Welcome to the home page for the Theatre History Podcast! You can find information about the show, as well as a list of every one of the episodes we’ve produced so far. Visit our blog for a look behind the scenes at what’s going on with the podcast, as well as occasional essays on theatre history.

Episode 97: Discovering Kunqu with Dr. Dongshin Chang

Kunqu is one of the cultural treasures of Chinese theatre. Today we’re fortunate to be joined by Dr. Dongshin Chang, an expert on the art form. Dongshin will introduce us to the fascinating and musical world of kunqu.


Episode 96: The End of Her Own Rainbow: Dr. Kim F. Hall Introduces Us to the Life and Work of Ntozake Shange

The recent Tony-nominated Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf reflects a growing appreciation for a Black writer whose work gives voice to those who have been oppressed and marginalized because of their race and gender. But who was Shange, and what more do her theatrical works have to say to us today? Dr. Kim F. Hall of Barnard College joins us to explore Shange’s life and work.



Episode 95 – Going Beyond Shakespeare with Rob Crighton

Shakespeare looms large over both the American and British theatre scenes. But his outsize influence means that we’ve long neglected a dizzying array of fascinating and brilliant theatre written by other early modern England dramatists. Rob Crighton and the Beyond Shakespeare Company are working to remedy this, and Rob joins us for this episode to discuss how they’re trying to expand our awareness of the theatre of this era.



Episode 94: A Theatre for the Oppressed? Dr. Amy Richlin on Slavery and Plautus

The ancient Roman comedies of Plautus have inspired playwrights from Shakespeare to Sondheim. But they’ve also been seen as grim reminders of the oftentimes horrifying world of ancient Rome, where violence and slavery were commonplace. Dr. Amy Richlin joins us to talk about her book Slave Theater in the Roman Republic, which explores how Plautus’s plays gave voice to enslaved persons during this era.



Episode 93: Brava! American Women Make Theater, with Dr. Melissa Barton

The roles played by women in theatre in the United States have been varied, from playwrights and performers to critics and members of the audience. Now the Beinecke Library at Yale University is sharing some of the stories of these women in an exhibit called Brava! Women Make American Theater, which runs through July 3, 2022. Today we’re joined by Dr. Melissa Barton. She’s the Curator of Drama and Prose at the Yale Collection of American Literature, as well as one of the lead creators of the exhibit.



Episode 92: Lady Romeo: Learning About 19th-Century Actress Charlotte Cushman with Tana Wojczuk

Charlotte Cushman was a fascinating figure in 19th-century American theatre: in addition to being the first female celebrity actress on the American stage, she was also a trailblazer who embraced her identity as a lesbian and made a name for herself in a male-dominated industry. Tana Wojczuk joins us to talk about Cushman, who’s the subject of her new biography, Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity.



Episode 91: Passing into History: Dr. Megan Sanborn Jones on Pageants and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Performance has always been a key part of the spiritual life of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One of the most notable Mormon theatrical events of the last few decades have been the pageants that depict stories from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. However, as Dr. Megan Sanborn Jones discusses in this 2018 interview, the era of pageants may be coming to an end. Even before the covid-19 pandemic made it impossible to safely perform live theatre, Church leadership had decided that the pageants didn’t fit well into its vision for the future of the faith. Dr. Jones joins us to discuss the past, present, and possible future of these unique performances.



Episode 90:  Reappraising the Legacy of Ernie McClintock with Dr. Ibby Cizmar

Developing approaches to theatre that fit the needs and experiences of performers of color, particularly Black artists, has long been a pressing concern for the American stage. Actor training has been dominated by Eurocentric approaches based on theorists such as Stanislavsky, which are geared towards a repertoire that’s heavy with White authors such as Shakespeare and Ibsen.

In the 20th century, the Black Arts Movement challenged these prevailing influences, offering work that spoke to Black experiences in the United States and developing new approaches to producing the movement’s plays. However, one of its most important figures, Ernie McClintock, has been underappreciated in histories of the movement. Dr. Ibby Cizmar has been working to reappraise McClintock’s career and situate him within the larger Black Arts Movement, and she joins us in this episode to discuss his life and work.



Episode 89: The History of Method Acting with Isaac Butler

Every year, the run-up to an event like the Oscars or the Tonys causes us to get into arguments about which actor deserves a prize for the best performance in their category, and in these discussions you’ll often hear the word “Method” thrown around a bunch, usually as an adjective to describe an especially intense performance where the actor totally immersed themselves in the role. But what is “Method acting,” exactly, and where did it come from? Those are some of the questions that drive Isaac Butler’s new book, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act.


  • For more information on Isaac’s book, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act, check out its Bloomsbury website
    • You can order The Method and other books featured on the podcast on our bookshop.org storefront
  • Follow Isaac on Twitter


Episode 88: Learning About the History – and Future – of Stand-up Comedy with Dr. Rachel Blackburn

Stand-up comedy has long been associated with White men. But, as Dr. Rachel Blackburn explains in this episode, there’s a long history of women of color performing stand-up. Today, BIPOC comedians are challenging boundaries and raising new issues in ways that are changing the nature of live comedy.




Episode 87: Hearing the Voices of Women in Yiddish Theatre with Dr. Alyssa Quint and Amanda Miryem-Khaye Seigel


The Yiddish theatre has a long and rich history. But all too often that history focuses on the prominent men who found success on the stage. Now two scholars of Yiddish theatre have launched a new project to correct that historiographical imbalance. It’s called “Women on the Yiddish Stage: Primary Sources,” and it’s part of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project, which chronicles the history of the Yiddish stage. Amanda Seigel and Dr. Alyssa Quint join us to share their work on the project and give us some glimpses into the lives of the underappreciated women who made the Yiddish theatre so vital.




Episode 86 – Episode 86: Introducing the University of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Archive With Dr. Sandra Shannon and Bill Daw


Playwright August Wilson’s legacy has loomed ever larger over American theatre in the years since his death in 2005. In 2020, the University of Pittsburgh announced that it had acquired his archive and would make it accessible to the public. We’re joined by Dr. Sandra Shannon and Bil Daw to discuss the new archive and how Wilson continues to influence us today



Episode 85 – Reading the Manuscripts of the Negro Units of the Federal Theatre Project with Dr. Kate Dossett

The so-called “Negro Units” of the Federal Theatre Project are often remembered for productions involving White artists such as Orson Welles. But, as Dr. Kate Dossett reveals in her book “Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal,” the story of Black artists and audiences in the FTP was a much more complicated one, in which Black actors and writers fought to ensure that they could tell their own stories.




Episode 84: Imagining a New Federal Theatre Project with Corinna Schulenburg and Dr. Elizabeth A. Osborne

The devastation wrought by the covid-19 pandemic has left us all questioning what we should be working towards as we pick up the pieces and try to build a theatre that reflects our changed world, One possible model comes from the past: the Federal Theatre Project, which for a few years in the 1930s offered a national theatre that brought performances to every corner of the country. How might we revive some of the spirit and substance of that project? To answer that question, we’re joined by Dr. Elizabeth A. Osborne of Florida State University and Corinna Schulenburg,, director of communications at the Theatre Communications Group.


  • This piece was originally published on HowlRound Theatre Commons on November 24, 2021. You can find a link to the original story here, along with a transcript of the conversation.


Episode 83: Transcribing the Federal Theatre Project with Morgen Stevens-Garmon

The Federal Theatre Project was a landmark of American theatre history whose influence has far outlived its brief existence in the 1930s. There’s probably no bigger trove of information about and material pertaining to the FTP than at the Library of Congress, which holds thousands of the programs and fliers printed to accompany its theatrical productions. Archivist Morgen Stevens-Garmon joins us to talk about an exciting new project that will let you read and transcribe them.




Episode 82: Where the Courtroom Meets the Stage: Dr. Luke McDonagh on Copyright and Drama

The connection between theatre and the law is a deep one that goes back thousands of years. Dr. Luke McDonagh has been tracing this connection in the context of British authors such as Shakespeare, and his new book Performing Copyright: Law, Theatre and Authorship looks at how copyright law affects dramatic works in the United Kingdom.


Episode 81: “Simultaneously Unhinged and Fantastical in Every Possible Way”: Margaret Hall Introduces Us to the History of Theatrical Merchandise

If you’ve been to a Broadway show, you’ve probably seen the merchandise booth. You may even have bought a t-shirt, or a magnet for your fridge. But where did the Broadway merchandise industry come from? Margaret Hall joins us to talk about her recent Theatermania articles chronicling the rise and development of this unique theatrical industry.



Episode 80: Rediscovering Lost Plays with Dr. David McInnis

Over half of the plays produced during Shakespeare’s time have since been lost. What can we learn from the little evidence that remains of these plays? Dr. David McInnis joins us to talk about his book Shakespeare and Lost Plays in our latest episode.


  • Learn more about David’s book, and be sure to check out our storefront on bookshop.org to find all the books featured on episodes of the podcast.
  • Explore the Lost Plays Database to learn about individual examples of lost plays from this time period.


Episode 79: Exploring Nuyorican Feminist Performance with Dr. Patricia Herrera


There are many theatrical movements and institutions that have been marginalized in histories of the American theatre. But there are also individuals and groups who are further marginalized within those movements, such as the role played by women in the development of Nuyorican performance. Dr. Patricia Herrera joins us to talk about these women and her book, Nuyorican Feminist Performance: From the Cafe to Hip Hop Theater.




Episode 78: Peter Schmitz’s Adventures in Theater History


How do we recover and retell the stories of theatrical performance from ages past? That’s a question that Peter Schmitz is exploring with his podcast Adventures in Theater History: Philadelphia, which delves into the theatrical past of one of America’s most important centers of performance. 



Episode 77: Exploring the Imitations of Gertrude Hoffmann with Dr. Sunny Stalter-Pace

We tend to think of originality as a positive attribute, something that makes art and artists stand out, while “imitation” is almost a dirty word. But as Sunny Stalter-Pace’s new biography of Gertrude Hoffmann shows us, imitation can often be its own sort of artistic accomplishment. Hoffmann was a successful dancer and performer who imitated important modernist acts like the Ballets Russes. Sunny joined us to talk about her book, Imitation Artist: Gertrude Hoffmann’s Life in Vaudeville and Dance.




Episode 76: Voyage to the Planet of the Grapes with Peter Michael Marino

How do you create theatre in the midst of a global pandemic? Pete Marino discovered one answer to that question when he began looking into the Victorian-era tradition of toy theatre, which allowed 19th-century drama fans to bring their favorite plays into their homes. He fused that with one of his favorite classic sci-fi films to create Planet of the Grapes, a toy theatre reimagining of Planet of the Apes.


Episode 75: Our Town in the 21st Century: Howard Sherman’s Another Day’s Begun

Our Town is one of the classics of the American stage, but how well do we really know this play? Howard Sherman joins us to discuss his new book, Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century, in which he speaks with people who have been part of productions of the play in the last few decades. Many of them have gained surprising new insights into this supposedly all-too-familiar play.


Episode 74: Discovering Teresa Deevy with Drs. Una Kealy and Kate McCarthy

Teresa Deevy was one of Ireland’s most frequently-produced playwrights in the 1930s. As a Deaf woman in a deeply patriarchal society that was trying to assert its identity in the wake of independence, she brought a unique perspective to Irish theatre. But she’s been relatively neglected by later generations of scholars and artists. Among the people who are working to change that are Dr. Kate McCarthy and Dr. Una Kealy, who join us to share fascinating insights into Deevy’s life and work.


Episode 73: Exploring the Theatre 2020 Collection with Dr. Eric Colleary

How was theatre in the United States affected by the events of 2020? At the same time that the covid-19 pandemic closed down live performances and threw the entire economy of the performing arts into chaos, the theatre world found itself trying to respond to protests against racial injustice. Dr. Eric Colleary, along with his colleagues at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, is leading an effort to document this tumultuous year through the Theatre 2020 Collection.