Off-Off-Broadway West: On Guy Zimmerman’s “Outlaw Theatre”

Off-Off-Broadway West: On Guy Zimmerman’s “Outlaw Theatre” By Paul Vangelisti NOSTALGIA AND ITS PERILS aside— the latter including, more often than not, becoming repetitious and shamelessly preaching to the choir—one might argue that, in the 1970s and ’80s, Los Angeles became one of the country’s most vital centers for equity-waiver theater. Eastside, Westside, Valley, Downtown—theater […]

Of Fargo, Dopamine and the Image of Nectar

As a whole, Season 2 of Fargo tabled an extended narrative account of the hollowing-out of white America in the post-Vietnam War era by the same forces it had unleashed on the world. The final scene in the office tower pointed toward the main instrument of this collapse—money, finance, capital—reminding me again that we lack an adequate understanding of what happens when the human mind encounters the coin. And yet Fargo also suggests certain insights about this encounter are beginning to percolate out into the culture at large.

The Thingifyer — Dark Hope in McCarthy’s No Country

Buried under the plot of No Country lies a complex meditation about fate, Ananke, karma American style. The hero, Llewelyn Moss commits a series of cosmic indiscretions and the hit man Anton Chigurh is dispatched by our implacable, impersonal deity to make a corpse-thing out of Moss. Moss’ first “error” is failing to kill the antelope he shoots at in the beginning of the film. Some little hesitation, perhaps, ruins his aim and the antelope runs off, wounded. Next comes Moss’ biggest error — he returns to the scene of a massacre to give a dying man water.

Hold It Against Me — The United States of Stanley Kubrick

September 21, 2011 | by Guy Zimmerman Aspects of ourselves that we don’t know how to care for give rise to the complex patterns of distraction that we call our personalities. This notion came to me courtesy of Brittany Spears in a small burst of insight that happened also to illuminate the closing moments ofStanley […]

Citizens Koch — The Face Outside the Window

September 3, 2010 | by Guy Zimmerman | It’s hard to know what to say about Charles Koch after reading Jane Mayer’s astonishing expose in the August 30th issue of The New Yorker. American politics have been running hot for decades; finally we can name the source of the fever. Together with his brother David, Charles Koch owns Koch Industries, the […]

In the Palm of the Hand — Cormac McCarthy’s Killing Machines

The Counselor is also perhaps the first screenplay written about a new device for killing ones enemies. I’m talking about the nifty bolito, a palm-sized, battery-powered motor with a looping wire attached to it that, once dropped over someone’s head, tightens inexorably around the neck until it severs the carotid artery with a spray of blood, perhaps even taking off the entire head as it grinds down toward a circumference of zero.

Becoming Planet — Melancholia, by Lars Von Trier

January 2, 2012 | by Guy Zimmerman Far away among the stars a planet holds your image in its heart. You met on a summer night. A single glance was all it took. Later, in your dreams, your heart fatally divided, you beamed out a signal of erotic distress, a covert invitation. And now the […]

New Open Doors — Deleuze and the Songbirds of Finland

February 23, 2012 | by Guy Zimmerman The Wulf, Deleuze and the Songbirds of Finland – I am haunted by a woman facing South. I see her standing at the edge of an open field, eyes fixed on a distant road. I know very little about her. She died over a hundred years ago when her […]

Dance Central — Obama and the Dionysian Short Circuit

August 18, 2013 | by Guy Zimmerman Listening to Obama speak about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case I found myself thinking back to Halloween, a few days before the last election, when I drove to Pasadena to pick up my daughter, age 12, from a small class party. The airwaves that night were […]

Art and Practice with The Heart Sutra

June 7, 2017 | by Guy Zimmerman Toward Re-organization  Most of us spend our lives avoiding the Heart Sutra, but it pursues us anyway like a heat-seeking missile, even while also rising up around us like the petals of the famous lotus flower. Allow me to explain. We tend to assume that, at least in principle, […]

Lean On Me — Hybrid Dharma and the Issue of Ownership

September 25, 2017 | by Guy Zimmerman| Sometimes late at night traveling with my father I’d wake up knowing nothing about where I was but feeling Steve McQueen close, as close as the black sky pressing in on the walls of the motel room. Lying back on the bed I’d imagine the surrounding area as I’d […]

Notes on a Traveler — The Yellow Man Returns

May 25, 2013, Guy Zimmerman Photo Credit: Jeffery Milstein Like pharaonic retainers the passengers leaving the Swissair terminal ahead of the Yellow Man seemed to convey all his worldly possessions into the vast crypt of the LA basin, where he had descended to breathe his last. Out walked American teenagers in t-shirts and European couples […]

The Hive Project

In the fall of 2012, three Los Angeles-based writers—Guy Zimmerman, Gray Palmer and Rachel Jendrzejewski—joined forces to develop The Hive Project, a triptych of new plays exploring the link between theatrical drama and the sociality of bees. Adapting some of the techniques seminal playwright and director Bertolt Brecht developed in his Lehrstuck or “learning plays” of the late 1920s, the collaborators created three short plays that engage with philosophical and political issues linked to the long and rich history of human-bee interactions.

Guy Z. Directing Reel

Longer video excerpts and full plays available on request.

The Royal, by Guy Zimmerman

The Royal engages with the psychology and the narrative strategies of the international thriller. Pulling back the hood on this popular genre, so to speak, the play examines what this kind of dramatic structure says about the US in 2015, and the militaristic, aggressive and partially paranoid American mindset to see what makes it tick — as in an “exploded” diagram one might find in a list of instructions for a home-assembly kit.

The Hillary Game, by Guy Zimmerman

“If one day… the event and the machine, were to be thought together, you can bet…this new figure would resemble a monster.”
Jacques Derrida
Developed with actors Tim Habeger and Shelby Hofer of PushPush in Atlanta, and with Darrell Larson and Alana Dietze in Los Angeles, The Hillary Game looks at one of the defining moral issues of our time—drone warfare. Technology-driven anxiety collides with a longing for human connection, as a former drone operator and his new trainee play out scenarios in which an imagined version of Hillary Clinton confronts the Jehovah-like power of being in the “drivers seat” of a fleet of armed drones.

VisionLA Fest

As ground zero of the automotive economy, Los Angeles has a unique contribution to make in devising better ways to live, and VisionLA Fest invites the L.A. arts community to get involved in this vitally important project. By engaging the international dialogue on climate change, imagining creative responses and building momentum for change, artists and […]

Along the Stream, Doing Nothing

Of fascination and its opposite
Behind the house in New Hampshire where we lived when I was young there was a steep, overgrown hillside, and, at the bottom of the hillside, a wide parking lot. Marking the far end of the lot a stream curved and turned back on itself, eventually flowing out through a culvert that ran beneath the road. I’ve always recalled that stream with a very particular fascination, but the true nature of that fascination only settled into language a few weeks back. It’s as if the trace of that experience had been concealed somewhere in my body, and now, holding an asana in a studio in Silver Lake, something came open, releasing or “unconcealing” that trace into words. Pondering that moment, I feel my age, and recall how my grandfather Tony, toward the end of his long life, often travelled back into the years he spent as a young man “beside the River Blue” in Eastern Arizona, an idyllic time full of plump game, lively music and pretty women.

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The Black Glass

Press “Bentham’s nightmare, well-enacted by the performers in Zimmerman’s choreographic staging and with the support of John Zalewski’s haunting sound design, is that of a doomed man trying to reckon with his multidimensional bankruptcy.” – LA WEEKLY “Such an enigmatic, elliptical narrative risks leaving audiences bewildered but not edified. The Black Glass’ mystique instead casts […]

Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence

In school I studied history because the teachers in that department were particularly good. One of my favorites was a guy named Alan Trachtenberg, who had just written an important book about the rise of the American corporation during the Gilded Age that closed out the 19th century. Robber barons, railroads and a ferocious assault on labor and the working man, according to Trachtenberg, fueled in the U.S. the collapse of space into time, jump-starting the development of the 24-7 economy that now shapes our daily lives. I loved also the Annales school of French Marxist historians centered around the work of Fernand Braudel, whose painstaking, longue duree approach to history involved turning a multitude of small facts over and over again in search of clarity. Read Full Article

Shame in the New Gilded Age

The Neo-Victorian Era and Two Thin Red Lines—

When I was five years old I watched my father split his head open with an axe. We were living in New Hampshire at the time and it was winter, the fields deep in snow. My father was splitting logs in the basement of our house. He was a physically powerful man, and while young he had worked for several years on his father’s sawmill on a mountain outside Tucson, Arizona. I sat on the wooden stairs and watched him divide the logs with a rhythmic metallic chuck, the pieces dancing away onto the cement floor. At the apex of a full-bodied downswing, the head of the axe caught on a piece of old clothesline concealed near the rafters and the sharp blade swung around and struck him hard in the back of the head and he cursed and knelt down. Paralyzed, I watched his deep red blood flow out from where his fingers clenched the wound. The blood matted his black hair, and pooled around him on the dusty cement. Unable to move or respond I sat rigid as my father staggered past me into the bright daylight, a dripping rag now pressed to the wound. Charging around to the front of the house, he left a thin trail of red in the white snow. Then, after more shouting, I heard the car engine kick into life and drive off. Shivering as the sun sank down, I sat listening to the furnace tick in the shadows. Hours later, my father returned with the wound stitched closed and found me in the same position. Read Full Article

The Aristotelian Detour and the Excluded Middle Way

And the Excluded Middle Way

I’ve been writing lately about this experience you can have in a sitting practice of non-separation, and how fundamentally it clashes with our commonsense view of ourselves as being unique individuals who exist separate and apart, distinct from all others, clearly defined and continuous in time. Interesting to me is the boundary between these two contradictory ways of relating to experience, the separate and the non-separate. Perhaps because of my work as a theater artist, I experience this boundary very much like the border of a stage. When we practice meditation for a while, we learn to experience a strong reactive emotion without enacting it—the reactive emotion still does its thing, but it is now at a slight remove from us, exactly as if, again, it were performing on a stage. Across that imaginary line all our fears, hopes and sorrows leap into life, a vivid promenade of fantastic creatures signaling through the flames before subsiding into empty space. Read Full Article

The Bodhi Tree and the Turin Horse

The stories could not be more different, but they resonate with each other in interesting ways. The meditative adept, half-starved from the rigors of ascetic practice, sits beneath the peepal tree (henceforth known as the bodhi tree) and, after a final encounter with the spirit of evil, attains an awakened state. Touching the earth, the adept raises his eyes to the morning star (the planet Venus, actually) and the shift takes place. Many years later, in the city of Turin in Northern Italy, a philologist, his body wracked by illnesses and dysfunctions of all kinds, reads a passage in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment about a horse being whipped. Feeling an odd excitement, he closes the book and walks out onto the crowded streets. There, as if by the operation of fateful symmetries, the philologist encounters a draft horse being savagely whipped in precisely the manner described in the novel he had just put down. Weeping and crying out, he throws himself on the horse, losing his sanity. Read Full Article

Field Mapping

Complex Systems and the Six Realms of Dharma —

It was while reading the somewhat scandalous thinker Willem Reich that I first encountered the idea of emotional traumas being encoded into the flesh and blood circuits of the body. Freezing into a kind of “armor,” these encodings work to shape and delimit the ways we perceive the world, hence wielding an out-sized influence over the course our lives take. This was in the early 1990s, and I was reading Reich along with some of the Frankfurt School thinkers (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, etc.) who (broadly speaking) collide psychology and social theory to see what falls out. Behind this roller derby approach was the idea that both Freud and Marx addressed only half of the puzzle of humanity’s chronic dysfunction. Freud focused on the internal at the expense of the social; Marx the opposite. By considering them together, the thinking went, perhaps progress could be made on the crude and repetitive pathologies of warfare, social injustice and other forms of pointless violence that define us almost completely. Read Full Article | Photograph by Andy Ilachinski

The Wasps, by Guy Zimmernan

Marie Antoinette twins from Texas trapped, their own killer in the next room, in a world without oil.

Raging Waters — Samuel Beckett’s Arm Chair

We spent the first Friday in September with our nine year old daughter and three of her friends at Raging Waters Amusement Park in San Dimas, California. Rushing down the steep, uterine canals of rides with names like Freefall, Speed Slide and High Extreme we slam into the unborn moment alongside a menagerie of modern American types out of a Simpson’s episode. Gangly, pimpled high school kids laugh and flirt with each other among heavily inked biker dads and tattooed Latinos with big bellies and long black braids as FM radio pumps loud out of hidden speakers everywhere. Read Full Article

The Giver of Fearlessness — of Duchamp and Dharma

The sign that we have encountered truly great art is the sense we get that the work is experiencing us rather than the other way around. I’ll give you an example. When I was in my teens the MOMA book on Marcel Duchamp showed up around the house. Mona Lisa with the little mustache was on the cover and inside you could see most of Duchamp’s work along with essays by writers like Andre Breton and Octavio Paz. Looking through the book, casually at first and then with greater absorption, I experienced for perhaps the first time the transgressive elation produced by the Great Art Encounter. It was a bit like loosing my virginity only less hectic, and that little piece of ecstasy, that release from weight, is still there for me whenever I think about Duchamp’s work. Read Full Article

Clown Show for Bruno

Written by Murray Mednick, directed by Guy Zimmerman, Art Share LA: March 26 – April 19, 2009

Clown Show is Mednick’s homage to the great Polish writer and artist Bruno Schultz. In 1939, when the Nazis occupied Poland, Schulz was driven into the ghetto and enslaved by a Nazi officer who forced him to paint fairy tale figures on the walls of his son’s bedroom. Caught in an escalating feud between his “protector,” Felix Landau, and another Nazi official, Schulz was shot dead on the streets of his home town on November 19th, 1942 by Landau’s rival – an act of revenge against the man who “owned” him. Written in the fast-paced rhythms of the Yiddish theater, Clown Show utilizes clowning, masks, and mime to tell Schulz’s story. Padua artistic director Guy Zimmerman directs Bill Celentano, Kali Quinn, Daniel A. Stein and Dana Wieluns, all masters of physical theater: Celentano, Quinn, and Wieluns are graduates of The Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA, while Stein was a principle instructor there for ten years. This fall, Mr. Stein takes on the position of Director of Movement and Physical Theatre for the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Theatre Consortium.

A Thousand Words

Padua Playwrights’ “A Thousand Words” pairs nine dramatists with nine visual artists, most of whom come from the Los Angeles avant-garde scene. Each playwright was commissioned to produce a 10-minute drama using a work from the artist’s studio or an aspect of the artist’s life. (A gallery show featuring the artists’ works will accompany the play.) ARTIST~PLAYWRIGHT Robert Reynolds~Guy Zimmerman, Alberto Miyares~Coleman Hough, Matt Aston~Chris Kelley, Emmeric James Konrad~Sharon Yablon, Taz~Rachel Jendrzejewski, Lilli Mueller~Phinneas Kiyomura, Jett Jackson~Heidi Darchuk, Alexandra Koiv~Alex Forman, Rick Robinson~Alisha Adams DIRECTORS Shirley Anderson, Mickey Swenson, Lauren Campedelli, Gray Palmer, Nick Faust, Adrian Alex Cruz, Gill Gayle, Chris Kelley, Mark Adair-Rios ACTING ENSEMBLE Michael Shamus Wiles, Mickey Swenson, Phinneas Kiyomura, Coleman Hough, Heidi Darchuk, John Horn, Gregory Littman, Jack Littman, Lisa Denke, Tina Preston, Caroline Duncan, Phoenix Gonzalez, Adrian Alex Cruz, Niamh McCormally, David Bickford, Nicole Disson, Lake Sharp


Feb 3 – March 4 2006, The Electric Lodge, Venice

Written and Directed by Guy Zimmerman

Christopher Allport Meyer
Niamh McCormally Patty
Patrick Burleigh Larkin

A noir mystery set in a rundown appliance repair shop in South Central Los Angeles. Charged with conflict and dark humor, Vagrant is a play about memory, emotional violence, and redemption.

The Inside Job

 This darkly comedic play is about a disgraced corporate executive and his socialite wife. The couple opens their home to a mysterious young woman, who, it turns out, has old scores to settle. Zimmerman casts a stark light on contemporary American mores, using an intense, language-based approach in which the music of everyday speech plays […]

The Gary Plays

The Gary Plays are an octet of plays portraying economic and spiritual distress in the contemporary urban wilderness of Los Angeles. InTirade for Three, Gary, a destitute actor, comes to terms with the senseless and random murder of his son. In Gary’s Walk, he conveys via shopping cart his son’s ashes to the sea. In […]

Joe & Betty

“Murray Mednick, the veteran dramatist and founder of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop, explores
his own autobiographical roots in Joe & Betty, a series of angular perspectives on a monstrously ill-
equipped mother and father…The spare, efficient production, directed by Guy Zimmerman, is memorable for the gritty performances of the leads.” Charles McNulty, Village Voice

Fever Dreams: Recent Work From Padua

Fever Dreams: Recent Work From Padua Introduction by Guy Zimmerman Resurrected in 2001 by artistic director Guy Zimmerman, Padua offers ten superb plays including work from the last nine seasons, 2001 through 2010. Included in the anthology: Sissy Boyd – Liddy Hank Bunker – The Interview Heidi Darchuk – Hotel Bardo(t) Murray Mednick – Clown […]

Plays for a New Millennium: New Work From Padua

“An ideal of theatre I’d never really experienced before or since.” – playwright Jon Robin Baitz on the Padua Festival. This collection includes: Baby, Jesus! by Murray Mednick, 4-Way Mars by Murray Mednick, Dog Mouth by John Steppling, Wilfredo by Wesley Walker, Times Like These by John O’Keefe, G-Nome by Murray Mednick, Vagrant by Guy […]

Beneath The Dusty Trees

By Murray Mednick Introduction by Guy Zimmerman The Gary Plays are an octet of plays portraying economic and spiritual distress in the contemporary urban wilderness of Los Angeles. The series was inspired by a friend of the playwright whose son died in a drug deal gone wrong under the “dusty trees” of the San Fernando […]