Meet The Cast of Spooky Action Theater’s ‘Collaborators’: Part 1: Paul Reisman

In Part 1 of our series with the cast of Spooky Action’s Collaborators, meet Paul Resiman.

Paul Reisman. Photo courtesy of Spooky Action Theater.
Paul Reisman. Photo courtesy of Spooky Action Theater.

Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on the stage?

Paul: My name is Paul Reisman and I’m a professional actor and director in the Metro DC area. Readers may have seen my work before at Shakespeare Theatre Company (Julius Caesar, Servant of Two Masters), Faction of Fools (A Commedia R&J, A Commedia Christmas Carol, Our Town), or amidst the casts of several Taffety Punk bootlegs, Flying V Readings, and dogandponydc workshops. I am the Associate Artistic Director of Faction of Fools, a graduate of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Academy for Classical Acting, and a proud member of AEA. I’m thrilled to be making my Spooky Action debut in The Collaborators!

My name is Paul Reisman and I’m a professional actor and director in the Metro DC area. Readers may have seen my work before at Shakespeare Theatre Company (Julius Caesar, Servant of Two Masters), Faction of Fools (A Commedia R&J, A Commedia Christmas Carol, and Our Town), or amidst the casts of several Taffety Punk bootlegs, Flying V Readings, and dogandponydc workshops. I am the Associate Artistic Director of Faction of Fools, a graduate of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Academy for Classical Acting, and a proud member of AEA. I’m thrilled to be making my Spooky Action debut in The Collaborators!

Joel: Why did you want to become a member of the cast of Collaborators?

Paul: It’s a beautifully crafted script and a great role. The dreamscape that Playwright John Hodge has written is so cinematic, so many moments from scene to scene just jump off the page at you. It captured my imagination as soon as I read it.

Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to him?

I play Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian author (known for his novel The Master and Margarita) who is constantly torn between his ideals and his sense of duty. His art is an equal (if not greater) part of who he is. It motivates all other aspects of his life, which is something I can relate to, on some level.

What is the play about from the point of view of your character?

The play is dark comedy about a writer who tries to navigate the waters of fascism and freedom in Stalinist Russian, while trying to maintain his identity, his ideals, and the safety of the people he loves.

What do you admire most about your character and what do you not admire about him?

I admire his tenacity. He’s always looking for a positive way to improve his situation. Unfortunately, his single-mindedness leaves him vulnerable at several key moments in our story.

What did you learn about Bulgakov and Stalin after you were cast in the show that you didn’t know before you were cast?

Everything! Being cast in the show provided such a great opportunity to dive into research, not only on the period, but on these great historical figures.

What advice and suggestions did Director Richard Henrich give you that helped you prepare for your role? Have you ever worked with him before? What is his process?

Richard was very up front about reminding the cast that all historical research had to come after researching the script. That is to say, the play takes liberties at times, and we should never assume that the audience had any more background information than what takes place on stage.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced in preparing for your role?

Well, Bulgakov barely leaves the stage throughout the entire play, so the biggest challenge was building up the stamina and focus to play straight through, without getting the downtime offstage that is often helpful for actors.

What lines that someone else says are your favorites?

Oh, Vladimir gets all the fun lines. He’s the NKVD officer with a funny streak (played wonderfully by G. Michael Harris). In one scene, I say “You’re a secret policeman.” His response is “Is that all I am to you? That’s how you think of me? Am I not allowed other qualities? Literary sensitivity, imagination, a willingness to explore ideas through sound and light, voice and motion?” Priceless.

What themes and issues does the play address that current audiences will be able to relate to?

joe Duquette and Paul Reisman in 'Collaborators.' Photo courtesy of Spooky Action Theater.
(L to R): Joe Duquette (Stalin) and Paul Reisman (Bulgakov). Photo by Tony Hitchcock.

Well, the play was written in 2011, so while it’s set a long time ago, the play is quite modern. It deals with questions of privacy, of loyalty and of our relationship to our leaders, whatever the political system we live under. Perhaps most central is the idea of art as a transformative and redemptive force, which is, I think, one of the strongest reasons audiences go to the theatre in the first place.

 What are you doing next on the stage after Collaborators?

The next project I am working on actually runs concurrently with Collaborators. I am directing a workshopping of scenes from The Merchant of Venice for my company, Faction of Fools. We are rehearsing on my off nights from Collaborators and have three showings, March 6, 7, and 8, 2016 at Gallaudet University. Commedia Shakespeare is as large a leap to the other side of the spectrum as I can imagine, so it will be a fun diversion.

What do you want audiences to take with them after watching Collaborators?
A program and a smile.

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Collaborators plays through March 13, 2016 at Spooky Action Theater performing at the Universalist National Memorial Church – 1810 16th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.