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Interview with Robert Riemer, playwright of "KATE"

Playwright, Lydia Oxenham

Q: Kate concerns three generations of women struggling with the abrupt disappearance of a man. What do you feel these women have in common, besides being related to each other and him?

A: As mentioned in the play, what they have in common is a desire for loneliness. Perhaps this is not evident yet with the two teenage girls, but with the older women, I believe it is. This may not be overtly obvious, but it seems that each of them live their lives in loneliness. Also, in common is an intense love for one another, a love and even a respect that includes their past choices, and even their current choices. This love is absolutely what holds them together, and will keep them together even when the tables were turned on them by Gordon's betrayal.

Q: Kate is set in Laguna Beach during the 1970s - in a place, and a time, often remembered as "free and easy". Did you spend time in Laguna Beach as a kid, and if so, is that your memory of that time?

A: Actually, as a child I grew up in West Los Angeles, specifically near Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. My father drove me down a few summers for the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, and random day trips. The drive seemed excruciatingly long and magical once we arrived. I don't know what it was. I don't remember much other than the feeling of the place. It was a quieter time when wealth wasn't important, when it seemed to my child's mind, anyone could live their; a wild and artful place set aside from what I was surrounded with day to day. My perceived seclusion of the place continues even now, living not far from where Kate was supposed to take place.

Q: Being a painter, do you have particular stage pictures in mind when you create scenes? Many playwrights just write dialogue and then the visual aspect of the scene grows out of that.

A: I absolutely have a visual in mind. And yes, I consider myself extremely visual. As a matter of fact much of what I see in my mind's eye, I described through stage direction and through dialogue, and that "visual" is a character of it's own. In Kate, Laguna Beach itself, the ocean, the heat, the humidity, the out of season rain, all of it is a character. Many of those who know my paintings tell me my plays "look" like my paintings.

Q: Has theatre always been a part of your life, or did something motivate your entry into theatre and playwriting?

A: In a sense the theatre has been a part of my life from a very early age when my step father, who I considered the man who truly raised me, sat with me almost every night after dinner and read Shakespeare to me. Most summers he took me to the Shakespeare festival in San Diego. I was fascinated. The plays got under my skin. I began reading them and other plays on my own from a very early age. Latter I devoured all of Tennessee Williams, all of the early twentieth century Modern Drama. I couldn't get enough. When writing Kate I thought of "Ghosts", I thought of all the tragedies, all of the plays I admired. My plays are built on this foundation.

Q: What kind of playwriting inspires you when you read it or see it onstage?

A: I believe I answered this question in the previous answer, however, to add to that, the screen plays from the sixties, both original and adapted for the screen from the stage. Their simplicity, their honesty and rawness has always been overwhelming. The best example was the screen adaptation of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Night of the Iguana. Both of these plays have been my main influences, as is likely obvious when looking back on my work.


Robert Riemer's original play KATE was live at the 2022 OC-Centric New Play Festival.


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