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.

Bonus – Episode 107 of Off Off Webseries

As some of you may know, I have a webseries that I do with my talented friends called Off Off about several guys in their late 40s/early 50s trying to keep an Off Off Broadway theatre alive.   This is an episode that was actually shot a while ago, but for various reasons didn’t get released until today!

Synopsis: With the looming threat of the theater space being either torn down or turned into office space, Carlton, Blake and Johnny meet up with Georgina,the owner of the building (who also happens to live in the apartment over head), to try and work out a deal to extend the life of the theater.

Guest starring:
Joan Barber
Pëtra Denison
Lexie the Dog

Series regulars:
Stephen Bittrich as Blake, the playwright
David Marantz as Carlton (aka Jim), the artistic director
Dan Teachout as Hank, the jack of all trades
Robert Arthur Wilson as Johnny, the actor
Dennis Gagamiros as Derrick, the costume designer
Lisa Peart as Sammie, the stage manager
Kendall Rileigh as Bethany, the intern

Series DP:
John Painz


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 022 – Marc Palmieri – Actor, Writer, Webseries Creator


Marc_Palmieri_The_ThingMarc Palmieri is a very smart and entertaining guy, an actor, writer, teacher, and dad. He tells some great stories about getting a screenplay of his made, some of his first survival jobs, his awesome webseries (The Thing), but the most touching part of the interview well may be when he tells the charming story of how he met his wife.

He and I met when a friend of mine was in a play which he was also in, and we all went out afterwards to a bar.  I instantly liked him because he was just fun to be around, but over the years since, I’ve been consistently impressed with the depth of his talent not just as an actor but also as a writer.

In the interview we mentioned the awesome set for his play, Levittown, as designed by Michele Spadaro.  Here’s a picture of that set and a link to that feature in the NY Times.


Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Marc! (3:51)
  • First survival jobs – as a Macy’s “model” and receptionist  (5:10)
  • Growing up, connection to New York, theater roots  (12:00)
  • Artsy fartsy literary Shakespeare guy (15:26)
  • The Thing Webseries  (19:07)
  • Playing the lead in the movie, Too Much Sleep (22:25)
  • Writing the screenplay Telling You, the scoop (25:45)
  • How Marc met his wife – great story! (32:21)
  • Exploring question – is art still important if fewer people see it?  (44:01)
  • Levittown production (and talk about that great set) (47:13)
  • Contacting playwriting hero, Christopher Durang  (1:01:37)
  • Talking about memorable moments of the webseries (1:03:28)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (1:14:16)

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 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 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 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.

Episode 013 – Hamilton Clancy of The Drilling Company – part 1


Stephen Bittrich & Hamilton Clancy on stage of The Drilling Company Theater

In 2000 I was introduced to a theatre company called The Drilling Company which at that time produced new one-acts in themed evenings.  They’ve since branched out into full-lengths, play development and even Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on the Lower East Side.

I can’t think of many plays I’ve written in the past 14 years which have not been in some way inspired or nurtured by The Drilling Company, which is helmed by my friend, Artistic Director, Hamilton Clancy.

In part 1 of this two part interview, Hamilton and I talk about the history of the company as they begin their 16th season.

Don’t forget that Drilling Company is now running The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson.  Go to the website for more info:  www.drillingcompany.org.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Welcome Hamilton and audience  (1:49)
  • How the company began, and the first show (7:00)
  • Second show Neighbors and how I met Drilling Company (12:59)
  • Company member Scott Baker’s Kringled (15:15)
  • The one-act evenings and the themes (18:58)
  • The Drilling Company Theater space on 78th Street (22:12)
  • Why is the company called The Drilling Company (25:08)
  • Political theatre, George Bush years (27:53)
  • A man of many hats, including writer (31:27)
  • Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, crap on the moon (37:33)
  • Dave Marantz’s story about the sword/knife fight in the parking lot (45:53)
  • In the Car stories, the birth of the read-aloud (49:48)

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

Episode 012 – Gioia De Cari of Truth Values




Photo by John Olson

My friend Gioia De Cari created a very successful one-woman show called Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze which has had 95 performances in 45 theaters in 17 states with over 17,000 audience members.

In this interview we talk about the development of her show as well as her background as a mathematician at M.I.T.  The show has create a serious discussion about women in STEM fields.  The writing of the show was in part spurred on by a quote from the former president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers who infamously (and publicly) suggested that the reason women weren’t more represented in STEM fields was because of innate gender differences.

[Please note: Gioia wrote me in horror after the interview realizing that she had had a brain fizz and said “Bill Clinton” when she meant “Barack Obama” at the 9:20 mark of the interview.]

If you’ve ever wanted to write and perform your own one person show, certainly Gioia may be held up as a model of success.  Or if you’re interested in the topic of gender inequality in education, you’ll enjoy her point of view!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Introduction.  Welcome to New York!  (0:00)
  • Hello Gioia De Cari.  The acting impulse.  MIT. (2:52)
  • The beginning of her one-woman show, Truth Values (7:15)
  • Tips from Wynn Handman about writing a one person show (11:43)
  • Gioia trying to fit in at MIT (14:49)
  • How she started booking the show into theatres around US (20:43)
  • How she figured out the business end of touring (24:30)
  • Political writing, can art change people or policy? (31:31)
  • Stephen didn’t realize he was sexually harrassed in the workplace (34:39)
  • Writing again after a hit (39:37)
  • Gioia’s most horrible or bizarre or interesting audition experience (46:15)
  • Go eat at Chirping Chicken at 77th and Amsterdam! (51:44)

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