Note: This post was updated on July 20, 2022 to include a written transcript of the interview and a review of “The Roswell Incident.”
In this video, we interview Ian Heath, star and creator of MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries, a theatrical presentation exploring uncanny events and unsolved mysteries, based on true stories. Presented by Immersive Arts Collective at the Count’s Den in downtown Los Angeles, the show resembles a stage version of a true-crime podcast, with Heath appearing on video as the titular host while performing the other characters live. The series launched in April of this year with the debut episode focusing on the grizzly crimes of Jack the Ripper. The second installment, examining the famous alleged crash of a UFO at Roswell, New Mexico, runs in July.
Mr. Heath sat down with Hollywood Gothique via Zoom to discuss MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries – its creation, its debut, and what audiences can expect from the Roswell episode. The video interview has been edited for pace and clarity. A transcript of the interview is included below, providing detail omitted from the video.
MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries: Interview Transcript
Read the full Q&A with Ian Heath…
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Explain the concept behind MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries.
IAN HEATH: MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries is all about taking some sort of mysterious subject whether it be Jack the Ripper Roswell bigfoot and giving kind of an overview a little deeper dive and then showing up some of the other kind of connected issues around it giving you a chance to learn about it hopefully be a little entertained and also be inspired to then go out and learn about it yourself.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Why is the format of MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries, which is a combination of video and live action, appropriate for exploring mysteries?
IAN HEATH: For format, we have myself as this character Mister Ian, pre-recorded and projected on a large screen like you’re watching a movie – kind of like a late night horror. But then on stage I’m there taking on all the different characters. For the last show I think we had 17 different people, who were talking plus some others who just kind of walked around. So I as this character or these various characters play off of and interact with myself up on screen, kind of giving me two different places I can be while being the only one on stage. For this it’s really nice because it allows me to have one person who kind of gives exposition and kind of lays things out straight while I can be on stage being goofy or being strange or doing movement work, and allows me to kind of split off those two duties.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: What was the inspiration for MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries?
IAN HEATH: It kind of came in stages. Rachel Adams who owns the Count’s Den – she and I have worked together for a few years now and she’s really wonderful – and starting last summer she kept saying “I want to do a storytelling series. I would love to have you come into the Den and tell stories on Jack the Ripper or Bigfoot or aliens or ghost stories.” Our schedules never really met up but we kept you know every once in a while talking to each, and finally she came up and said “Hey, we have a slot the Den, I’d love for you to come up with this show.” I was talking with the Elif, who is the director of – Elif Savas – and mentioned this idea and she goes
“What if you were a late night movie host telling these stories and then you could also act them yourself?” From there we just took off running. I picked up the idea for Jack the Ripper because we had talked about it so much. I wrote a basic script; we sat down, talked about it and a week later we were filming and rehearsing.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Why was the Ripper a good idea for a debut episode of MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries?
IAN HEATH: First of all, I think pretty much everyone knows who Jack the Ripper is so if you want something that will draw interest without really knowing what a show’s about, that’s a great topic. There’s a lot you could write about it. I mentioned it in the episode – for those who didn’t see it – but really if I were to do a deep dive on Jack the Ripper I would be sitting in that room for a good 24 hours and still not be halfway through; it’s so much you can talk about and also it’s a great mystery. There’s a lot of suspense; there’s a lot of action. As a chance for both me as a writer to figure out what the style of the show will be and then for the audience watching this is a great introduction to this format.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: What sort and how much research went into writing the Ripper episode?
IAN HEATH: I’m sure there are more extensive and more seasoned researchers out there than I and again this is a very basic overview; there are a lot of broad strokes but it was a few weeks of me sitting down using uh various podcasts, Wikipedia even, as a resource sometimes, where I go through and say “Okay this is what everyone in the internet compiling has found; here are some details that I can confirm from other places; here’s some details I can’t confirm; now let’s go out and look and see, can I confirm this? Is this accurate? Is this inaccurate but interesting, and can I do something with that?”
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: This is going to be a slightly odd analogy but I see a sort of vague similarity between what you’re doing with MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries and attempts to do stage productions of The Who’s rock opera Tommy. The comparison being that the lyrics tell the whole story and everyone who tries to stage the thing has got to figure out what are the actors going to do that’s not redundant. There’s a vaguely similar thing here: you’ve got a narrator who’s telling us the basic story and then you’ve got to come up with something for the live action portion that’s not redundant but shows us something beyond what we’ve already been told so I imagine that’s part of the challenge of writing these episodes.
IAN HEATH: It is but I have a secret weapon for that and her name’s Elif. Having her as a director really is what makes this show work because I’m given free rein to write these scripts with the confidence that not only do I feel like I can go up on stage and come with some idea of how to make something work but I also can fully trust Elif. She has this wonderful vision and she’s very good at looking at what I’ve written and reading in between the lines and helping me come up with things that I might not have thought of initially but then really makes everything fall into place saying, “Okay, you’re up there yapping for 30 seconds and that’s boring. What can you do? And she’ll say, “That’s fine but try this” or “That works; now add this into it,” and so as a team we’re able to kind of sculpt something that hopefully will keep you entertained.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: The taped portions are obviously prerecorded. How does that affect the rehearsal and staging in terms of synchronizing the live action to stuff that isn’t going to pause if you suddenly have an inspiration to do a little something extra?
IAN HEATH: For the most part I would say we’ve already looked over the script beforehand we’ve talked about it we’ve edited it so we’re pretty set going in and there are some things where for example with this show – there was one character who I’d written in a very specific way – written jokes for in a very specific way – and then as I started doing it Elif stopped me and said “Try try making her more worldly” and all of a sudden what I had written in a very specific way didn’t work; however, the information that needed to get out was still in there and so knowing what I had pre-recorded I could then just go back look at my script and say “Okay if I take out these words and keep the general information I can still deliver it in this new way.
But on the other hand it makes rehearsing very easy because Elif and I can meet two or three times with Rachel; we can set down my blocking; we can set down the lights; and then I can go home with an iPad or my phone and the video file and I can just rehearse in my living room to my heart’s content and we don’t have to worry about the space or everyone driving downtown and that makes it very simple.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: At the first show you said you done the video in a single take and I’m wondering if you ever wished you could go back and redo it in order to adjust for the live action.
IAN HEATH: Sometimes but that said I think that’s part of the personal challenge and also the charm of the show. This is what I have to work with and that means warts and all; sometimes they’re the same little blemishes you get from live performance that makes live theater so exciting. It’s polished enough to be fun to watch, not so polished that you lose the charm.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: What sort of lesson if any did you learn from reactions to the Jack the Ripper episode and how are you applying that to Roswell?
IAN HEATH: People seemed to really enjoy it so we figured the format works…but one thing I learned personally while performing is I started seeing how people reacted to some of these characters and had this feeling – I wish I had more time with them; I wish they could develop more, grow more, be more than just a two-minute bit and then straight on to the next one, and so I sat down and wrote these [new] characters to hang around for longer, to bounce off of the the pre-recorded me a little more, give them a little more to do and so this is definitely a little more…I don’t want to say ‘ponderous’ – that makes it sound boring – but Jack the Ripper was a little more action-packed, where this is a little more [about] strange people who really want to talk to you.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: What makes Roswell a good topic for a sophomore outing? The show obviously doesn’t have the murder mystery angle; it’s a different kind of mystery.
IAN HEATH: Where Jack the Ripper was an action-suspense thriller, this is more of…we all agree that something happened; something crashed; it was found. And then you have people going off in all these different directions or going off in one direction then coming back and saying “no, it was actually this” and then calling back 30 years later saying “no, it was the first one, and…” It’s almost more of a study in humanity than Jack the Ripper in some ways because it is all these people who just kind of like saw something weird – whether it’s actually what they saw or not – but they have a story they want to tell you and they are going to tell you all of it.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: So is Roswell like a giant Rorschach inkblot then?
IAN HEATH: In some ways. Researching it certainly felt like that. The amount of conflicting information I found: “he found it two days before – ah, actually he found it three weeks before… Everyone called him the famous cowboy W.W. Brazel – actually, no one knew him and most people called him Mack…” And at a certain point I just had to throw up my hands and say I have all this information – what makes a good story? What is entertaining while keeping the heart of what we know to be true – however small that may be – and then is still presented in a way that you as the audience can look at it and say “Okay, let me find out for myself”?
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Looking into the future, what mysteries would you like to explore?
IAN HEATH: While we don’t have anything to announce quite yet, I can tell you I’ve been doing some preliminary research on Bigfoot. We’ve been looking at two different men in about a 20-year span who absolutely refused to die. I mean there were multiple murder attempts on these two guys – completely different people, completely different parts of the world – things that would if you thought about them they’d probably kill most people, and these men just would not die. I’d love to go into that and I’d love to find a way to make a good ghost story episode but I need to think a little bit more about that. [Since this interview, Heath is now considering an episode focusing on mediums in the early 20th century.]
I would love to do an episode on the Men in Black. I think one of the things – now that we’ve really kind of found our footing for the format – is there are a lot of subjects we’d love to cover – like area 51 would be fun – but going into something like this and seeing how much disparate information there is, I find that it is important to have some sort of kernel of reality that you can use as your base to build off from. Something like area 51 – there’s not much concrete; it’s just we think something’s there, and then you talk about what all those things are, but the Men in Black – you have all of these – even like Dan Aykroyd I think was approached by a Man in Black who came to an alley and said “Your show’s not going to go up,” walked away and then [Aykroyd] walks inside; a producer comes up and says, “We need to cancel your alien show, sorry.”
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries is meant to be an ongoing series. How difficult is it to reach like a level of success where something like this can be viable as a continuing series when you’re in a theater with a limited capacity and you can’t sell hundreds of seats a night?
IAN HEATH: From the beginning we did create this as something that we hoped would be relatively low footprint cost-wise. You only have me, and then of course Rachel is providing the space and a lot of the support. I have no illusions or delusions that this is going to be a smash hit, that this is going to be a phenomena or stretched beyond its space, but that said at least for the time being if people come once and then want to come again, I take that as a win.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: The show mimics a sort of true crime TV series or a horror host as you said. At some point after you’ve done a few of these could you actually repurpose it into a video true crime podcast – film the live action segments and edit them into the narration and post it?
IAN HEATH: That is definitely something we’ve been talking about and hopefully we’ll do in the future but for right now we’re gonna focus on getting this one up and then see where it goes from there.
HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Final question. Unsolved mysteries seem like stories without endings, which could be a problem for dramatic storytelling, so what is their enduring appeal? What makes these stories fascinating and worth telling in your show’s format?
IAN HEATH: I think the mystery is the whole thing. I think the second you give too many details or too many answers personally, I lose interest. It’s like I mentioned I love ghost stories. If you tell me all these little minutia, it stops being interesting. I want to be a little spooked; I want to be a little unsettled; I want the unknown. Because whatever you imagine is always going to be way more interesting than what actually happened. Whoever this guy lurking in the corner in a cloak is, is way grizzlier, way scarier, way more disturbing in your head than when you pull him into the light and he’s an accountant.
Same thing with Roswell. If we were able to look at whatever was down there, even if it was an alien spaceship, I think all of a sudden, “Okay, that’s a definite thing. We know what it is. There aren’t as many questions.” But when we have to say “Well, they said they found weird metal; the government said it’s a weather balloon but then they said it’s not – it’s a different thing – but they still aren’t giving us all the details. What could it be?” It could be anything; the sky is the limit. And our brains [are] going through all the possibilities. That’s fun – at least for me.*/
Hollywood Gothique's rating of MysterIan's Mysterious Mysteries: Incident at Roswell
1 – Avoid
2 – Not recommended but not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
The “Incident at Roswell” episode of MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries further develops the format introduced in the “Jack the Ripper” episode, moving the live characters front and center and increasing their interaction with prerecorded host Mister Ian – to the extent that much of the play comes across like dialogue rather than the monologues of the previous show. It’s a smart decision, because – lacking the drama and suspense of the Ripper episode – “Roswell” is all about eccentric witnesses relishing their fifteen minutes in the spotlight.
The result is an entertaining sort of rogue’s gallery of characters who are alternately serious, sincere, confused, quirky, and possibly deceitful. However, as intriguing as “The Roswell Incident” is, the actual event is not terribly compelling; it’s less about anything that actually happened and more about what people claimed to have seen. Tellingly, some of those most interesting testimony (about alien bodies) comes from a nurse who was never identified by name, leaving audiences to wonder whether she was invented by a journalist beefing up his story with fictional details that reality refused to supply.
MysterIan’s Mysterious Mysteries: Roswell runs on Saturdays from July 9 through July 30, with two performances nightly, at 7pm and 9pm. The Count’s Den is located at 1039 S Olive Street, Los Angeles. For more information, visit the official website at thecountsden.com.