After two years spent in relative isolation, live theatre is back. What is inspiring our fellow writers these days, and where did it all begin for them? What have they learned from the ways in which they managed to serve their national community of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists during the pandemic? How can they continue to advocate for a more equitable future, one that champions and uplifts all theatre writers within our ever-expanding community?
In the fourth season of The Dramatists Guild Presents: Talkback podcast, which launched October 24, we celebrate how writers from a diverse array of backgrounds have built meaningful careers within a constantly evolving industry, while also giving back to their communities.
Join host Christine Toy Johnson as she interviews fellow theatre writers about what inspires them to create art and what inspires them to create community. This season, Lynn Ahrens, Amanda Green, Stephen Flaherty, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Michael R. Jackson, Lisa Kron, Rona Siddiqui, John Weidman, and Charlayne Woodard provide a searingly honest look into their writing processes and share what drives them to keep fighting for equal rights and protections for theatre writers everywhere.
From conversations about challenging the industry’s status quo to insights on crafting new musicals, these six episodes offer a window into the struggles and triumphs of what it means to be a theatre writer in the 21st century and what it means to serve one's community.
“We’re so excited to celebrate the return to live theatre by sharing these insightful conversations with some of my treasured colleagues from the Dramatists Guild Council about what inspires them to write and what inspires them to be in service to our national community of writers,” says Johnson. “I have so much admiration and gratitude for their unique voices and journeys, their generosity, and the commitment they have each made to protecting the rights of all dramatists, everywhere!”
Read more about this season's episodes below.
October 24, 2022
You Should Feel Weird If They Love What You Do:
A conversation with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
DG Council Vice President Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has made his career by building community with other writers - even if that community started as three blogs in the early aughts. In this episode, Branden tells Talkback host Christine Toy Johnson about his passion for fair and equitable treatment of writers and how his role at the Dramatists Guild enables him to advocate on behalf of his community of fellow playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. He also discusses some of his earliest work as a young writer, revealing how his love of R.L Stine’s Goosebumps led to an interest in theatrical adaptation.
October 31, 2022
I Love Being in this Lousy Hotel Room with You Creating Something of Beauty:
A conversation with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Talkback host Christine Toy Johnson interviews Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, a dynamic musical theatre songwriting duo who have been collaborating together for almost forty years. Even at the height of the pandemic, their writing never stopped. Listen to this episode to learn about what it means to view collaboration as teamwork, how they approached the writing process for their current musical, Knoxville, and what inspired them to launch The Dramatists Guild Fellows Program, a mentorship initiative for playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists, that has nurtured a vibrant generation of diverse writers.
November 7, 2022
There is No Such Thing as Failure Unless You Don’t Get in the Game:
A conversation with Charlayne Woodard
We're excited to welcome back actress and writer Charlayne Woodard. Back in Season 1, Charlayne spoke with Christine Toy Johnson about her experiences marketing her work. In this episode, Charlayne takes us to the beginning of her career, sharing about how her early experience in the oral tradition inspired her to start creating theatre. She goes on to discuss how she overcame resistance from members of her community when she wrote her first play as a high school student, and how her own encounters with inequity have kept her motivated to help support her fellow community of writers.
November 14, 2022
Talking is Easy, Writing is Hard:
A conversation with Lisa Kron and John Weidman
In this episode, Christine interviews her longtime friends and colleagues, Lisa Kron and John Weidman. Both John and Lisa have served as officers on the Dramatists Guild Council; under their purview, the Guild grew to become a national organization that seeks to serve writers of all backgrounds. They discuss the labor relations and gender equity issues that fueled their respective desires to help lead the Guild and talk about what it means to them to advocate on behalf of their community of writers. In addition, John reveals what inspired him to write the musical Pacific Overtures with Stephen Sondheim and Lisa shares her approach to adapting and theatricalizing the musical Fun Home.
November 21, 2022
I Began Writing as a Way For Me to Make Sense Out of Certain Things:
A conversation with Rona Siddiqui and Michael R. Jackson
In this episode, hosted by Christine Toy Johnson, Michael R. Jackson and Rona Siddiqui share their creative inspirations, discuss their collaboration on the upcoming musical White Girl in Danger, and reflect upon their respective journeys with the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical A Strange Loop. They also discuss the importance of advocating for their community; as active members on the Dramatists Guild Council, both Michael and Rona are passionate champions of supporting and empowering their fellow writers.
November 28, 2022
We are the Uber Drivers of the Theatre Industry:
A conversation with Amanda Green
Amanda Green made headlines last year when she became the first female president of the Dramatists Guild of America in its over 100-year history. In this episode, Amanda talks about what DG means to her, telling podcast host Christine Toy Johnson about how the Guild uplifted her during an uncertain time in her life and career. She also discusses the importance of the PRO Act, explains why collective bargaining matters for dramatists, and offers advice on how writers across the country can support each other by being activists in their own communities. In addition, she shares anecdotes from development process of her two of her recent musical projects, Mr. Saturday Night and Female Troubles, and recounts what it was like to make Billy Crystal laugh.
Talkback is a podcast for every playwright, composer, lyricist, librettist, or theatre fan who wants to pull back the curtain to discover the highs and lows of what it means to create theatre and foster community in the complex landscape of American storytelling. Over the course of four seasons, host Christine Toy Johnson and her industry colleagues delve into in-depth conversations about the intricate facets of navigating and sustaining a life in a theatre that strives to make room for everyone.
This season of Talkback was produced by Amy VonMacek and Christine Toy Johnson, with postproduction by John Marshall Media. The music is composed by Andrea Daly. Talkback is a production of the Dramatists Guild of America and is distributed by The Broadway Podcast Network.
Download the first three seasons of Talkback via the Broadway Podcast Network.