Q & A With Local Actor, Educator & Podcast Actor Julia Reimer

Oct 3, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Mysteryrat's Maze, Podcasts, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Since theatre on stage is still on hold right now, we are continuing to feature some local actors who have also been acting on our podcast, Mysteryrat’s Maze. This week we chatted with local actor Julia Reimer who has been the voice of several of our episodes, and has another one coming up in December. She also teaches theatre at Fresno Pacific. Mysteryrat’s Maze features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors. podcast

KRL: Are you from Fresno? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here?

Julia: I’m originally from Fresno, but have also lived in Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Austria and Lithuania, either studying or working.

KRL: Current day job? Are you still teaching theatre at FPU (Fresno Pacific University)?

Julia: I teach as an adjunct at Fresno Pacific. I teach both Theater and Communication courses such as World Theater, Performance and Culture, Visual Rhetoric, and Intercultural Communication. My degrees are in both Theater and Communication.

KRL: Schools attended?

Julia: Bowling Green State University (Theater MA), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (PhD in Communication/Performance Studies), City University of New York (a post-doc MA in Applied Theatre).

KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?

Julia: I guess you could say school and church Christmas programs; playmaking at home in my creative family was where it all started. Probably the first “real” play I was in was the fourth grade production of The Wizard of Oz at Easterby Elementary. I was so sure I was going to get Glenda the Good Witch of the North, but got cast as a Munchkin instead. I remember being pretty disgusted that my teacher didn’t recognize my great talent!

Family production of a short story by Tolstoy at church, 1978. Dalton Reimer, father; Charles Reimer, brother; Julia in her earliest old lady role at age 11.

My first serious role in college was playing the aunt in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. In the climactic scene, I had to rush offstage after hearing a gunshot, discover that my niece had killed herself, and then come back onstage with blood on my hands and break down. I had no idea how to do that kind of emotional work. I hadn’t taken any acting classes at that point. So I started reading Stanislavski, which happened to be on my dad’s bookshelf, and it was like finding the portal to another world. Of course, I realize now that Stanislavski was just the tip of the iceberg, but for a novice actor in the ‘80s, it was the start of a journey. Since then, I’ve loved delving into different ways of getting into the work, both as an actor, director, and educator. I love Laban and movement-based methods. Anne Bogart is another favorite.

KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and what parts have you played?

Julia: I did Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Euripides’Medea, Lady Sneerwell in The School for Scandal, among others in college. After college, I was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Actors Workshop), Wayside Motor Inn (Theater 3), Blithe Spirit (a Clovis company), The Marriage of Figaro where I sang as part of the peasant girl duet. In grad school, I did Blood Wedding, Geek Love, and Seeing Red. My first 2nd Space show was Morning’s at Seven, where I played an old lady (I’ve been playing old ladies since I was 10, basically.) I’ve always been grateful to Patrick Tromborg for casting me in my first 2nd Space show. I also did The Trip to Bountiful, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sense and Sensibility, and a few others at 2nd Space, though not as many as I would have liked because of my busy directing schedule when I was full-time at FPU.

Euripides’ “Medea” at Fresno Pacific College, senior year, 1990. James Kinney and Jenifer Swanson

KRL: When did you first get involved in directing; why and how?

Julia: I guess one could say I started directing with the Directing course I took in college. I had a really great instructor and to this day I still use the techniques she gave us and that she modeled through her directing. I also got into directing through the performance of literature. As an English major (Theater minor), I loved the idea of taking a piece of literature and doing a chamber staging and scripting of it. Some of my grad work—as well as the Geek Love production I was in—was around the staging of non-dramatic literature.

Julia at Woodward Park, directing the youth Shakespeare project, with Solon Walker and Breanna Corl.

KRL: What was the first show you directed?

Julia: Strindberg’s Easter, a completely obscure, odd play that I would never want to direct now, but at the time suited my twenty-something existential angst!

“A Trip to Bountiful” at 2nd Space with Mary Piona. (My first and only ingenue role)

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

Julia: Whatever I’m directing or acting in at the moment! I’m probably most drawn to smart plays that make a person think. That might be the English major in me. But directing comedies can be a lot of fun. I like plays that aren’t completely realistic. I’m not a fan of directing or being in musicals, although I like to watch them.

KRL: What do you like best about acting, singing, and directing?

Julia: What I like about theater in general as an art, is that it creates a liminal space, which could be about being in someone else’s shoes for a few hours as an actor: thinking like them, feeling their emotions, interacting with others who have also committed to being in that play-space with you. Or as a director, it’s about guiding the work that collaboratively creates that space for an audience to enter into. Richard Schechner, the performance theorist, says that some rituals will “transform” you, while others will, at the very least, “transport” you from one place to another. That’s why I do theater: because of its ability to transport, and maybe even transform, those who engage its potential.

“The Great Nebula in Orion”, Rogue Festival. (performed with Kate McKnight)

KRL: What is the hardest?

Julia: I’m always working on myself as a director. I think as an actor, I sort of have my process, and it’s fairly similar from role to role. As a director, the demands of every production feel different, so how one develops the collaborations with actors and designers, how time gets managed, what other artists or resources to bring in…all of that feels very challenging at times. I always enjoy watching other directors at work, too; I am always stealing strategies and ideas from directors I act under.

KRL: Future goals and dreams?

Julia directing with Near/Far Theatre. 2019

Julia: I’m in a bit of a transition at the moment. After I quit my full-time university faculty position, I started working on a new endeavor locally: Near/Far Theatre. We’ve done one play—Karen Zacarías’ The Sins of Sor Juana, about the 17th century Mexican feminist nun—and a community-based art project, Secondhand StoreY, with a local thrift store as part of what we’re calling the Near Far Exchange (“we bring the forms, you bring the content.”). NFT is on hold now until 2021 because of Covid-19, but we have a devised script we’ve been collaborating on around the theme of “shame” and how we navigate that in our culture. Then there are a few other projects in the works: a play set in L.A. around the Filipino-American experience, and another piece being developed by an artist about women and their hair. I’m also hoping to continue to do some overseas teaching again at the international university; I have connections in Lithuania. I’d love to act again; that’s my outlet. And then I’ve got some cute grandnieces to hang out with up in Oregon!

KRL: Heroes?

Julia: As I mentioned before, my theater professor in college was inspirational, my dad, who’s pretty smart and also wise, friends. I’ve known so many people who just step up and get the work done, people who think outside the box, put a lot of love into the world, are kind and ethical. Their stories and modeling help me make the journey. I’ve been lucky.

KRL: Hobbies?

Julia: I play the piano, read novels. I recently found a bunch of quilt squares I had cut out maybe two decades ago and decided I should sew them together, since my usual hobby of going to the theater is currently out of reach. I have been seeing some shows via Zoom; my new passion is Theater of War productions—free and incredibly meaningful in terms of the conversations with the audiences after. Social-impact theater is good stuff.

“A Flea in her Ear”, with Alex Vaux at 2nd Space Theatre

KRL: Was your first Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast the first time you ever did any voice acting?

Julia: Reading aloud is something that has been a part of my life every since I can remember. I used to memorize a lot of poems, and had opportunities to do readings publicly in various contexts from time to time. [There was also] all the reading aloud one does when babysitting, and the oral interpretation things I did both in college and grad school. And of course, actors are always reading plays out loud as a part of the first reads. So it didn’t feel unusual to take the extra step of recording myself reading when it came to the Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast. But it was a fun opportunity. When I graduated with my English BA back in the day, I used to say my ideal job was to read “books on tape” as we called it then. It took a few decades, but a dream fulfilled!

KRL: How has voice acting been different from acting on stage?

Julia: What’s fun about reading stories is that you get to be all the characters, as well as find your narrator’s voice. So I’ve been able to play a little with accents, maybe not always as authentically as I’d aim for if it were an acting role; more to suggest the character than become him or her. It’s a different kind of energy and pace too, when you’re reading for a listening audience, rather than acting a role. One of the challenges is that writers don’t necessarily write sentences that are meant to be spoken, so the voice actor has to take a long sentence and figure out the phrasing and emphasis so it sounds natural in the spoken medium. I like a good challenge!

Check out Julia’s podcast performances on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, mysteryratsmaze.podbean.com or listen to the players below.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. Don’t miss the recent article we did about Theatre in the Valley during shelter-in-place.

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.


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