5 Fringe Questions with RICHARD HEMPHILL

Richard Hemphill is one of the funniest writers in the Ottawa scene, not only scoring a direct hit with his Fringe hit ENTER SCREAMING a few years back, but also being one of the twisted minds behind the long-running REMOTE PLANET radio sketch comedy show on CKCU.  He’s also one of the few people in town I can honestly say is just as, if not more nuts about watching theatre than I am.  He’s back this year with the hot-ticket DIE ZOMBIE DIE! at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.



– How great is it to be back in Fringe after a few years away?
It’s more than great. It should have its own category of greatness. It should be great+ or great++. Or just grea+. Yeah, it’s grea+.
It’s as if the show had its own guardian zombie angel. Everything is going right for the play. After years on the waiting list, Punchbag Playhouse’s name was the first one pulled out of the hat (bowl) at the Fringe lottery. I already had a nearly finished script in my hand, so I didn’t have to write a new play from scratch. Extremely talented people agreed to work on the show. The schedule of performances is candy. The poster is a thing of beauty. And, we’re already selling advance tickets with no marketing whatsoever. It doesn’t get better than this.

– Talk a bit about your amazing cast.
What a leading question. Well, it would be if they weren’t, in fact, amazing. We’ve got Ray Besharah, David Benedict Brown, Diana Franz, and Allison Harris as the lead characters. David plays four roles. Candice Lidstone and Sebastian Samur are talking zombies – they do some really funny zombie shtick. And we’ve got Jordan Hancey doing some voiceover work.
And, if that weren’t amazing enough, a dozen zombies will form the set. That’s right: Die, Zombie. Die! has a living set of the living dead. You and the rest of your pitchfork-wielding villagers don’t stand a chance.

Was it in your plan all along to have Stewart Matthews direct?
Ray suggested Stewart direct – the two of them had worked on Lonely Bear at the 2012 Fringe. I had no idea who we would approach to direct the show. Stewart came to the play with a fully-realized idea of how it would unfold from beginning to end. He’s responsible for the living set of the living dead. He’s responsible for all the crazy action at the end of the show. The writer never thought of all that.

What’s the ratio of fart jokes to zombie kills in this show?
There are no fart jokes in the show. I know this will come as a huge shock, but there are no fart jokes in the show. Not a single silent-but-undeadly pun. Nary a queef. This show is squeaky clean.
The ratio of poop jokes to zombie kills, however, is one to one. And there are a lot of poop jokes.

This is the 4th year in a row the Fringe has had a zombie show.  What sets yours apart?

We might not have zombie puppets with exploding brains or zombie clowns with exploding brains, but we do have a living set of the living dead.

This isn’t your standard zombie show. Humans aren’t on the run from zombies in this play; the zombies are on the run from humans. The show is set some time after the end of World War II, and the zombies are a protected but lower class with civil rights, including the right not to get rounded up and annihilated. Into that, we’ve thrown a murder mystery a ton of ridiculous tomfoolery, and the most bizarre use of a Dachshund you have ever witnessed.

DIE, ZOMBIE. DIE! from Punchbag Playhouse plays this year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival at Academic Hall.  Showtimes are:

Thursday June 20th 10:30pm
Friday June 21st 9:30pm
Saturday June 22nd 6:00pm
Monday June 24th 6:30pm
Friday June 28th 8:30pm
Saturday June 29th 9:30pm

Advance tickets available HERE at the Fringe website. $10 at the door with a Fringe pin!

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