Rachel Riemke takes a break on the set of Theatre Albany’s production of “Return to the Forbidden Planet.”
ALBANY, Ga. — The wife of a Marine, Rachel Riemke has been a resident of the Albany area for about a year now. On Friday, she’ll make her stage debut with Theatre Albany as the science officer of a space expedition that crash-lands into an oldie rock musical from 1989, “Return to the Forbidden Planet.”
Riemke, an Indiana native, says she gave up performing after high school but never gave up singing, something she’s enjoyed since she was a toddler. She’s also a self-confessed sci-fi geek who’s a fan of the British show “Doctor Who,” a series that ran from 1963-89 and was revived for its current run in 2005.
In an interview last week, Riemke talks about her return to performing, how as a child she once embarrassed her mom by singing a Heart song in a grocery store, which of the 11 actors who have played the Doctor she likes best, and her impression of the talent she has been exposed to at the theater.
AH: Mark (Costello, Theatre Albany’s artistic director) said you have a great voice. Do you have any training in that area?
RR: I’ve always sung. My mom will tell that I’ve been singing since I was about two. Actually, one of the first stories my mom has about me is I was singing Heart, the old ‘80s rock group, in the middle of the grocery store. Unfortunately, I decided to sing the song “All I want To Do Is Make Love to You” in the middle of the grocery store. It was really embarrassing for my mom. I’ve been singing, basically, my whole life, but I did take voice lessons for four years in high school.
AH: This is you first appearance with Theatre Albany, I understand.
RR: Yes, it is.
AH: Are you relatively new to town? Been here a while?
RR: My husband (Nick) is a Marine, so he got stationed here about a year ago.
AH: You move around pretty regularly, I would guess.
RR: Yes, we’ve lived in Mississippi and California and we’re originally from Indiana, so all parts of the country.
AH: have you been involved in community theater in any of those places?
RR: Not community theater. I was very active in high school, and then I took some years off. I didn’t realize I missed it that much until I got back into it. I really feel like it fills a little hole in my life. I forgot how much I loved performing and acting and singing. I kind of gave it up for a few years. Basic teenage insecurities. And when I got older, I decided I didn’t really care if I didn’t think I was good enough. I just decided to go back and try anyway.
AH: what role are you playing?
RR: I’m playing the role of the science officer.
AH: Are you a science fiction fan at all, or was it the musical that drew you into this?
RR: I am kind of a geek. I do like science fiction and I also like musicals. And I like old rock ‘n’ roll music, so this was pretty much perfect.
AH: So, on science fiction, do you line up more with Star Trek or Star Wars?
RR: I actually like both, though I’m more familiar with Star Wars than I am Star Trek. Honestly, my favorite is “Doctor Who,” but that’s a whole different planet entirely.
AH: They’ve had 11 or 12 (portrayers of the Doctor) on that. Who’s your favorite Who?
RR: My favorite doctor? Probably nine (Christopher Eccleston) or 10 (David Tennant). Probably David Tennant is my favorite.
AH: I’ve watched “Doctor Who” since it used to be back on PBS in the ‘70s with the Tom Baker episodes.
RR: I watched that growing up, too.
AH: I think out of the group they’ve had that Tennant ... I probably rank him first, too. I thought Peter Davison was real good, too, and, of course, Tom Baker.
RR: Definitely. I haven’t seen much classic Who, but David Tennant seems to embody what the Doctor is.
AH: Have you watched the movie “The Forbidden Planet” with Leslie Nielsen?
RR: I’ve started it. I haven’t finished it, but I’ve seen some of it.
AH: It’s probably a little different. I don’t think there’s a Robbie the Robot in this one (“Return” stage play), but isn’t there a female robot on skates?
RR: It’s actually a guy. His name’s Ariel, which is kind of confusing.
AH: That’s what got me then. I guess I was think “The Little Mermaid” Ariel.
RR: In the Shakespearean play “The Tempest” there’s a spirit named Ariel. They kind of combined Robbie the Robot with the spirit from “The Tempest.”
AH: Do you have any solo parts?
RR: I do. I have a couple that I sing. The biggest is probably “Go Now.” And I have a couple of duets in there with Capt. Tempest and Cookie.
AH: The show opens Friday. Everything coming along OK?
RR: It’s really starting to come together. I can’t wait to do it with all the effects and the sound effects and everything we’re going to have for the space ship. The set is amazing.
AH: He (Steve Felmet) always does a real good job with the sets.
RR: This is the first show I’ve seen or involved in. I was really blown away by what he’s done. I’d come in (at practice) and I’d always look to see what he’d done. There was always something new to see.
AH: I know you say you’ve been away from it (acting) for a while. What got you to dive in and audition?
RR: I finally felt like I was back at a good place in my life. My husband — theoretically, you never know with the Marine Corps — shouldn’t be deployed anytime soon and I finally got to a point in my life where my daughter’s older and she can stay home. And as much as I sing around the house, I really started to miss getting on stage and getting to sing and perform. So I looked at the (Theatre Albany) website and I thought this looks like a good show and a fun show. I decided it was time. There’s nothing wrong with being a mom, but I wanted something a little more just for me.
AH: Do you work outside the home?
RR: I do. I’m a zumba instructor. I work a couple hours a week. I really love music and I love working out and all different kinds of things.
AH: Anything surprise you? Anything you weren’t expecting when you joined up?
RR: I think it’s easy when you’re in a small town like this to think that it’d be a fun little show. But I’ve been blown away by how awesome everybody is in the cast. I expected them to be good, but I didn’t expect them to be this amazing. There are some really great voices and really great people in this show. Shakespeare isn’t easy. I’ve been really impressed by my castmates and how well they’re picking up the lines and delivering the Shakespeare.
AH: Is the dialogue really Shakespearean?
RR: It’s kind of a mix. We joke in rehearsals that we want to see how many Shakespeare quotes people can pick up on from his big works — Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet. So, it has a lot of Shakespeare in there, but there are also catch phrases from old sci-fi movies and the common tongue, too.
AH: Have you read a lot of Shakespeare?
RR: Yeah, I have the privilege of having a sister who was an English major, so I had my first exposure to Hamlet when I was about 12.
AH: Have you read “The Tempest”?
RR: I have. I went back and re-read it. I’m no aficionado, but I’m pretty familiar with what he’s written.
AH: Do you think now that you’ve jumped back in (performing) that you’re going to stay in there for a while?
RR: Oh, definitely. I was always the most insecure about my acting and this has helped. I want to keep going to see how far I can push myself and what else I can do.
AH: Anything else?
RR: I’m really grateful my husband’s been understanding about the evening rehearsals. He’s been really supportive. I think everybody’s done a really great job. everybody’s been really spectacular and I think it’s going to be an awesome show. This is a nice show to jump back into the (performing) world with.
“Return to the Forbidden Planet” begins a two-weekend run Friday at Theatre Albany.