Q & A With Local actor/director/film maker Robert Jerome Pagan

Jun 11, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Movies, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

KRL interviews a lot of actors and others involved in local theatre and film, and during Pride Month we especially like to highlight artists in the LGBTQ+ community. This week we are interviewing Robert Jerome Pagan who has done a little bit of everything in the theatre and film world and has won awards for his work.

KRL: Where are you from? Were you born in this area?

Robert: I was born in Hayward, CA, and lived in Castro Valley off and on until age 21. I then moved with my husband to Hollister, CA, and then made our move to Los Banos in 2013 and have lived here since.

KRL: How/when did you first get involved in theatre?

Robert: I got involved in theatre as a child and was nurtured by multiple teachers and directors who saw potential in me. Theatre was the gateway to my overcoming of my educational hindering dyslexia and ADHD.

Robert on stage

KRL: What was your first role/show to direct and with what company?

Robert: My first role would be the Blue Block in a preschool pageant. I started directing at the age of 12 at my middle school. I also was really involved with directing pageants and assemblies for the Catholic Church through a lot of my teenage years and young adult life. I was the youngest mainstage director at my high school, directing my first show my freshman year and continued to direct every year after.

This inherent drive to tell stories led me to direct at many community colleges in the East Bay, two of which were Chabot and Las Positas, and Gavilan College in Gilroy.

After getting married I would switch to focus on choreography and direction of new work, community theaters, and became the youngest and first Afro-Latino Theatrical Director of the Northern California Renaissance Faire.

KRL: Wow that is very impressive. How did you get involved in directing?

Robert: Directing and performing were hand in hand for me. I was never satisfied with just understanding my role, but rather wanted to know the subtext and full show. The question of why was too strong for me.

Robert fliming

KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in and that you have directed?

Robert: I have directed over 150 plays/musicals in my career, most of the Shakespeare canon and many musical classics.

I have played roles from Jesus in both Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar to Jekyll and Hyde. I have had the opportunity to play Lysander and Richard III. My performance career has allowed me to play many of the roles coveted by actors. I have always preferred creating roles such as Murray in Iron Curtain the Musical and Oscar in An Oscar Winning Movie.

KRL: I believe you have written plays as well. Would you tell us about that?

Robert: I have adapted or written over 70 plays and musicals, many of which have been produced over the past 15 years. The drive to tell stories that are not often seen or to make a classic more understandable to a modern audience is what has always fueled my theatrical writings. With plays that talk about what it is to be Brown in America to the deconstruction of Romeo and Juliet, writing and oral storytelling is a passionate part of my theatrical and film work.

KRL: What is your dream role and/or show to direct?

Robert: I don’t think there is a dream show. I have gotten to play a lot of the theatrical roles I have wanted, for example Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.

As for a dream stage show I would like to direct, I actually dream of directing an arena concert or a huge residency of an artist that would be open to collaboration. If I had to choose a show I wanted to direct but have not yet, probably Spring Awakening or Jagged Little Pill.

KRL: Please tell us about Workshop 44.

Robert: Workshop 44 is a private nonprofit organization started by myself, Geovani Sandoval, Dana Severin and a collaborative of creators and performers.

The void of diversity, equity, and justice in Central Valley theater and the stories being produced was one that we simply could not ignore, and so we picked up the call to action and incorporated Workshop 44.

With our belief that we as artists can propel change, we have held one goal, to “tell the stories that matter.” With a production and self-propelled educational model, giving the ability of practical application empowers the voices of the minority to create.

KRL: That’s great!
When and how did you first get involved in film?

Robert:*Laughingly* Film and I have a love hate relationship and have since I was child. I had done some film and TV work but found, especially in the early thousands, that film and TV was for actors who were whiter than I am.

Robert filming “An American Posada”

So, at a young age I was conditioning myself to live in a world of theater and I was very content with that knowing I could make an impact.

I think when I was younger, film was never a thought more because of access. Everyone didn’t have a 4k camera in their pocket when I grew up, and theater was a big deal in my community. It wasn’t until high school where I even had access to film production, but by then I dual-matriculated at Cal State Hayward and very much committed to learning and mastering the theatrical arts.

It was really the Covid-19 pandemic that sparked a want to learn and evolve as an artist into film. The ability to create in the way I had known all my life was taken, but my drive to tell stories was still there. With my drive and a team who had been creating together for a decade, we jumped in and allowed ourselves to learn, succeed, fail, and become filmmakers.

KRL: Do you write for film, as well as direct and produce?

Robert: I do write for film. I have written 9 feature films as part of the Last Gasp series, two stand-alone feature films, An American Posada and An Oscar Winning Movie, and have written multiple pilots, shorts, and features that are yet to be produced.

KRL: Tell us about your first film?

Robert: My first film was the Last Gasp series, which is the film that was inspired to be created during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last Gasp is based on a one-act play that I wrote in college and really was a passion project that I, in many ways, was not prepared for. I would say that Last Gasp came to be through an amazing number of coincidences, hard days, and right moments.

KRL: What is your most recent film?

Robert: My most recent films are Oscar J Evans’ The Artist, which is my first short film, and An Oscar Winning Movie, which is my first ever comedy/slasher feature. Both of these films focus on the queer community and were filmed locally in the Central Valley.

KRL: I understand that your films have won awards can you tell us about that?

Robert: To my great surprise, all my films have done very well so far in the festival circuit. Last Gasp: Chapter 1 has won 9 awards, ranging from Best Feature to Best TV Pilot. Last Gasp has also been honored with several technical awards in editing, cinematography, direction, and acting.

My family film, An American Posada, has won 12 awards from Best Feature to Best Ensemble, and I earned my first Best Director award through the Vesuvius International Film Festival in Italy. “An American Posada” was also honored at the World Film Carnival in Singapore for both Best Mobile Film and Best Mobile Film Director in 2021 and 2022.

In April of 2022, Last Gasp: Chapter 2 was honored as Best Local Feature Northern California at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival. Just recently, Oscar J Evans’ The Artist was named Best Micro Short USA at the Inaugural Merced Queer Film Festival, where Workshop 44 and its team took home over 14 awards, including Artist of the Year and Best Central Valley Feature for the screening of An Oscar Winning Movie.

KRL: Congratulations! Where can people see your films?

Robert: While most of our films have had limited releases or special screenings at festivals, none of them are currently available for streaming. We are in the process of looking for distribution for our films and hope to be available for viewing in people’s homes soon.

KRL: Are you still involved in theatre as well or has your focus completely shifted to film?

Robert: Theatre will always be a cornerstone of my storytelling career and as the world opens back up, I do see myself creating limited theatrical events. I also look forward to opportunities to direct at other theatrical institutions around the world.

KRL: Who are some of your heroes?

Robert: I don’t have heroes, I think that one of the biggest issues with our society as a whole, not only in entertainment, is the implementation of hero worship. However, I do believe that I’ve been inspired by directors like Pat Rocco, Luis Valdez, and many other activist artists who have shaped our world with impact.

KRL: What is the hardest part for you in directing-both film and stage?

Robert: I think the hardest part of directing across the board is being able to acknowledge when your stuff sucks, and the ability to continuously push yourself to make sure that what you’re putting out is an honest reflection of what you want to be seen.

KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show to direct and/or be in?

Robert: I just enjoy directing stories that are honest. Any time I look at a play or musical I try to find the most naturalistic intent and I think that the thirst to tell honest stories can sometimes outweigh the material. Even when I’m directing a children’s show, the story matters, the moral matters, the honesty matters.

KRL: Do you have a dream role or show to direct?

Robert: If I was to say I had a dream role in film it would be to play the Joker in Batman, and if I was to look at a theatrical role on stage, the role I would want to play is Broadway director.

KRL: What are your goals with your film career?

Robert: My goal is to continue to tell stories.

KRL: What are some of the things that have helped you grow the most as an artist?

Robert: Living life, making mistakes, and knowing that you can always be a better person are some of the things that have helped me grow the most.

KRL: Hobbies?

Robert: Some of my hobbies include paranormal investigation and studying ancient cultures.

KRL: What are you working on now?

Robert: I’m working on learning how to enjoy the downtime, but every time I say that another project pops up.

KRL: Anything else you would like to add?

Robert: I would like to add that it’s important to understand that as a director and creator, it is not just a solo sport. I have been lucky in both my theatre and film career to work with some amazing human beings and have learned from each of them. Although I have won a lot of awards, the true gift for me is watching so many of the people I’ve worked with go on and succeed.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. And if you love theatre don’t miss out on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where you can hear local actors bring to life mystery short stories and first chapters!

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet. Lorie’s latest mystery novel, One of Us, is set in the Tower District of Fresno and the world of community theatre!

2 Comments

  1. Great interview! Thanks for this.

    Reply
  2. Robert is in inspiration in our community and does real, impactful work to elevate voices that need to be represented.

    Reply

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