Sunday, June 8, 2014

8 Questions with.........director/producer Brian Remo of Fearless Productions

Its 7:56 pm

      Welcome to an another edition of my ongoing interview series,"8 Questions with.....". I started this waaaay back when on another social media site and have re-started it here. The series features people from all over who in one or another have perked my interest. So I ask to do a interview where they answer the questions themselves,in their own words.

  It was almost a year ago that I first interviewed actor/playwright Stephen Foster for my blog. The interview was a lot of fun and as of today,is the second best viewed one in my series. Stephen and I have remained friends and he is one of my blog's biggest supporters. 
  Picking subjects to be interviewed is a random inexact science for me. I don't have a list or leads,I just ask someone if they want to be interviewed,explain my format and away we go...
  Recently I posted that if anyone knew someone who would be a good person to talk to to suggest their name to me,Stephen sent me Brian Remo's name right away. Brian is a stage director and producer of Fearless Productions based in Rahway,New Jersey.
  I was fortunate that I was able to attend a lot of plays when I was in San Jose and I really enjoy a good production. I always wonder what does it take to put a play or a musical. I know that movie making is done in pieces and out of order with tons of editing and effects work. But a live stage production is organic and raw and in the now, As a former talent buyer,I know about putting on a live show,working the logistics,securing the talent and promoting it. But doing it on a daily basis (or nightly) and making sure the show is PERFECT,that takes a supreme talent and Brian Remo clearly has that and more. 
From Brian's bio on the Fearless website

" I wanted to be an actor. So I cropped a candid photo off my computer, printed a make-shift head shot out at the local Target, and started knocking on doors of major Broadway theaters asking for a shot. "I would start at the bottom!!" I explained. The bottom, I soon learned was nowhere near the Midtown Theater District, and I sneaked into an audition at a West Village 40-seat theater for a show entitled "Sex, Relationships and Sometimes...Love" I had no credits, no experience, and no IDEA what I was doing, but I had a SICK ability to memorize written word so I got off book for a three minute monologue in fifteen minutes and got cast in a show that was 30 blocks south of where I wanted to be. Seven years, twenty plus community theater productions and a few doses of life showing up later, I sit here today looking at a poster that has my picture, my name and the title of that SAME show with an address that resides 36 blocks north of day one: The Jerry Orbach Theater located on the corner of 50th and BROADWAY. I find myself surrounded by a cast of 24 and a company of over 70 actors and actresses that have got to be the most valuable assets a man could dream of... We came together in friendship, in love and in the name of our passion for the craft that was fueled by a collaborative spirit that can only be referred to as Fearless........"

 With such dedication and drive,is it no wonder that Brian can do it all? Of course what really warms my heart is his insightfulness on taking chances on NEW VOICES. To be bold enough to challenge his audiences with fresh works from relatively unknown playwrights. Remember,when you see "Legends and Bridge" get nominated for Tony Awards and hit Broadway by storm,just recall this most hard working and fearless director.

And now........its time for 8 Questions with.........director Brian Remo of Fearless Productions.

    Take a minute to introduce yourself to us.

Hey there... My name is Brian Remo. I'm currently CEO and Artistic Director of Fearless Productions. Among the many hats this corporation allows me to rack, I am currently engaged in a career in acting. I am a theatrical producer, director, instructor, promoter, manager, writer, advocate and philanthropist. These may seem like a lot of words to describe one I prefer which is "opportunist." I live in New Jersey and am the lucky dad to three amazing children: Justin (13), Jack (10) and Kali Peyton (1)...

  What was your early years like? What one moment led you into becoming a actor?

I spent most of my life doing what I thought others wanted me to do. I did these things in order to be liked or appreciated. Truth is I acted most my life away. If I wanted someone to accept me, or appreciate me, I would quickly adapt to fit in or conform. My first exposure with theater was in the St. Alphonsus sixth grade production of 'The Stations of the Cross'... The critics seemed to miss the boat on this one but I assure you it was riveting. Not being classically popular I was cast as a shepherd which was Catholic School for "Spear bearer #3" when Pontius Pilate got chicken pox on opening night, the nuns had an open freak session on what to do. Sister Maureen asked if any of the smaller roles would care to play the role while reading the script, I raised my hand. So with fifteen minutes to go, I got into costume, and as I waited in the wings the director handed me the script and said break a leg. I looked at her and said "Thank you", and preceded to go on without the script. After the play was over, everyone asked me how I knew all the lines and blocking and I remember replying,"Well I saw the play like ten times, you know, in rehearsal...." I never saw a stage again till 2007,.. but man oh man do I try to make up for it. I figure if I do twice as much in half the time then maybe I'll catch up to my happily ever after. I spent the better part of my life...afraid. Afraid of not being good enough, not having enough, or not knowing what the hell enough was. Self centered fear drove me to the least likely of places: The furthest away from my true self's center possible. It wasn't until New Year's Eve, 2007 that a simple resolution changed everything. I wanted to be an actor...

Was there one person or performer who influenced you to explore your creative side? If it was a person,who was it and how did they influence you?

 My uncle Jim and I were very close I was a child. He was always the life of the party doing impressions making jokes and constantly doing physical comedy... I loved the way the eyes of the people in the room would light up when he would do these things. He told me a story once about how his dream was to be a standup comedian. And he never got that chance except for one night at an open mic night while on vacation. He spoke of that night like all of his dreams came true at that very moment. I remember thinking of that story when I made my decision to turn my life around.

    You had your first role in a 40 seat theater,what do you remember from that first night and share with us what emotions you felt.

*LOL*... Well the theater held 40, but I only held the attention of the one person who showed up that night... Her name was Ingrid... And she drove three hours in the snow to see her friend in the show who coincidentally did NOT show... So I learned really early the adage "play to a full house every night"... Someone asked me what I was so happy about, I told them "I'm a working actor in NYC and it's an all female audience!!! Don't know bout you but I'm already planning on what drink I'm gonna let her buy me..." FYI the following night there were so many people in the audience that they sat them on the stage itself. (Ingrid was my comp for that show).... It was a gin and tonic by the way.

    What does it take to take a new play such as "Legends and Bridge" to the stage? Does a director have any influence in tweaking the material?

L&B is a triumph before it ever hits the stage... The truth is, that's kind of how I look at all the projects I become involved with. I don't rate the material before I gage the potential for the greatness that is possible surrounding the people involved with the project. Because of this wonderful piece of written word, i've had the pleasure to meet Stephen Foster, and to cast three amazing women to portray three iconic figures. Not to mention two immensely overqualified supporting actors. Sometimes I get thought of as a pre-caster, but it's just that combination of knowing what I want and holding auditions in day to day life when I meet people and play them out in my head. A person only has to spend five minutes on Facebook to know the fire and intensity with which Stephen lives his life and has transcribed that into the words on the page. I would sooner explain how a cheetah manages to run 70 miles an hour, it's just potential ability and basic instinct that made the play what it is...all I get to do is set it loose.

  What is a difference between directing a play and producing it?

Although I enjoy acting a bit more than directing, and directing a bit more than producing, the differences between the positions has to do with the ability to relinquish control and the number of decisions you have to make in comparison to their importance. As actors we make 1000 decisions on stage and one wrong decision can easily be fixed by the other 999. As a director we make a couple hundred decisions all fixable but much more heavily weighted as there are less but far more powerful ones to make. And as a producer we make key decisions like what play to choose or who is going to direct it. The decisions a producer makes are few and early, but ultimately those three or four decisions set the tone for the entirety of the project.

  Why are the same plays like "Cats" and "Phantom" constantly "revived" on Broadway instead of new plays and new playwrights? Every year at the Tony Awards ,it seems we see the same roles nominated just new faces in them.

I'm probably not the best person to answer this question but I'll give it a shot. I think every once in a while a play or musical is written that just plain old deserves to be immortal... Les Mis, Wicked, Menagerie.... I think some of these plays ultimately set the tone and establish a new set of standards for future works. Frankly I can see every generation wanting their opportunity to perform such great pieces. And every generation of viewer to appreciate these works in presentation by the actors of their time. A comparable question might be why do people fly halfway around the world to see structures and artworks built by man when computer generation can fabricate replicate and dominate them in far less time. When something great happens you celebrate the discovery no matter how much time passes... I'm just saying.

   What is the more difficult to create for the stage...a drama,a comedy or a original musical and why?

I personally find drama to be the most difficult yet the most rewarding. I feel musicals bring with it an instant gratification to the audience.. Everyone loves a good song and dance. Comedy is of course designed to provide enjoyment through laughter and ridicule of the human instrument,but in the drama it is so much more difficult to embrace and attempt to tackle the audiences ability to appreciate much deeper and richer emotions such as remorse, resentment, denial, addiction, heart ache, betrayal, desolation, sacrifice,.. And without resorting to easier tactics such as comedic influence and special-effects that is a challenge that I respect and relish the opportunity for.

   Tell us about your stage company,Fearless. Between acting,directing and producing,how did you find time to start a stage company?

To tell you the truth Fearless essentially formed itself. As I became more and more involved in theater I looked around me and I saw not only a collection of associates, but this immensely talented group of friends that acted more like family. After shows we would all sit in the bar or coffeehouses and the conversations usually ended up in "we should do this show" or "you'd be great in that show" and I guess I just said to myself if somebody doesn't start making these dreams come true for people they may never get the opportunity to do it at all. I wish I would've pursued mine earlier. And that's what Fearless Productions is about,... fearlessly pursuing our hopes and dreams through the art of theater.
Currently Fearless Productions has five regional shows slated for 2014, six regional shows slated for 2015, a featured production in 'Legends and Bridge', an open ended New York City cult juggernaut in 'sex relationships and sometimes love'and is producing a statewide musical theater competition called Fearless Icon... The company was formed in January 2014 and what started out as about 30 members has tripled in size in five short months. And God willing it will continue to make dreams come true.

  Exactly how does one represent a actor? Do you decide based on stage/film credits/SAG-AFTRA standing?

Fearless management was actually Kristin Barber's idea. And I usually follow her lead, but to me it comes down to work ethic... There are 1 million markets out there and millions of different types. Everyone can find their niche if they work hard enough at it. It seems we may spend our whole life for that five-minute moment when we feel that feeling we've been searching for. Most people would give anything to feel that.

 You are extremely busy,so what do you do on your down time? (I had to seriously press Brian to answer..a testament to his drive)

Down time...I read... I ride my motorcycle... I catch up on game of thrones. I try not to miss any of my son's baseball games. I usually make it a point to have movie night with my sons once a week. Laundry sneaks its way I there somewhere. Truth is I kinda live my life a moment at a time and when a spare moment creeps in I kinda do what falls in front of me... I'm just not the "I enjoy Sundays in my herb garden" kinda guy, ya know? I don't read the paper, I don't watch the news, I don't hike or bike or shop unless I need a new pair of jeans or a black t shirt. Theater is what makes me happy... And I'll take happy, with or without the ever after..

I like to say thank you to both Brian Remo for taking the time to answer my 8 Questions and to Stephen Foster for suggesting him! 

To learn more about Fearless Productions just click the link. 

My next interview will be with actress/activist Monique Parent. She is one of the sweetest people I know and this should be a fun interview.

  Also have reached across the pond again for my next guest blogger who I know you will enjoy reading. 

If you are on Twitter,follow me @Jinzo_2400

Shout outs

Happy birthday to both Sue and Dominic
Joan L. - Mary Steenbergen! 
Robert and Heather - There can't be a Pacific Rim 2 without Cherno Alpha!
Susan - glad the tire was reasonable
Debbie Rochon - thanks for the fun
Chris B. - Thank you for knowing about Torpedo-8 and John Waldron. Sad that Midway is so badly forgotten by this country and without that victory maybe D-DAY would have never happened.
Josh - thank you so much for the new music...its like water to a thirsty man.
Amy Lange and Gary Avila - all my love and gratefulness this past weekend
Donald - next year.


  1. Great interview Michael! :) I know nothing about theater but have greatly enjoyed seeing Wicked a few times and also the Lion King. It seems like SO much would go into a production, especially a traveling one like those are. I can't wait for the next interview!

    1. I love stage productions as well....I am partial to musicals myself. I would like to see a show locally but the ticket prices for a little local are just as high as a big theater show....I need to find a small 40 seater like Brian started out in...

  2. P.S....I just remembered, I need to finish that FB message I started the other day! lol!!

  3. Interesting interview. I agree with him that some pieces deserve to be performed again and again but it's great that he's willing to put on unknown works as well. We need both!

    1. I am with you on this,Karen. As much as I enjoy established pieces,its more exciting to see a fresh voice given a chance!

  4. I really liked this interview- so interesting!

  5. Replies
    1. I agree! Brian has incredible passion for his family and his art!

  6. I haven't seen a live production in so long. I had a chance to see Miss Saigon with a relative of my brother in law' wife but it was right after a hard wisdom tooth surgery. Theatre is the essence of being human. I'm sharing this with my friends on Facebook; several of them are theatre buffs and will love this interview. Alana

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this interview,Alana! Very honored....

  7. RE; Theatre- people aren't open minded. So many productions have closed recently; just look at the likes of 'I Can't Sing' people are not willing to pay to see new productions in the west end.
    Did you hear about 'Jesus Christ Superstar' ? They cancelled the WHOLE 40 date USA's such a shame as it's an incredible production! I feel grateful to have seen it in the UK! Ben Forster (Jesus) is phenomenal!

    1. Good points....funny how Hollywood keeps claiming bigger box office numbers yet ignores the fact its higher prices but far less people can see a movie. Live stage shows/tours cannot survive without a audience.

  8. A very inspiring conversation. I love the questions and his answers. very talented

    1. Glad the questions were good ones,I ask the questions that I really want to ask...