Richard Sheinmel is a native New Yorker born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island. He attended the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, where he wrote his first play at the age of 14. His plays include "Modern Living" and "Post Modern Living" (La MaMa), "Jitter" (Arclight Theater), and the musical "Downtown Dysfunctionals" (The Zipper Theater).
As an actor, he is best known for appearing for over ten years in the Jeff Weiss / Carlos Riccardo Martinez cult hit serial Hot Keys. He has also appeared in premiere productions by The Ridiculous Theatrical Company, Ridge Theater, Mac Wellman, Penny Arcade, Linda Simpson, and Reza Abdoh. Film appearances include the award-winning "The Headhunter's Sister," "My Sassy Girl," and "Pollock" directed by Ed Harris. Richard is a member of The Dramatist's Guild.
Richard's latest play, "Lost in Staten Island: More Tales of Modern Living" is premiering at LaMama in NYC as the final show of their 50th Anniversary season (74A East 4th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Ave) through July 1. "Lost in Staten Island" revolves around Mitch and his Mom as they journey through an extraordinary day. After the death of his brother, Mitch must return home to Staten Island to accompany his mother on a day of difficult but necessary tasks. Alternately humorous and heartfelt, the drive takes them to unexpected places, where nerves are bared, secrets revealed and confessions made. Although he grew up in "the forgotten borough," he finds once familiar roads hard to navigate when landmarks change. Click here for tickets!
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1. Who or what inspired you to become a plawright/performer? I began being a playwright before I knew what that meant - before I even saw my first play I'd make up puppet shows, in my science project dioramas. At 12, I wrote my own monologue for my audition for the High School for the Performing Arts (aka The FAME School). So I think being a playwright, and performing my own stories is in my blood, part of my nature. That said - working with Penny Arcade (you can find a picture of me playing "St. Sebastian" in her now published book of early plays "Bad Reputation" from 1992) was definitely the inspiration for my main character "Mitch Mitchell" in the my "Modern Living" series. I imagined the then fictional performance artist Mitch, using her form - to tell my stories. How I came to play him is another thing: The first director of the first play in the series, Michael Baron, thought it would be fun for the audience to see me play the guy who writes the stories. I wanted to play my brother Robby in the series, who suffered from Aspergers and seemed a very fun character to play. So, I sort of fell into the performance artist thing - backwards; and didn't realize until I heard it in the reviews - that I was doing "creative non-fiction." I just saw these as my stories to tell - and I wanted to tell them...in a play form.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I've been very lucky and had so many of my wish list already checked off...Jeff Weiss, Everette Quinton and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, John Jesurun, Penny Arcade, Reza Abdoh, Jean Claude Van Itallie, Bob McGrath and Ridge Theater, Anne Bogart, SoHo Rep, Theater Askew, Peculiar Works - I really am a lucky dog. That said - I'd love to work with Punch Drunk - Sleep No More was awesome, and just the kind of theater I love to do - and I'd love to work with Anne Bogart again.
3. What initially made you start writing "The Modern Living" series and what are you looking forward to most about "Lost in Staten Island: More Tales of Modern Living"? What excites you most about the cast who will help bring this show to life? Modern Living was started with the idea of telling stories, the stories I heard around me from my family and colleagues, my stories - in a theatrical form. At this point, I'm just looking forward to performing it, to tell this story to an audience...I've been working on it for a year and carrying the story around in my soul for three years now. It's time to share.
My favorite part is the music, Clay Zambo is awesome and a great collaborator....Working with the actress Wendy Merrritt, who plays my mom Joy is an inspiration every time we get together. But, the performance I'm most looking forward to is Chris Orbach's he plays my brother Robby; he has a beautiful singing voice; his work is heart breaking and flawless - and I truly believe this show will bring him great things.
4. Who do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? The story goes on...This is a story I had to tell, it was thrust upon me by life...and even though it comes out of a particularly low moment, the worst day of my life - I hope the audience comes away with a sense of the joy of living.
5. What made you want to have "Lost In Staten Island: More Tales of Modern Living" at LaMama? What does this venue offer that another performance space might not? La MaMa is a great place to work - I've been performing there since I was a teenager, in fact had my first professional job there. The Club is a great venue for performance, it is intimate and the perfect place for story telling.
6. What do you get from being a playwright that you don't get from being a performer? LOL. When you are a playwright, people return your phone calls. I love performing, and think I'm addicted to it. It's a rush; but it's the playwright who creates the story. That is very fulling - to share something in your life that may have caused you pain, and hear people laugh at it. It's freeing. There is nothing like it in the world.
7. What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing a show and where is your favorite place to write? Honestly, I hate the process of writing. It's so painful for me. It's like when a tooth in your mouth hurts, but you can't help touching it. My favorite part is when it goes from a solitary art to sitting in a room and sharing it with people. I love to hear people laugh.
My favorite place to write? It depends on what I've writing. I like to get away from the city, where it's quiet. I like to write early in the morning. I guess my favorite place to write is in bed.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright/performer? I'm addicted to performing and love a good story to tell.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I have is something I realized after doing this for so many years....When I first started out - I was obsessed with getting to know all the right people...but it turns out the people I needed to know were my friends all along. Sure, some people drop out of the business (and we all applaud any one who can quit) - but the people I was working with all along - who have stuck it out - have grown into the people I always wanted to know. So my advice is - Often, you can't do anything for yourself, but you can do things for the people around you - by helping your friends make their dreams come true - you are doing the same for yourself.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Well dreaming is my only down time - and I don't get to see enough of my companion Christopher Frommer - he is welcome everywhere I go, including my sleep...So I just love when he makes an appearance in my dreams. Sometimes when I'm having a nightmare, I call out to him - and he has the power to turn it all around.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? On the beach - naked.
12. Favorite way to stay in shape? I'm a swimmer, former NYC champion...I love to swim.
13. Boxers or Briefs? Neither - I'm not bragging but - it's hard containing my manhood...that things got a mind of it's own. Briefs are too tight, boxers too loose. So boxer-briefs usually do the trick; but honestly I prefer to go commando.
14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The actor in me can't resist the ability to transform into anyone I want to play, completely. So I'd have that super power, the one Meryl Streep has.
15. What was the best part about dating Jennifer Aniston and what do you value most about your friendship with her? Well we were high school sweethearts...so it wasn't that Hollywood sort of thing. She'll always be "Jen" to me. I love running into her and when I do the years fall away and we are just kids. She was the second to last girl I ever dated - and will always hold a special place in my heart. I like to say - something I learned from my relationship with her - If you're dating Jennifer Aniston - and don't really care if you make it past second base - you're probably gay.