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BWW Interviews: Samantha Levenshus and Adam Neubauer's Grimm World

You might not expect a theatre company named Zombie Joe's Underground would be the typical place to find a fairy tale play based on The Brothers Grimm characters. What you would expect to find is Grand Guignol horror done up in genius ZJ fashion in productions like their long-running URBAN DEATH and ATTACK OF THE ROTTING CORPSES. This unique group of artists, however, loves to delve into worlds beyond the norm and explore them from a new perspective.

On Friday, April 20 they will open an all-new high-octane storybook extravaganza, THE GRIMM WORLD, about the path-crossing exploits of colorful Brothers Grimm characters Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, Cinderella, Snow White, and their lovable critter friends - with no horror involved. Written by Adam Neubauer and Samantha Levenshus, with original music by Mike Maio, it is appropriate for ages 10 and up, and puts a new spin on the fairy tale characters you know and love. Sebastian Munoz directs the production.

"This is a first time collaboration for the two of us as writers," says Levenshus, "but I had been interested in writing a play based on the Grimm stories for quite awhile. I approached Adam with my idea and he was intrigued with the thought of writing for the younger set, something he hadn't done before."

Neubauer adds, "I like challenging myself when it comes to writing so I jumped on the chance. I also usually write alone and thought this would be a good opportunity to experience writing with another person. It turned out to be one of the easiest things I've ever done and I'm really excited about working with Sam again in the future."

The pair wanted a good mixture of both well-known and obscure stories for the piece in order to create a play that could be enjoyed by both kids and adults. "It's based on the original stories," says Neubauer, "which have a tendency to be a lot darker than the Disney versions and we've tried to keep those elements in the stories while still making the play accessible to all ages. We both felt that we could write a clean and appropriate play for kids without dumbing it down, and still throw in a few jokes for the adults too."

Levenshus is excited about their inspiration to use a Minstrel as a kind of narrator, and his apprentice, a child. "Throughout the play the audience learns the same lessons that the child learns as the Minstrel guides both the child and the audience through the stories. It's really basic morals," she says, "but grounded in such a way that everyone will be able to follow them."

Neubauer and Levenshus met at ZJU in the summer of 2010 while working on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, he on the technical side and she as an actor. It was the first time Levenshus had worked with the company and her first time meeting Zombie Joe. Neubauer was involved with the sketch comedy group, Dynamite Kablammo, which performed at ZJU and knew Zombie, but on a more professional level. He laughs, "It wasn't until a fateful day at an auto shop where I ran into Zombie getting his oil changed that I really struck up a friendship with him. We ended up hanging out for a couple of hours and have remained close friends ever since."

Levenshus says, "The show has been a labor of love for us and we're eternally grateful to Sebastian Munoz, our director, for taking on this daunting script and doing an amazing job with it." Neubauer adds, "And to Zombie Joe for allowing us to have a creative outlet in L.A, a city where disconnection is commonplace. The theatre helps keeps us sane."

Performances of THE GRIMM WORLD take place April 20 - June 8, 8:30 pm at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $15. For reservations please call 818-202-4120 and for more information visit www.ZombieJoes.com.

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Samantha Jordan Levenshus is a Los Angeles based actress whose recent TV credits include 90210 on The CW and Victorious on Nickelodeon. Stage credits include the nationwide 365 Days/365 Plays Festival written by Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Lori Parks; the Blue Orchid Cabaret in Wellington, New Zealand; and on the ZJU stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Schmutzigen Deutsche Kabarett. She also enjoys working with children and teens as a teacher and director. After working as an assistant on the hit musical The Marvelous Wonderettes as it transitioned from its run at Laguna Playhouse to The Westside Theatre off-Broadway, Samantha accepted a job at Steele Spring Theatrical Licensing, where she continues to work as the Director of Licensing. www.samantha-jordan.com.

Adam Neubauer moved out to Los Angeles from Iowa about 10 years ago and then moved back out to Los Angeles about 7 years ago. He's one of the few people he knows who have managed to use both his Film Production degree and his Theatre Arts degree. He worked for Warner Bros for a long time, producing television shows and became General Manager of ZJU when Zombie Joe ventured to New York to produce shows. He now works at Highland Film Group, producing movies.

For more Los Angeles musical theatre news, follow Ellen at www.twitter.com/musicalsinla.



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