about both Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, he gives his own take on who is the better detective.

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1K Improv Comedy with Charna Halpern

Charna Halpern has spent her life helping others, especially those without a Y chromosome. Her career began as teacher in a school for juvenile delinquent girls. That all changed one night in Dixon—an Illinois town of less than 25,000—more than 100 miles west of her hometown Chicago.

In this podcast, Charna shares that story and how it led her from one classroom into a completely different one: teaching improv and shaping comedy history. Her students have included Chris Farley, Steve Carrell, Mike Myers, Adam McKay and Jason Sudeikis. But in a male-dominated industry, Charna has never forgotten her girls. In the mid-90s, she noticed two talented young women taking improv classes on different days. One was from Philadelphia, the other Boston. Charna asked them to start learning together because she believed they would not only hold their own, they might show up some of their misogynistic fellow prodigies. It worked…and still does 25 years later.

Other podcast highlights include Charna explaining the revolutionary idea of long format improv, working with Lorne Michaels, and convincing a young woman in her box office to step out and audition for Saturday Night Live. The woman reluctantly agreed and today is a comedic fixture on the show.

Finally, any real talk with a Chicago native has to address pizza. Charna cites her favorites in the podcast, including Pizzeria Uno (River North).

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1K Acting for TV, Film and Stage with Brian Lafontaine

Brian Lafontaine is a talented actor of film, television, stage and voice-over. This makes him a rarity in our modern world in that his vocation and passion align. It’s important that they do because it is the joy of acting that helps Brian get through the hard parts: the incredible amount of time it takes to memorize scripts…the fruitless auditions. Muhammad Ali’s quote rings true, There’s nothing wrong with getting knocked down, as long as you get right back up.

Brian’s advice for aspiring actors begins with a question: Why do you want to act? This fundamental ask often generates the response, Because I want to be famous. That answer is problematic. Acting is not about individual advancement. It is working as a collective in a quest to create the best possible outcome. In the few times I have had the pleasure to work with Brian, he has always been excited about the possibilities of the next take.

AND…

In this podcast our conversation takes a completely unexpected and humorous turn that earns us our first explicit rating. A little backstory on the exchange. I had no idea. None! I don’t write this to absolve myself but to share what happened in studio. If you listen closely, when I start to pose the question that takes us down the naughty path, Brian laughs immediately. His laugh is so early I thought it had to be about something else. I turned to producer Jordan Snyder and watched Jordan’s confused look turn into a smile as Brian began to reveal the story.

Finally, the IMDB game we discuss is a wonderful way to spend a lot of time being completely unproductive. Was that a young Jake Gyllenhaal in Homicide? Equally important, how do you spell Gyllenhaal? The podcast mentions 1970s game show maven Elaine Joyce. I stumbled across her name and credits in my fourth hour of exploring Match Game ’75. After we recorded the podcast, further Elaine Joyce research revealed that for the past 20 years she has been married to legendary playwright Neil Simon.

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