How did you meet Robert Riemer?
Zombie: Audrey over at Actors Forum actually introduced us a little over two years ago, just as Zombie Joe's Underground (ZJU) was branching out with Ed in New York City, and as a result, our very first production together, SPLENDID MISERY, was produced as an Off-Broadway production. My collaboration with Robert Riemer over the last couple years has been both remarkably rewarding and challenging, as ZJU has crossed over new social, religious and artistic lines that as a group, we have never experienced before working with this amazingly generous artist, friend and playwright. Not only are Robert's plays extremely beautiful, challenging and victorious for us to mount, but each of them (SPLENDID MISERY, A MEMORY OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, SOTTO VOCE, and our all-new production HOSEA NOVA: A JEALOUS AND VIOLENT MAN), have forced Robert and I to grow in many directions, both together and as individuals. The journey of each play gets better and better, and ZJU and I look forward to producing Robert's work for years to come.
Robert, How were you Turned....Visual artist to playwright?
Robert: I was born in Los Angeles in 1960. Being the fourth and last child of older parents who rarely got along - and later divorced - I was often left alone to live in a fantastic world of my own imagination. Granted this is not unusual for a child, but unlike most, I never left that part of my formative years behind. As I grew older I developed a way of harnessing my imagination by creating visual art - all the while I was reading voraciously - always indentifying with the tragic characters and the tragedy that life can dole out subtly and without fanfare - the tragedy of everyday life, if you will. In 1984 I graduated from UCLA with a major in Fine Art. For the next 20 or so years I painted and showed my work with a certain amount of success.
But in 2007 something snapped and I was driven to write a book I titled, IN LOVE. After rewriting it several times I came to the conclusion it was a failed novel. But what I learned from the process of writing was the power of the expression I was able to elicit from the written word which I felt was much deeper and dimensional than what I was able to deliver by way of the stagnant image. I wrote the last version of IN LOVE in the first person - actually I got about 10 pages in when I took the dialogue and moved it into play form. And off I went, and I haven't stopped since. After 20 plays completed, I have learned to deliver the angst and the stark expression I am so drawn too. As a matter of fact, if I had to pigeon-hole my style, I would be very comfortable describing my plays as Expressionist. When developing the characters in my mind's eyes I will often see the German Expressionist figures portrayed in their paintings. Egon Shiele comes to mind in particular....
Tell us about the play that will be running next at Zombie Joe's Underground.
Robert: HOSEA NOVA, A JEALOUS AND VIOLENT MAN is a play originally written a couple of years ago in my "pre Zombie Joe" days. So, the play was bigger in scope, and much more complicated than what is being performed this and next month. The play was two hours long and was re-written to be a bit over an hour. By doing this I believe I have helped the audience cut right to the chase and see the insanity I so want them to experience. The play is about a group of patients at an insane asylum who play, or fantasize, or truly believe, they are all living together in a convent. A young blind girl is thought to be a saint who can perform miracles at will. Some believe she is a saint, and some think of her as a devil - all seen through eyes and minds who see the world very differently than the average person - perhaps more as a child sees the world: beautiful, strange, and above all, fantastic. HOSEA NOVA is also a love story, a Shakespearian romantic tragedy as Hosea Nova and Theresa Ann (the saint) are caught in a love that is impossible to bring to a happy end as their world of anything goes does not have the space for affairs of the heart. And so, in the midst of a comedy of sorts lies the darkness of tragedy waiting, ever present. This play in particular is the perfect example of Zombie and my partnership - an Expressionist piece which at the premiere left the audience out of breath.
Why did you decide to work with Zombie Joe's Underground in North Hollywood when you live 1.5 hours away in Laguna Beach?
Robert: As far as why am I having my plays performed so far from Laguna Beach, which is where I live - the answer is there isn't the vibrancy LA has to offer in Orange County. But now, after working with Zombie and looking at the LA play "scene" I realize what a shame it is that the second largest city in the United States does not have a real understanding or appreciation of the stage. Film is the end-all I suppose. Nevertheless, I see Zombie Joe's Underground as the hub of LA's hope of creating a stage presence - the beginning of something big. The true underground theater. I feel that Zombie Joe's Underground is where art from the gut is being experimented with and "muscled out" - as Zombie loves to say. That is the main reason for being attracted to this little oasis posing as a storefront on Lankershim Blvd.
I have many friends here in Orange County - all starving for art. I've coerced most of them up to ZJU to see my plays, and all of them - all of them - have thanked me for the experience. The look on their faces says to me that for one evening they were able to breathe the air of their youth when creativity and free thinking was not pushed aside in some absurd notion that cutting edge anything is for the young. I know that may sound pompous, and I don't mean it to be, but in Orange County there just aren't the opportunities to see art in the trenches, as it is at Zombie Joe's Underground..
HOSEA NOVA: A Jealous and Violent Man
Directed by Zombie Joe
A challenging main stage production about the creative and desperate inmates of an asylum and their quest for love, salvation and redemption through their complicated role playing structure.
Saturdays @ 8:3p through December 10
One hour, no intermission.
Zombie Joe's Underground
4850 Lankershim Boulevard
North Hollywood CA 91601