100 episodes

Host Gary Zabinski and co-host Frank Tourangau engage in the art of lively conversation from the vantage point of BOOTH ONE (formerly known as TalkSports).



In the heyday of the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel here in Chicago, Booth One was the most sought after seat in the house, as the privileged celebrities and other luminaries who were seated there could be seen from the lobby, the bar and the rest of the room. A place to see and to be seen. Sadly, the original Booth One is now lost to the ages, but still resides as a display in the lobby of the UP Club at the Second City.



On our BOOTH ONE podcast, we attempt to revive that feeling of being in the best seat in the house by seeking out and describing our Booth One experiences for our listeners. We’ll be talking about our recent Booth One brushes with famous guests, first class events, and behind-the-scenes encounters. We’ll also continue to have Booth One conversations covering a variety of topics, both current and esoteric. We’ll send Frank and Gary to some of the more exotic places and events in this great metropolis and beyond, looking for Booth One-type experiences to share with you.



Anything is fair game on BOOTH ONE, reflective of the kinds of conversations that must have taken place in the legendary Pump Room’s first-class seating. Be a fly on the wall as Gary and Frank attempt to recreate the magic, mystery and mischief of the BOOTH ONE experience for your amusement and edification!



Send us your Booth One experiences and we’ll share them with our listeners on the podcast. Your reservation to BOOTH ONE is waiting!

BOOTH ONE - Celebrating Culture and Conversation Gary Zabinski, Frank Tourangeau

    • Performing Arts
    • 4.7, 13 Ratings

Host Gary Zabinski and co-host Frank Tourangau engage in the art of lively conversation from the vantage point of BOOTH ONE (formerly known as TalkSports).



In the heyday of the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel here in Chicago, Booth One was the most sought after seat in the house, as the privileged celebrities and other luminaries who were seated there could be seen from the lobby, the bar and the rest of the room. A place to see and to be seen. Sadly, the original Booth One is now lost to the ages, but still resides as a display in the lobby of the UP Club at the Second City.



On our BOOTH ONE podcast, we attempt to revive that feeling of being in the best seat in the house by seeking out and describing our Booth One experiences for our listeners. We’ll be talking about our recent Booth One brushes with famous guests, first class events, and behind-the-scenes encounters. We’ll also continue to have Booth One conversations covering a variety of topics, both current and esoteric. We’ll send Frank and Gary to some of the more exotic places and events in this great metropolis and beyond, looking for Booth One-type experiences to share with you.



Anything is fair game on BOOTH ONE, reflective of the kinds of conversations that must have taken place in the legendary Pump Room’s first-class seating. Be a fly on the wall as Gary and Frank attempt to recreate the magic, mystery and mischief of the BOOTH ONE experience for your amusement and edification!



Send us your Booth One experiences and we’ll share them with our listeners on the podcast. Your reservation to BOOTH ONE is waiting!

    Dazzling Movement Direction – Choreographer & Actor Breon Arzell – Episode 105

    Dazzling Movement Direction – Choreographer & Actor Breon Arzell – Episode 105

    Booth One first encountered Breon's work seeing The Total Bent, produced by Haven & About Face Theatres. We were all blown away by Lili-Anne Brown's direction and the marvelous performances, including friend of the show, Robert Cornelius and new friend, Breon Arzell, who also choreographed this great musical. Here are some of the rave reviews. The production design was extraordinary. We were especially wowed by the choreography and costumes, designed by previous guest and friend, Christine Pasqual.



    You can catch some of his brilliant work in the remote production of Kill Move Paradise. Absolutely not to be missed. We have seen a lot of attempts to capture great theatre on video and this is exceptional. A true masterpiece, directed by dear friend of the show, Wardell Julius Clark. Read one of the many great reviews here.



    Much more to say, but we want to get the audio published now. Will write more ASAP.

    • 56 min
    A Blank Slate – Genius Improvisor, Actor, & Voice-Over Artist David Pasquesi – Episode 104

    A Blank Slate – Genius Improvisor, Actor, & Voice-Over Artist David Pasquesi – Episode 104

    We always love our amazingly talented guests, but this time we were Star Struck! David Pasquesi is a brilliant artist and one of the nicest people you're ever likely to meet. He is a master improvisor and has created memorable performances in many movies and TV series. He was excellent as Julia Louis Dreyfuss's ex-husband, Andrew in VEEP and had a great role as the "local alchemist" on the weird and wonderful Lodge 49. He also has done some infamous and long running voice-over spots for clients like McDonalds and Anheuser Busch. We have included his remarkable commercial reel in this episode. You can also go to David's website to check out his work.



    David studied with the legendary improvisation pioneer Del Close, who created the Harold and was part of the first ever Harold team, Baron's Barracudas. David describes the Harold as a "long form group improvisation that was developed as a performance piece itself as opposed to using it to create material for revues...The aim is that the work is consistently good enough to be able to warrant a ticket price."



    We talk about Del's ideas about working genuinely in improvisation. Gary reads from David and TJ Jagodowski's book, Improvisation at the Speed of Life. "Del taught us to play slowly without worrying about entertaining the audience. He stressed the importance of playing at the top of our intelligence...Another big lesson I took from Del was not to talk too much because overusing words diminishes the power of each one. Del taught us to dare to be poets...Don't be afraid of silence."



    TJ & Dave have been doing long form performances at iO in Chicago and Barrow Street Theatre in New York since 2001. Stephen Colbert says of them, "One of these guys is the best improvisor in the world. And the other one is better." The New York Times calls their work, "...a creative tour de force, an intellectual high-wire act as astonishing as it is entertaining." They met on a team at the Chicago Improv Festival and found they shared a reverence for the same kind of work. They make it "more about discovery than invention...The work can be funny, but also sad, heartwarming, kind, scary, brutal. It's unlimited." David talks about the important role of the audience. TJ & Dave "requires interested people watching it."



    David and our co-host Frank talk about teaching improvisation. "The most important thing is listening and paying attention...Be genuine moment to moment and the rest of it takes care of itself." Gary asks about another of David's teachers and mentors, Charna Halpern, who built ImprovOlympic with Del, has taught so many magnificent actors and writers, and now owns the marvelous iO Theatre at 1501 Kingsbury. There are 4 performances there every night of the week, a nice bar, and good food. Charna gave us great backstory on a few things. Such as: David camped out at her place when he was a student without an apartment and cooked dinner in exchange for his room. She also told us about him juggling apples in his stand up act and that he does great impersonations (not). Learn more about the force of nature that is Charna on episode 47 of our show, performed live at Steppenwolf Theatre.



    Frank reviews the superb production of a href="https://www.newcitystage.

    • 1 hr
    The Zacek Tapes – Victory Gardens’ Artistic Director Emeritus Dennis Zacek – Episode 103

    The Zacek Tapes – Victory Gardens’ Artistic Director Emeritus Dennis Zacek – Episode 103

    Dennis Zacek, founding member and Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theatre for 34 years, joined us in the Booth for a fascinating conversation about playwrights, directing, and the history of Chicago theatre. He shares his experiences directing over 250 productions, including his current production of Waiting for Godot, which runs at Victory Gardens through December 15.



    Dr. Z is an icon of the Chicago theatre community, having been at the forefront of the storefront theatre movement in the mid-1970s. In 2014, Victory Gardens received the special Regional Theatre Tony Award for outstanding contributions to the American theatre landscape.



    The Zacek Tapes is a fascinating book filled with interviews with Dennis about many aspects of his life in the theatre. We couldn't recommend it more highly!



    More notes to come...



    Kiss of Death

    Jessye Norman, American opera singer and recitalist. A dramatic soprano, Norman sang a broad repertoire and avoided being limited to one kind of genre. She famously stated that "pigeonholes are for pigeons” and that she was "attracted to the unusual". A towering figure on operatic, concert, and recital hall stages, Norman leaves a vast catalogue of recordings. NY Times music critic Edward Rothstein described her voice as a "grand mansion of sound”, and wrote that “it has enormous dimensions, reaching backward and upward. It opens onto unexpected vistas." Jessye Norman was 74. Read the full NYTime obit here.



     

    • 58 min
    Luminous Power Couple – Regina Victor & Wardell Julius Clark – Episode 102

    Luminous Power Couple – Regina Victor & Wardell Julius Clark – Episode 102

    Wardell Julius Clark and Regina Victor are stars who just keep growing in our Chicago theatre community. We had an amazing time talking with them recently about all of their adventures. They are work and life partners and as Gary said, "extraordinary creative artists and human beings." They also did a beautiful job introducing the show. Voice over agents, take note.



    Regina Victor works as a theatre director, producer, dramaturg, arts journalist, and mentor. Regina is a non-binary femme who grew up in Oakland, now residing in Chicago. Regina attended boarding school at Phillips Exeter, then studied theatre, religion, and dance at Santa Clara University. They have worked with and been mentored by, among others, Phylicia Rashad, Anna Shapiro, Raelle Myrick-Hodges, and Danya Taymor. Victor has helped develop world premieres by Antoinette Nwandu (Breach:...), Brett Neveu (To Catch A Fish), Sarah Ruhl and Morgan McNaught (A Persephone Pageant), and Loy Webb (The Light, His Shadow). Regina will be direct a world premiere of Pro-Am at Sideshow in May. They have recently been named to be the first Associate Producer ever at Court Theatre.



    Regina founded an arts criticism platform called Rescripted in 2017. Rescripted’s mission is "to reprogram the way we critically engage with each other using an empathetic lens, while cultivating critics and adding new voices to the field." It is a collective of artists who engage with each other's ideas and opinions openly. Regina mentors young critics through a program called The Key, which has produced some terrific new critics. It is produced in partnership with the Chicago Inclusion Project and is hosted by Steppenwolf Theater Company.



    Wardell Julius Clark was raised in Fairfield, Alabama, where he toured the country as a child with the amazing Sparkle Dance Company. Read about their mission and programs here. He went on to audition for DePaul University's acting program, which is extremely competitive. He got in to the program, didn't get cut, and has been working here in Chicago ever since. He was a very successful actor for the first 10 years of his career, then asked Ron OJ Parsons if he could assist him on directing Gem of the Ocean at Court. He tells a wonderful story about his first (triumphant) directing gig on Insurrection at Stage Left. Next up was Wardell's hugely acclaimed production of The Shipment. He has been booked as a director since...



    We recently saw and were blown away by His Shadow, which Wardell (with Sydney Charles) directed, with Regina serving as Dramaturg. It was truly not to be missed. The good news is it was recorded for the archives at Harold Washington Lib...

    • 56 min
    Mover and Shaker – Erica Daniels, Executive Director of Victory Gardens – Episode 101

    Mover and Shaker – Erica Daniels, Executive Director of Victory Gardens – Episode 101

    We were thrilled to have Erica Daniels Strater join us in the Booth, starting our next 100 episodes off in style! She has been an agent, casting director, Associate Artistic Director, president, and now Executive Director. All at top-flight companies.



    Erica has so many dear friends in the Chicago theatre community. She helped us all out when we were with small companies who needed casting help and couldn't afford our own casting directors. Her email response would come back pronto with a list of really great suggestions for a role. Early in her career, she joined her close friend and mentor, Martha Lavey, in choosing to make the effort to pay attention to smaller companies and emerging talents and to lend a hand up.



    A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Performance Studies, she studied with an amazing group of artists, including Martha Lavey, Frank Galati, Mary Zimmerman and Dwight Conquergood. When she graduated and was planning to start auditioning, Erica broker her foot. While she was recuperating, she thought maybe she could help out in a casting director's office. She worked in Jane Brody's office, then Shirley Hamilton's, two of the best casting people in Chicago. Then, after an exciting stint as the Theatre Department coordinator at William Morris in New York, she went to work for Steppenwolf as their in-house casting director. She was then promoted to Associate Artistic Director and did a wonderful job in that capacity while continuing to do their casting.



    She is providing great leadership at Victory Gardens, collaborating with her partner, Artistic Director Chay Yew. Erica is eloquent about Victory Gardens' mission to "be a leader in developing and producing new work and cultivating an inclusive theater community." We have seen so many marvelous productions there, most recently, Tiny Beautiful Things. Erica and Chay were listed as #1! in New City Stages' feature: Players 2019: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago..



    Gary talks to Erica about getting her start in the business, what she looks for in an actor, the audition process, working with directors to cast just the right actor for the role, and what challenges an Executive Director of a Tony Award-winning Chicago off-loop theatre faces on a daily basis. You'll find Erica to be eloquent and forthright in her responses. Just a joy to have as a guest in the Booth.

    Kiss of Death:

    Franco Zeffirelli, Italian director with a penchant for excess. Renowned for his extravagantly romantic opera productions, immensely popular film versions of Shakespeare and an active and sometimes controversial social life. Wiki tells us he was one of the only living people traceably consanguineous with Leonardo da Vinci. Mr. Zeffirelli was 96.

    • 58 min
    Game Changers – Michael and Mona Heath – Episode 100!

    Game Changers – Michael and Mona Heath – Episode 100!

    We chose Michael and Mona Heath for our 100th episode because they are the most amazing angels to the Chicago theatre community. With backgrounds in applied mathematics and computer science, they have dedicated their time, energy, and savings to supporting Chicago theatre artists. Last year, they paid full price to see 336 shows! And that is while living part time in Champaign/Urbana. Not to mention building the mainstage theatre, dressing rooms, and lounge at The Den Theatre. They are the production sponsors of so much important work, including "His Shadow" at 16th Street Theatre, which opens tonight!



    So much more to say, but want to get this published today. Will add info and photos soon!

    • 51 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
13 Ratings

13 Ratings

Daniel J. Lewis ,

Unique and engaging conversations!

Booth One brings fascinating conversations from unique people. This isn't yet another cookie-cutter boring entrepreneur interview show. Each guest has their own stories, humor, insights, and lessons. It's fascinating to hear the wide variety of conversations that I don't think you could get anywhere else!

Jack in Oak Park ,

One Stop Shop

I love this podcast because it gives you a little bit of everything: culture, humor, wit, insight and a chance to get to know some of the city's best known (or soon to be known!) creative talents. Highly recommended!

Mhoule4 ,

A Fantastic Podcast

Episode 51 is one of my favorites. I enjoyed Sean Graney discussing his early days in the Chicago theater scene, as well as the founding of The Hypocrites. I loved hearing about the development of Sean’s show, All Our Tragic. Listening to Booth One is akin to attending an intimate dinner party and hearing old friends discuss theater and pop culture.

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