“I’m a little shaken up,” said Lewis Zaumeyer, resident set designer and frequent actor for Brüka Theatre. “I just hit a deer on the way back from Napa.”
“Oh, no,” I replied. “Don’t feel too bad. I’ve done it, too. I think everybody’s probably done it.”
Dressed in a black, long-sleeve V-neck, black shoes and blue jeans and drinking a cream-filled coffee, Zaumeyer looked remorseful and a bit sleepy. The image was far different than that of the man who first caught my attention in January 2003, when Zaumeyer portrayed multiple outlandish characters in the witty time-travel comedy On the Verge.
I’ll never forget the line, “Ahh, he’s a baby yeti!” announced by one of the ditsy female characters as Zaumeyer rambled onto the stage in full abominable-snowman attire, looking hurt that somebody would mistake him for a baby monster. In the same play, his portrayal of an amicable cannibal who inherits the traits of a Frenchman he devoured was hilarious and cleverly performed. Zaumeyer definitely has a knack for bizarre characters.
Once he caught my attention, I always noticed Zaumeyer’s name in Brüka playbills, even when he wasn’t part of the cast. His name is almost always listed next to the title of set designer and is usually among the long list of names responsible for set construction.
“I’m an architect, so doing set design was kind of a natural role,” said Zaumeyer, who’s had the profession for most of his life. His firm is called ArchideA.
“I started working for an architect when I was 13. When I was 18, I was full time. … My mother said I started saying I wanted to be an architect when I was 5.”
Zaumeyer also plays guitar, writes songs, paints and builds major structures to set on fire at Burning Man. His great local coup is that his firm designed the Downtown Riverwalk after winning a design competition.
When it comes to helping create a set, which Zaumeyer started doing for Brüka about seven years ago, it’s always a collaboration between designer and director.
“I don’t try to impose my concepts on anybody. I do have my own firm, and I get to use my creativity there,” he said.
The first show Zaumeyer did with Brüka was A Streetcar Named Desire. “I didn’t have a very big part. I was in the last few minutes of a three-hour show.”
His second play was Hair, and for that show, he got further involved in set design, which revolved more around how to arrange the theater to draw the audience into the play rather than creating an elaborate set.
Currently, Zaumeyer is working on the design for Amadeus as well as rehearsing his own role as Baron Van Swieten.
“For Amadeus, we’re following a lot of what goes on in the script,” Zaumeyer said. “The play was written very differently than the movie. It’s based on a simplistic set. There are scene changes that simply involve changing a piece of furniture.”
Zaumeyer said the glamour of the show will be present in the acting, the language and the costumes. Regardless of the simplicity of a set, Zaumeyer always enjoys having a hand in the transformation that takes place inside Brüka’s black-box theater from play to play.
“It’s just fun to see how we can take our weird little space and make it completely different. That’s part of the magic."