The Play Podcast is a podcast dedicated to exploring the greatest new and classic plays. In each episode we choose a single play to talk about in depth with our expert guest. We discuss the play’s origins, its themes, characters, structure and impact. For us the play is the thing.
Frank Wedekind’s dark, expressionist play Spring Awakening is a cautionary portrait of adolescent angst and rebellion against oppressive social strictures and family pressures. Its frank depiction of sex and violence remains shocking more than 130 years after it was written, and it is the unlikely source of the award-winning modern musical of the same name.
I’m delighted to be joined by Professor Karen Leeder to explore the contemporary controversies and enduring relevance of this extraordinary play.
Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible recreates the terror of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 when a religious hysteria gripped the Puritan community. Miller wrote the play in 1953, when America was going through a modern witch hunt prosecuting Communist sympathisers. The play is Miller’s most frequently produced, its portrait of personal betrayal and institutional tyranny being universally recognised in any time or society.
I’m delighted to welcome back to the podcast Miller expert, Dr Stephen Marino, to explore the origins and enduring relevance of Miller’s powerful, cautionary play.
Bertolt Brecht wrote The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1944 while in exile in the United States as a parable about the chaos and costs of war. After his return to East Germany in 1948 he updated the play to set it in the context of post-war Communism. His fable is both a theatrical fairy-tale and a political allegory.
I’m delighted to welcome the director of the first major London revival for 25 years, Christopher Haydon, artistic director of the Rose Theatre to discuss this challenging, complicated, compelling, even crazy play.
Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.
I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.
Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.
The Footnotes to our episode on Spring Awakening include observations on how Wedekind’s own life reflected events and values contained in the play; notes on how the first production was finally able to take place fifteen years after the play was written; and some of the parallels with Goethe’s Faust.
The Footnotes to our episode on The Crucible include some facts about the Salem Witch Trials and Miller’s invention; the meaning of the title of the play; and the instinct for self-preservation that drives many of the characters’ behaviour.
The Footnotes to our episode on Jerusalem include thoughts on the choice of Byron for Rooster’s surname, his retinue of Lost Boys, and the wonders of the stagecraft in the play and London production.
Your host …
I’m Douglas Schatz, founder and host of The Play Podcast.
I had the great privilege to work for a number of years as the Managing Director of Samuel French, the renowned play publishers and theatrical licensing agent. I was lucky enough to be able to read plays and go to the theatre, and call it work. One of the most rewarding parts of my job was the time spent talking in depth with writers, directors, agents, and colleagues about plays. We talked endlessly about plays.
The idea for The Play Podcast is to continue those conversations. To talk in depth about a play, more than you will find in the reviews of a single production. To look at the origins of the play, its plot, themes, characters, and structure. To consider it in the context of the playwright’s life and times, its place in the dramatic canon, and its current and enduring relevance.
Each episode focuses on a single play, or perhaps very occasionally two, to talk about for up to an hour with one or more of our expert guests. We will often choose a play that is live on stage somewhere in the UK, which gives us and listeners the added opportunity to see and review a current production. This is not a review show though, because we are interested in the play itself. We want you to enjoy listening whether or not you are able to see a particular production, and whenever you find us.
Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments on our conversations, and with suggestions about plays that you recommend that we could explore on the podcast.
You can email us at email@example.com
Suggest a play
We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).