Episode 034 – Off Off Topic – Sal Clemente & Stephen Talk Star Wars – SPOILERS!


URO_Sal_ClementeI get Off Off Topic with my buddy, Sal Clemente, and we talk some Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Sal and I are the same age, and we both saw the original back in 1977 at age 14.  (I said 15 in the interview, but I checked our birthdates, and we were 14 when it came out.)  I think it’s fair to say the new movie brought out nostalgic feelings from when we saw Star Wars in our youth.


For the first time this podcast is also a “vidcast.”  Here’s the video version:

Couple of things, I said in the podcast that the guy who did Avenue Q was supposed to have done the music for the Cantina Scene in the new Star Wars.  Got it wrong — it was Lin-Manuel Miranda writer of Hamilton and In the Heights who did that music.

We also talk about Sal’s band (which he began with Alan Ware) called Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra (www.URORocks.com). If you want to hear some awesome 70s covers and see  some great showmanship, go check out some of their videos on the website … or better yet … go see them in concert if you live in the Boston area!  They have a concert on January 31st at 9 PM at the Regent Theater in Arlington.

Episode 033 – Producer Director Actor Brad Coolidge – Part 2

Filmmaker Brad Coolidge likes hockey

Filmmaker Brad Coolidge likes hockey

Here is part 2 of my interview with Brad Coolidge.

If you’ve ever thought you might want to direct a film, this is a great interview for you because my buddy Brad talks honestly about some of the challenges he faced as a first time director shooting a “creature feature.”

Sometimes the elements don’t cooperate, or your creature gets held up in customs and arrives late, or you don’t have enough days on the schedule.   There are so many obstacles awaiting you when you make a film.

Brad and his wife, Melissa, along with their producing partner, Todd Labarowski, make beautiful indie movies as well.  We talked about these in detail in part 1 of the interview, but here are the links again to those great films: What Maisie Knew, Prince AvalancheJoe,  The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him AND Her, Manglehorn, and The World Made Straight.

Enjoy the interview.  Topics covered:

  • Back to our conversation in progress, El Chupacabra (1:25)
  • Setting the movie in Austin, paring down the budget, casting in NY, LA and locally (5:06)
  • Approaching go time, creature creation by Mario Torres, Jr. (7:22)
  • First day — driving scenes, Texas State University (9:50)
  • Relying on experienced crew, location scouting, spending a lot of time on the master (12:29)
  • Complication at the beginning of the first week (19:19)
  • Weather does not cooperate, steady cam (22:22)
  • Creature challenges, no time to rehearse (24:56)
  • Reworking, editing what’s in the can (33:00)
  • Inspiring the troupes, “Once more unto the breach!” (34:56)
  • A little about raising money (39:46)
  • Working on a script with Brad, Drilling Company connection (44:16)
  • Treating people well on a film set (46:37)

Episode 025 – Author Karen Moline – Part 1


karen_molineMy fun friend Karen Moline is a wonderful writer with a no shortage of great stories!  We we had such a long conversation (the time flew by) that I needed to break the interview up into 2 parts.  So here is part 1 today.  Come back next Friday for part 2.

One of the first things we talked about was her first novel, Lunch: A Novel of Erotic Obsession, and in the course of talking about that novel we explored a bit some of the ways writers go about getting ideas flowing and freeing themselves up to write.

She got a substantial advance for her second novel, Belladonna, (A Novel of Revenge) back in the days with publishing houses were able to do such things.  Please go to Karen’s website for more information at www.KarenMoline.com.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Hello Karen! (2:20)
  • How Lunch was born (3:10)
  • Stories of being an entertainment journalist; the shift from print interviews to Internet (9:11)
  • From the picture wall of fame – Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, and the set of Harry Potter (17:20)
  • Funny story about John Malkovich (24:36)
  • Discussion about how art is created… or at least how Karen goes about it (26:36)
  • Belladonna, (A Novel of Revenge) (30:50)
  • Advantages of writing with pen and ink (32:12)
  • How ideas for Belladonna came about (35:39)
  • Dreams for inspiration, the fun of research, take a trip to the library! (39:21)
  • What Karen learned at the University of Chicago (44:24)
  • Back to Belladonna, traveling to a location for research (49:05)
  • Writing something that makes you squirm a bit… like an orgy scene! (53:00)
  • Most satisfying financial moment (58:18)
  • How celebrities can change over time… Justin Bieber (1:00:18)
  • Taking criticism (1:05:18)
  • Fiction is to transport you out of your head… we’re all Elizabeth Bennett… and the A&E version is the best btw (1:08:46)
  • A great interview with Mel Gibson with the benefit of a secret (1:15:48)

Tennessee_Mountain_RetreatFinally, I’m moving soon from staying with my folks in East Tennessee to Austin.  My parents are selling their beautiful home.  Take a look at this cool website I made for them, www.TennesseeMountainRetreat.com.

Episode 020 – Holly Williams – Repertory Actor at Barter Theatre


Stephen Bittrich and Holly Williams at Barter Theatre

Holly Williams is a repertory actor at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.  I really wanted to see something at The Barter while I was still in this area (East Tennessee), and I approached her about doing an interview, and she could not have been nicer.  She got me into 2 shows, we had a terrific interview about the busy (and artistically fulfilling) life of the rep actor, and I got the super deluxe tour of the facility.

I was so impressed with the well-oiled machine at the Barter.  They were switching out the set for the evening show when we were talking in the dressing room.  They also have 2 shows going on in the Stage II space (their smaller space), and they are simultaneously rehearsing for the next shows which will go up.  The scheduling people must be geniuses!  Right now at the Barter you could see 4 different shows… Man of LaMancha, I Do I Do I Do, Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell, and The Dryad: An Appalachian Tale.  Something for everyone!

And Holly was terrific.  She had a lead role in I Do I Do I Do and a supporting role in Man of LaMancha.  And she’s also in the midst of rehearsing for her next cool role as Rita in Educating Rita.  Go check out The Barter if you’re in the area!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Not Hank Williams Granddaughter (4:30)
  • Can you actually barter to get admission to the theatre?  (8:25)
  • The shows I saw, Holly’s busy schedule, life of a repertory actor (10:15)
  • Holly’s good luck charm, writing a lyric on her fingers (17:15)
  • How Holly got the gig with The Barter (19:30)
  • Versatility required, non-traditional casting (23:40)
  • How Holly got the acting, storytelling bug (25:38)
  • Wall of fame … Barter Alumni (37:32)
  • More about The Barter administrative and creative staff (38:37)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (47:25)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 019 – Corybungus – Off Off Radio Theater


corybungus_posterWelcome to Off Off Radio Theater with the short play Corybungus written by Stephen Bittrich.

Hijinks ensue when a bookshop customer tries to return a defective “OED” (Oxford English Dictionary) because it’s missing words.  This fast moving skit is a nod to the works of Monty Python.

The Returns Man is played by Steve Sherman.

Mr. Weiner, the Customer, is played by Stephen Bittrich.

An interview with Steve Sherman coming soon in a future Off Off Pod episode!

Corybungus was originally performed by The Drilling Company in an evening of New York themed one-acts by Stephen Bittrich called Big Apples.


Episode 018 – Stephen Rosenfield of American Comedy Institute


stephen_rosenfield1Stephen Rosenfield and I had a great conversation about comedy, how one can learn the craft, how comedians prepare and how he got his start.

Stephen is the director and founder of the American Comedy Institute where folks with the comedy bug can receive great training either by way of their monthly comedy classes or in their year long program.

I happen to know Stephen from working on the website for the school.  It’s a great resource if you’d like to know more about how you can join in!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • How we met through Ted Greenberg and The Complete Performer (2:13)
  • How it all began, working on the writing (4:58)
  • Growing up and being funny and the need to express yourself (7:39)
  • Being well rounded as a comedian, Louie CK (10:11)
  • Taking note of subjects and attitudes that are working (15:50)
  • Comedians that have reinvented their persona (19:48)
  • Comedians who seem to be making it up on the fly have worked hard to prepare  (22:03)
  • Stephen’s role as teacher, how to create a hyphenated career (25:50)
  • The One Year Program at American Comedy Institute (27:06)
  • Doing “bringer shows” (bringing in an audience to the clubs) and when comedy was “rock and roll” (32:45)
  • How to build and audience as a performer (39:15)
  • Keeping warm after bombing  (42:07)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 017 – Victoria Campbell – Adventurer Filmmaker and Actor


Victoria_CampbellI’ve decided Victoria is amazing and fearless.  And I don’t know if she’d define herself as an “Adventurer” but after talking to her I felt like that word needed to be in the title of her interview!

We got to know each other when she was in a production of my play, Home of the Great Pecan at The Drilling Company, and over the years I’ve seen two of her films, House of Bones (about her lovable, eccentric family and childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard — not to be confused with a horror film of the same name!) and The Hunt for Good Americans where she and a friend traveled across this great country finding and filming all sorts of cool characters.   [I’ll put up links to see these films as they become available.]

I had heard a few stories about her most current project where she daringly finagled her way into Haiti 7 days after the earthquake of 2010.  I knew there would be some amazing tales about that journey, and, boy, I was not disappointed.  You must listen!

By the way, the Haiti documentary, Monsieur le Président, is playing TOMORROW as part of The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at 10 am at the Chilmark School. Check out this great article from the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Victoria; growing up in Martha’s Vineyard in an artsy family (3:12)
  • Film: House of Bones  (10:39)
  • Film: The Hunt for Good Americans (18:55)
  • Back road hookers in Ely, Nevada, Crow Reservation in Montana  (21:06)
  • Blues man, Razorblade, in Clarksdale, Mississippi (27:22)
  • Film: Monsieur le Président; the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 (32:29)
  • The aftershock 6.2; drafted as a “nurse”  (36:22)
  • The Voodoo Priest, Gaston (41:50)
  • Ukrainian transgender in Canarsie, NY (52:11)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (53:17)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 016 – Jeremiah James Is Playing El Gallo in The Fantasticks


Jeremiah_James_3Jeremiah James kindly invited me to see him as El Gallo in The Fantasticks which is playing Off Broadway on 50th Street in the Jerry Orbach Theater (Snapple Theater Center).

I met Jeremiah through my writer friend, Karen Moline.  I asked her if there was anybody she knew who I had to talk to while in NYC, and she hooked me up with Jeremiah who could not have been nicer.

He was really great in the role of El Gallo — great voice, a lot of humor, very graceful and dynamic on stage.  In fact, go right now and listen to him sing!  (And then come back here and listen to the interview.)  www.JeremiahJames.net.

Jeremiah has done a lot of cool things so far in his career, including being a part of a very popular international touring group called Teatro, playing Billy Bigelow in a major West End revival of Carousel, originating the role of Willoughby in the new Sense and Sensibility musical at the Denver Theatre Center, and charitably helping sick kids in Zimbabwe.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Jeremiah (4:12)
  • New Business Model for Theaters, Theater as a Community Meeting Place  (6:27)
  • Growing up in LA , how theatre sunk in  (16:26)
  • Jeremiah’s sister tricks him into doing a musical  (18:15)
  • Training and first professional gig (23:31)
  • International sensation, Teatro, is formed (25:47)
  • Meeting the Queen of England, Musical Theater Groupies  (28:18)
  • Carousel as Billy Bigelow  (31:03)
  • Working on very first solo record (36:38)
  • Sense and Sensibility Musical at the Denver Theatre Center directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge  (38:52)
  • Jeremiah as El Gallo in The Fantasticks  (45:20)
  • Helping children in Zimbabwe, Kidzcan (47:04)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (55:34)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 015 – Dan Wackerman of The Peccadillo Theater Company


dan_wackermanThe Peccadillo Theater Company is the resident company of Theatre at St. Clements, a beautiful 160 seat space on 46th Street in the heart of Manhattan.  I interviewed Artistic Director, Dan Wackerman, and we talked about their mission to bring classic American theater from the Golden Age of theater, the era of the “well-made play” to the stage.

There are economic challenges involved in bringing period plays with exceptionally large casts to the stage.  (Most modern plays are written with 6 or fewer characters; playwrights like myself know that if you can tell a great story with fewer actors, your chances of getting the play done regionally are better.  This is not necessarily the case for schools and universities where those institutions are interested in giving a lot of  students the opportunity to perform.)

I loved Dan’s quote about how the church half of this organization views theater as a “kind of sacrament.”  Loved that.  (6:05)

Enjoy my talk with Dan, and for more information about this great company, go to the website:  www.thepeccadillo.com.  (Designed and maintained by yours truly.)

If you you would like to see the reading of Clifford Odets’ Rocket to the Moon mentioned at the end of the interview, go here for tickets.  And please keep you eye on the website for William Inge’s A Loss of Roses. Previews begin May 7th, 2014.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Colder winters in New York (2:20)
  • History of Theater at St. Clements and its place in the Off Off Broadway movement (3:08)
  • How Dan got the theater bug (7:26)
  • The Golden Age of American Theater – “era of the well-made play” (10:48)
  • 20 years ago — the first play — O’Neill’s Strange Interlude (12:15)
  • The Silver Cord by Sidney Howard is revisted (14:10)
  • How Dan finds these plays, American gems (15:26)
  • Counsellor at Law, the challenge of working with period plays, large casts (19:07)
  • Another Part of the Forest by Lillian Hellman (20:47)
  • What’s the purpose of theater? (23:53)
  • What’s the job of the director?  Casting is 75% of the job. (27:10)
  • Some new plays in the classic style, opening up the mission (32:53)
  • The future, A Loss of Roses by William Inge (34:44)
  • Auditions from the other side of the table (35:51)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 014 – Hamilton Clancy of The Drilling Company – part 2


DrillingCompanyInterviewClancy2In the second part of the Hamilton Clancy interview we visit stories about the Theater Ghost, a horrible audition story, how Drilling Company helped to raise money for the kids at PS87, and actors teaching Sunday school.

Don’t forget that Drilling Company is now running The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson and directed by Elowyn Castle with the following cast:  Hamilton Clancy, Veronica Cruz, Karla Hendricks, and Dan Teachout. The stage manager is Mary Linehan, and the house manager is Milena Davila. Go to the website for more info:  www.drillingcompany.org.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • The Drilling Company Theater Ghost as told by Dan Teachout (5:19)
  • History of space – Mark Zeller (10:03)
  • The new one-act read-aloud, Stephen plays a trick (12:25)
  • The Drilling Company starts producing full-length plays (15:25)
  • The haunted house at PS87, Zombie Labs (16:58)
  • The Discovery Series for developing new plays (19:15)
  • In Memoriam: Edwin Owens and Richard Harden (21:58)
  • Actors teaching Sunday school (25:24)
  • Now playing over 100 performances, The Norwegians (32:08)
  • Hamilton’s bad audition story, the toy fair (35:24)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.