It’s the final installment of Q&A August! I hope you’ve had fun meeting some of my Shakespeare friends. I know I’ve had a lot of fun asking them these questions, and I’m definitely going to do this again some time, as I have SO MANY MORE cool Shakespeare friends for you to meet. But for now, let’s turn to my closers, my last and least, Kevin Condardo and Dan Beaulieu, the bros behind one of my favorite Shakespeare podcasts: No Holds Bard!
I was skeptical about No Holds Bard at first. Launched in 2015, it appeared to be two white dudes yelling about Shakespeare at each other, which did not particularly appeal to me. I didn’t even start listening to it until I met Dan and his partner in crime, Christine Penney, in person at the Shakespeare Theatre Association conference in 2016. Tousled and bewhiskered like a pirate, Dan was overwhelmingly brash, loud, unruly, obnoxious, insufferable… and somehow inexplicably charming. After meeting him, I finally started listening to No Holds Bard and found that the podcast was also brash, loud, unruly, obnoxious, insufferable… and somehow inexplicably charming.
Two things are immediately apparent upon listening to No Holds Bard: Dan and Kevin (his slightly less unruly and obnoxious co-host and the brains of the operation) both know their Shakespeare and love their Shakespeare. Their highly entertaining arguments and bro-y banter are backed up with serious knowledge of Shakespearean text and performance, and, in spite of their best efforts to contrary, you can actually learn a lot from them. Also (and this is important) they regularly make me laugh out loud.
In 2017 Kevin and Dan invited me to be their first ever guest on No Holds Bard. With some trepidation, I agreed and discovered that Kevin and Dan in real life are EXACTLY THE SAME as they are on the podcast. Recording with them was a blast, and since then I have thoroughly enjoyed keeping up with the podcast (occasionally falling months behind and then frantically trying to catch up) and interacting with them and other No Holds Bard listeners (a.k.a. Bardflies) on Twitter.
And so, it gives me great pleasure to present that charmingly insufferable duo, the joint top bananas of No Holds Bard, Kevin and Dan!
1. Who are you? Why Shakespeare?
KEVIN: I’m Kevin Condardo: host of the NO HOLDS BARD podcast (The Shakespeare Podcast Shakespeare Would Have Listened To*), performing arts administrator, Boston sports fan, and lover of all things theater. I’m the managing director of the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company based out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and I work on the business end of the Off-Broadway theater industry in New York City.
My first introduction to Shakespeare was a terrible production of Romeo and Juliet that I saw on a school field trip in eighth grade, most notable for everyone being in Elizabethan costumes and having Mercutio thrusting himself seemingly on every other word in a failing effort at convincing school kids that Shakespeare was making dirty jokes and is therefore relatable. I loathed Shx until my sophomore year of college, when I auditioned for Cymbeline in college because it was a shared audition for the play I really wanted to be in (Twelve Angry Men). I was required to prepare a Shakespearian monologue and so I memorized and performed it with a British accent (as a sophomore in college!!), and about ten seconds in my professor Deb Kinghorn stopped me and asked me what the hell I was doing, and I said Shakespeare, and she said no I wasn’t. Somehow I was cast as a boorish, fratty Cloten, and over the course of that production I fell in love with Shakespeare and never looked back.
DAN: Hey! I’m Dan Beaulieu: I’m an avid Shakespeare lover, performer, director, student of the game. I am CO-host and top banana on the aforementioned No Holds Bard podcast with my fellow CO-host Kevin. I am the co-founder and Artistic Director of Seven Stages Shakespeare Company, a former Ambassador for the Shakespeare Society in NYC, member of the internationally renowned Passion in Practice and The Shakespeare Ensemble (both helmed by the incomparable Ben Crystal), and frequent collaborator with the New York City based company Rude Grooms (led by the always lovely Montgomery Sutton).
Why Shagspeare? I deeply admire his sprawling exploration of the human condition, his probing of Magick and Witches, his Timelessness, and perhaps most importantly the fact that it IS in fact for everybody, if you let it be.
2. What moment(s) in Shakespeare always make you laugh?
KEVIN: It’s more of an incredulous cackle than a laugh, but...after the Richard / Lady Anne scene, after we think we’ve seen the bunch-back’d toad bare his soul in expressing his love for his lady, he tells us “I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long” - cueing the audience to hopefully boo and hiss - after which Shakespeare gives him “What?” to respond to the disgusted audience. What a joy for an actor! (And if you have a Richard that doesn’t elicit at least one gasp on that line and thus has no audience members to give that “What?” to, you know you’re in for a long evening of theater.)
DAN: I think Petruchio’s entrance to the wedding, when costumed properly, is pretty hilarious. I also get a good chuckle out of “That’s a shelled peascod” from King Lear. Something about the phrase “Shelled Peascod” just gets me. Hamlet’s sardonic humor in the scene leading up to The Mousetrap is also stacked up with great laugh lines.
KEVIN: Do you mean country matters?
3. What's a favorite Shakespearean performance anecdote?
DAN: As a raging egoist, I’ll share my favorite anecdote from a performance I was in. I was playing Titus and in the scene where I lose my hand I was given a messenger bag to carry around with me. They actually had me carry it for the whole first half of the play so it wouldn’t be weird when I had it in this scene. The dummy hand was stored in there so when the “theater magic” moment happened I’d dip the hand out of the bag and TADA! I’m handless! Well, one night the hand fell out of the bag several moments before it was supposed to be cut off. I jumped on the hand like a fumbled football and took my rant from the floor of the stage. (It was a three quarter thrust, 70 seat black box so there wasn’t anywhere to hide.) After the show, several members of the cast commented on how I was “really feeling that scene”, not realizing I was not feeling it at all...I was simply scattering to figure out a way to justify a random hand lying on the ground moments before the audience would see it again.
KEVIN: When I was a company manager at Shakespeare in the Park in NYC, it was my responsibility to cancel or hold the show in case of inclement weather - which meant my “job” all summer was to sit in the back of the house and watch every performance while refreshing about five different weather apps and calculate if we were going to be able to get the show in. During The Merchant of Venice, we were flirting with a rainstorm all night - the sky looked very ominous from the start but nothing had fallen, even though I and the entire audience knew it was coming. The weather held all evening, up until Portia’s “The quality of mercy is not strained / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…” at which point, the gentlest rain you ever felt began to droppeth from heaven, allowing Portia to turn her palm up to feel the rain fall and the entire crowd to “ooh” in unison. Goosebump city.
Mya interjects: I would 100% have gone “oooooh”. Magical.
4. What's one of the more unusual Shakespearean interpretations you've either seen or would like to see?
KEVIN: I’m no director, but I’d love to see an As You Like It set around 1910, where the music at the court is all Sousa marches and barber shop (basically The Music Man), and then when they go to the country you have the same musicians and instrumentations playing Jelly Roll Morton and the jazz and dixieland that was exploding at the same moment. (Artistic directors: I’ll be waiting by the phone for my call.)
DAN: I called you to do this several years ago, but...musicians.
I’d like to direct a production of Twelfth Night in a very large warehouse immersive experience where the central design conceit is a House of Mirrors….possibly around Halloween or in Coney Island during the winter. Full creep zone. Similarly, I think it’d be fun to do an As You Like It in a corn maze or a Jacobean influenced pageant production of Midsummer Night’s Dream as a haunted hayride that starts around 6pm and goes til midnight, getting scarier and scarier as the night goes on. Bring the little kids early for fun fairies and come back at 11pm for the weird ones.
5. What's one of your favorite Shakespearean "hidden gems"?
DAN: I’m a sucker for the fact that when Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time their exchange is a shared sonnet. It’s not necessarily “hidden” but I love when I see a production that is clearly “going there” with that moment.
KEVIN: I talk about it all the time on the podcast but I LOVE the King of France in All’s Well that Ends Well. So deferential, kind, funny, but also strong and forceful when required - along with some endlessly quotable lines. Perhaps more “underrated” than “hidden gem?”
DAN: I like that we both just couched our answers in “this isn’t exactly what you asked, but it’s the answer we’re going to give anyway”. If you enjoy this kind of response to questions, you’ll love our podcast!
6. What passages from Shakespeare have stayed with you?
KEVIN: Ironically and annoyingly, the Shakespeare quote I use the most is actually a misquote that got locked into my brain during my only professional gig - a production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Theater at Monmouth. There’s a sequence where Antony is waiting for an update from the field, and when the messenger arrives the actor playing Antony would turn violently to him and spew out “The news from Sicyon, ho!”. I loved the way he delivered the line and started incorporating it into my life every time someone entered a room with information that the rest of us were waiting on. Unfortunately, that line doesn’t exist - either the actor learned it wrong, or the director inverted it - and the actual line, “From Sicyon, ho, the news!”, doesn’t quite have the same allure.
DAN: I suppose I have to go with the two I have tattooed on my body, as they literally stay with me. They are “To Be” and “This above all, to thine own self be true”. I’m grateful that the verb in both lines is Be, which is deceptively simple. As an actor, it’s really what we’re asked to do---just be.
7. What Shakespeare plays have changed for you?
DAN: I used to make Pericles the butt of all of my “Shakespeare made mistakes too you know?!” jokes. Admittedly that was before I ever read it or worked on it. Now it is easily one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and one that I expect to see more and more of in the future. Disney is sleeping on a gold mine, though I hope Pixar beats them to it.
KEVIN: I have to ask: which play is the punchline to that joke now?
DAN: Henry VIII or Measure (come at me Measure lovers!)
KEVIN: For me, it’s the histories. A few summers ago, Seven Stages Shakespeare Company (helmed by Dan, Christine Penney, and myself) did a one-day, fourteen-hour reading of all eight of the linked history plays one after the other. After seeing the way the storylines feed so deeply one into the other (most particularly Margaret’s arc), I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see any one of them individually the same way again.
Mya interjects: The Seven Stages history day is definitely on my list of “productions I’m kicking myself for missing”. If you do it again, boys, let me know. I am available for any bit parts that don’t require replicating actual human emotions.
8. What Shakespearean character or characters do you identify the most with?
KEVIN: I feel the deepest connection to the seconds-in-command, but to choose the one that encapsulates that the most I’ll say Gloucester from King Lear. Ever since childhood I’ve always considered myself a second rather than a first - I took pride in Little League being the catcher that served as the psychologist for the pitchers, I relate much more to Tom Hagen than to Michael Corleone, and in Shakespeare I’m much more connected to the person who holds the ear of the person everyone is looking at rather than being the center of attention myself.
DAN: I feel a deep connection to Jaques- especially his description of melancholy and the cynical way he sees the world around him, as witnessed in the Seven Ages speech. I fancy myself a fool and appreciate Jaques function in the play, both as a countervoice to the romanticized experience of Arden so many have, his dismay at the murder of the deer, and his departure from the rest of the group at the end.
9. Where can we find out more about you? Are there any projects/events you would like us to check out?
KEVIN: I bare my soul weekly* on the NO HOLDS BARD podcast, which Dan frequently appears on as co-host / second banana. The show is available for download on iTunes and Stitcher, and also the full* archive is available on our website at noholdsbard.com. You should also follow us on Twitter @NoHoldsBardCast and on Facebook at Facebook.com SLAAAASSHHHH NoHoldsBardCast!
DAN: If you are the market for stuff about the top banana specifically check out my website at www.danbeauknows.com. Seven Stages has a ton of exciting projects coming up including season eight of ShakesBEERiences in NH and a full production of MacBeth this autumn near Halloween. If you want more luscious No Holds Bard Content, check out our Patreon at www.patreon.com slash noholdsbard. Also, I’ll be touring Japan with several dear friends, including Dylan Kammerer, Tim Jacobs, Andrew Codispoti, Ben Crystal and The Shakespeare Ensemble this September playing Hamlet in Hamlet, Banquo in MacBeth, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. It’s a dream track with an incredible ensemble so if you are in Japan, come check it out!
(Back to Mya) Thanks so much to Kevin and Dan for answering my questions and helping me out this month! Confession: when I was scheduling my guests for this month, I deliberately penciled Kevin and Dan in for the last slot, not because I thought they’d be a particularly boffo ending (although, obviously, they are) but because I was sure they wouldn’t get their answers in until the very last second. To my shock, they send them in well over a week early, which, I can only assume, involved a great deal of personal sacrifice and discipline on their part. For that, and for constantly entertaining me as I drive around town, I am very grateful to them.
You can listen to me banter with Kevin and Dan on the following episodes of No Holds Bard:
Also, do consider chucking a couple bucks their way each month on Patreon, as I do.
Thanks once again to EVERYONE who helped me out this month: Austin Tichenor, Kate Powers, Sam White, David Prosser, Kate Pitt, Christy Burgess, Kevin Condardo and Dan Beaulieu! I am so lucky in my friends and in my Shakespeare community. My life is still kind of crazy at the moment so I’m taking next week off, but I’ll be back after that (hopefully, and at last) with some new comics!