Three on the Aisle: The Acting Company You Keep

The critics discuss the pros and cons of keeping resident acting companies, and talk to the most-produced playwright in America: Lauren Gunderson.

In Three on the Aisle, a podcast from New York about theatre in America, drama critics Peter Marks (The Washington Post), Terry Teachout (The Wall Street Journal), and Elisabeth Vincentelli (The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker) get together in front of microphones to chat—and wrangle—about shows, writers, actors, and trends. Now, after five monthly podcasts, Three on the Aisle is ramping up to a twice-a-month schedule.

In the opening segment of the newest episode, the panel is joined by Lauren Gunderson, author of The Book of Will and, with 27 productions, the most-produced playwright of the 2017-18 season. “What most excites me,” says Gunderson, “is thinking that my work has relevance in so many places!” Alas, comparatively few of her scripts have been produced in the New York area, so the Three on the Aisle panel decided to find out what they’d been missing. Among other things, Gunderson talks about how she started out as an actor, realized that “acting is damn hard” and that playwrights don’t have to be dead to get produced, and promptly started writing for the stage. (One big surprise: She’s that rarity of rarities, a full-time playwright without a day job.)

Next, the panel talks about the phenomenon of the resident acting company. Such companies, whose tightly knit unity of style is seldom seen on Broadway, have grown increasingly scarce in recent years, but Elisabeth reports on a visit to Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre, whose artistic director, Blanka Zizka, is seeking to breathe new life into the traditional concept of the resident ensemble. In addition, Terry describes two important regional troupes, Florida Repertory Theater and Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, whose productions make use of semi-permanent “core ensembles” of actors who appear each season. Says Peter: “People want to feel a collective sense of involvement in their artistic community.” Here’s how it’s happening all around the country.

To round out the podcast, Peter, Terry, and Elisabeth discuss plays that they either saw and liked in recent weeks or are looking forward to seeing.

All this—and more—in the latest episode of Three on the Aisle.

Download the episode here. Subscribe via the RSS feed, iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher.

Follow Three on the Aisle on Twitter. Contact the critics at threeontheaisle@gmail.com.