Have you ever met a stranger and knew, almost immediately, that they'll be a part of your life for a long (lost) time? Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor first met when they were young, collegiate actors in an absurdist play. Now, professional performers, directors and writers, they're slightly older, but their work is no less absurd. Get to know these two co-writers, co-directors and performers before catching them (and third member of the company, Teddy Spencer) in William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)!
Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin
1. What's the one Shakespearean character you'd want to play?
: I play Falstaff briefly in William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)
, but I'd love to play him for real in either parts of Henry IV
or The Merry Wives of Windsor
: Scar from The Lion King
. That counts right? It's based on Hamlet
2. Tell us how you first met (abridged)!
Austin and I met as students in the Drama Department at the University of California at Berkeley around 1981. We performed in a couple of shows together and stayed in touch over the years.
I think our first meeting was in a very absurd college production of Ionesco's Jack, or The Submission
around 1981. My dad's question after the performance was, "Now why would you want to be in something like that?"
I joined the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1989 and when there was a cast opening in 1992, I suggested that we ask Austin to join the company.
Austin Tichenor as Falstaff
3. How do you create work together? Do you live near each other?
We both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and were in the University of California at Berkeley's drama department together. While Reed still lives there, I live in Chicago, but I still visit my family out there.
We spend a fair amount of time together on the road. We're in contact almost every day via email, phone, FaceTime or Skype. When we're creating a new show we spend a lot of time trying to settle on the subject matter. It needs to be something that we are both interested in and passionate about. The subject also needs to appeal to all the places to which we tour, both in the USA and around the world.
We outline the show together and then write the scenes separately. We come together to read the new material, usually when we're on tour together. Then, we sometimes rewrite our own material and other times we rewrite each other's material. After about nine months and many drafts we have a version of the script that we bring into rehearsals. We rehearse for about six weeks, making changes and doing rewrites every day. And then we put it on its feet in front of an audience. The audience is like another collaborator. We listen to how the audience responds and make changes accordingly.
4. Describe what it's like to juggle so many characters. Do you ever wish you could trade with each other?
When we start to rehearse a new show sometimes the characters aren't very distinct, but over the rehearsal period they become clear. The toughest thing is all the quick costumes changes. There's a fascinating, fully-choreographed show backstage involving props and costume changes that the audience never sees.
Part of the fun is the juggling! Making each character distinct and funny is a great challenge and one of the reasons I wanted to be an actor.
I wouldn't want to trade parts with Austin. He has to play the ukulele onstage every show and I know how tough that is. I have played the accordion in a number of Reduced Shakespeare Company shows. If you stumble over a line you can usually cover it, but everybody can hear when you play a sour note.
Reed Martin as Puck
I usually don't want to play Reed's roles because he's very physical and I'm very lazy. But we both play Falstaff in this production—audiences can decide #WhoWoreItBetter.
5. What is the strangest space you've performed in?
One time we performed an excerpt from our Complete History of America (abridged)
at The White House on the Fourth of July. It was surreal and awesome.
I played the Prince of Aragon in a production of The Merchant of Venice
in a bar in Chicago. The audience had been drinking, so they heckled me. I had to change my lines to deal with them and they all applauded me on my exit. It was fantastic.
6. You've been at The New Victory a few times now, what makes you excited about this particular go-around?
It's always exciting to be back at the New Vic! The history of the building is so amazing, it's a privilege to be speaking Shakespeare's words—even his long lost first words—on this stage!
This is our third time at the New Vic and we love it! The reaction to William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)
around the world has been spectacular and we can't wait to share it with the audiences at the New Vic. The show is a love letter to Shakespeare, to theater and to first plays by all young playwrights.
Photos: Teresa Wood
||That's right, the "Bad Boys of Abridgement" are back! Uproarious and rapid-fire, the Reduced Shakespeare Company makes sharp, short comedy in their latest sendup, spinning the Bard's 39 plays into a fast, funny and fictional 40th. Get your tickets today!