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TELL ME LOVE IS REAL / Zachary Oberzan (New York)

  • Tjarnarbíó Tjarnargata 12 Reykjavík, West, 101 Iceland (map)

In the winter of 2012, two famous American performance artists sat in anonymous hotel rooms on the West Coast, waiting to take the stage, and in a bizarre coincidence, over-dosed on the anxiety drug Xanax. One survived, one did not. The two individuals are Whitney Houston, who tragically died, and the author of this piece, who lived. Incarcerated in a psychiatric ward, the author began an arduous and experimental journey towards recovery. What is life, and why should we live it, having had it thrust upon us like the assigned reading of a baffling mystery novel, the chapters jumbled, the text often incomprehensible? In the thirty-seven years of life leading up to this event, we find a simple but elusive answer: Love. The athletic struggle between Love and Death is played out time and again through life, as the pendulum swings back and forth between the heart and the grave. Longing for a hero to point the way, the ghosts of Buddy Holly, Amelia Earhart, Bruce Lee, Serge Gainsbourg, and a host of others are resurrected, but it is the words of Leonard Cohen that echo through the room: "I am not the one who loves/ It's love that chooses me." Right here, right now, the prayerful Oberzan calls upon you, the audience, for help. He will give you all he's got.

Watch a clip here

Produced/conceived/directed/video/performed by Zachary Oberzan

Dramaturgy/producer/manager : Nicole Schuchardt

Lights/sound/video technician : David Lang

Stage consultant : Eike Böttcher

Costume assistant : Eric Gorsuch 

CO-PRODUCTION deSingel Antwerp, Black Box Teater Oslo, Gessnerallee Zürich, brut Wien, BIT Teatergarasjen Bergen, Teaterhuset Avant Garden Trondheim, Kunstencentrum BUDA Kortrijk/NEXT Arts Festival

Zachary Oberzan is a founding member of the theater collective Nature Theater of Oklahoma, based in New York City. With Nature Theater, he has collaborated and performed in numerous productions, including Poetics: a ballet brut, the Obie-winning No Dice, and the one-man show Rambo Solo. His feature film Flooding with Love for The Kid (an adaptation of the novel First Blood, which introduced the world to the character of Rambo) is a one-man cinematic war shot and edited in its entirety by Zachary (portraying all 26 roles) in his 220 square foot apartment in Manhattan, made for $96. It is currently screening internationally in theaters, art institutes and film festivals. Your brother. Remember? premiered in May 2010 at Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, and is currently touring world-wide. A stand-alone film version of Your brother. Remember? had its cinematic premiere in New York City in 2012. He has performed with The Wooster Group and Richard Foreman, and released two albums of songs, most recently Athletes of Romance.  Oberzan is now working on a new theater/film/concert piece, “The Great Pretender”, premiering in December 2015 at deSingel Antwerp.

When : Friday, August 28, 19:00

Where : Tjarnarbíó, Tjarnargata 12, Reykjavík

Duration : 75 minuets

Ticket price : 2.900 iskr. Buy tickets here



“Tell me Love is Real is made hauntingly beautiful not in the least because of Oberzan’s willingness to expose his own want of love, and his revealing accounts of the hardships that riddle his own struggle. But the most powerful aspect of Tell Me Love Is Real is that it offers insight into the relationship that exists between the lonely actor up on stage, and the members of the audience. It forces the audience to recognise that it is we who must answer the call, and convince Oberzan that love is real.” NATT&DAG, OSLO

"The performance starts quite mysteriously and it is difficult to puzzle out the varied pieces and put them together. Is this reality or fiction? Until I suddenly ended up in a dazzling theatrical performance, and I live in [Oberzan's] own little world. Genius." NEXT Festival, KORTRIJK

“In his performances, he always treads a fine line between fiction and documentary. His stories are autobiographical, but they are also bursting with imagination. And bizarrely enough, despite his personal touch, you are still conscious of a broader, underlying social reality.” DESINGEL, ANTWERP

“Tell Me Love Is Real is a highly aesthetisized autobiography and deeply moving collage of film clips, live performance, and songs. Oberzan, the delicate extreme experimentalist, tells and sings and DJs his own story, understated yet unrestrained and heartbreaking. This is theater of the highest personal and sincere composition.“ TAGESANZEIGER, ZÜRICH

"In Oberzan’s world, the urgently serious and the goofily playful are closely intertwined. He does it in a multimedia performance of song, dance, music, karate, recorded film, dramatized tableaux, as well as journalistic and essayistic elements [...]. A lot of humor, and even more profound seriousness in a touching tribute to the power of love. One doesn’t have to be afraid to be laughing at the wrong places." ADRESSAVISEN, TRONDHEIM

"An artist like this makes theater transcend itself, turning it into something many aspire, but only few come close to: an encounter." DE MORGEN, BRUSSELS

“If you follow Zachary Oberzan down the rabbit hole, you emerge starry-eyed and wondering.” NEW YORK TIMES

“Oberzan has not just walked the line between irony and sincerity, he’s erased it.” VOGUE

"The story-telling is crafty, compelling, and heartfelt enough to explode any sense of cheeky irony. Oberzan means every word." TIME OUT NEW YORK

Presented by LÓKAL and Reykjavík Dance Festival 


Kvöld eitt veturinn 2012 sátu tveir frægir bandarískir listamenn á hótelherbergjum sínum á vesturströndinni og biðu þess að stíga á svið. Tilviljun réði því að þau tóku bæði inn of stóran skammt af kvíðalyfinu Xanax þetta kvöld. Annað þeirra, söngdívan Whitney Houston, lést, en leikarinn og sviðshöfundurinn Zachary Oberzan lifði af. Í kjölfarið hóf Oberzan skrykkjótt bataferli. Hvað er lífið og hvernig ber okkur að lifa þessari ráðgátu sem virðist oft vera eins og lokuð bók? Í leiksýningunni „Tell Me Love Is Real“ er tekist á við ást og dauða, jafnt á sviði sem á hvíta tjaldinu. Hetjur á borð við Buddy Holly, Ameliu Earhart, Bruce Lee og Serge Gainsbourg eru kallaðar fram, en Zachary Oberzan treystir þó engum stuðningsaðila betur en áhorfendum í sal.

„Það er hryllilega fyndið að fylgjast með Oberzan (í mynd og á sviðinu) tjá hug sinn og tilfinningaflækjur. Og sorglegra en orð fá lýst“ --VARIETY

"Oberzan vegur ekki bara salt á mörkum einlægni og háðs, hann hefur máð út sjálf mörkin.” --VOGUE