BWW Interview: Kim Tobin-Lehl of 4th Wall Theatre Co. talks LOBBY HERO's Social Relevancy
4th Wall Theatre Company will open the Houston premiere of LOBBY HERO on May 12, playing through June 3. I spoke with one of the show's co-directors, Kim Tobin-Lehl, the other day, and gained perspective about the thought behind bringing LOBBY HERO to the 4th Wall stage and what it took to develop this production.
The play, written by commended director/screenwriter and Academy Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan and nominated for several respected awards, features a simple, yet strong, ensemble cast of Houston actors: Drake Simpson, Adam Gibbs, Chelsea Ryan McCurdy and Joseph Palmore. Focusing in on relevant topics such as race and morality in an engaging and moving, yet comedic, manner, this "dramedy" aims to entertain and enthrall audience members, stirring them to think about these issues and their manifestations in our society today.
Since LOBBY HERO has only been done a handful of times, what about the show compelled you to bring it to the 4th Wall stage for the Houston premiere?
I saw the original production of LOBBY HERO in NYC in 2001. I always thought it was one of the most well written plays I had ever seen. It deals with delicate issues about race and flaws in our justice system in a manner that is so truthful, complex and sincere that you can't watch the show and not be pulled in many directions. This play highlights the fact that morality and right and wrong are not always black and white, they are often shades of grey. And [it highlights] what happens to people when they are put in the position where a broken justice system forces them to compromise their own moral belief system. It is a timeless question and I find it particularly important today with what is happening with police brutality and immigration reform controversy among political parties.
As co-director, were there any skills that you got to exercise in directing LOBBY HERO that you don't normally get to?
I like co-directing because it provides an opportunity to collaborate with someone that you like to work with and who shares similar philosophies, objectives in story telling, and aesthetic goals. It also allows you to split up the tasks so that you can each focus more intently on specific parts of the process, allowing each aspect to get more attention. We communicate through the process, so that if we find we are coming up against a problem often the other person has a different way of looking at it that can help open up a solution.
Are there any challenges as a director in maintaining a balance of the various elements of a "dramedy" (drama, comedy, romance, etc.)?
It is always hard to get the right balance between the actors and what is laid out by the author in the script. Each actor is only considering the track of his own character, and as the director I have to make sure I track the best choices for all the characters in regards to what they need to accomplish for the story to happen the way the author has written it. The balancing of the individual tracks and how they have to intersect at conflicts and resolutions to best tell the story is a juggling act with the artists and the movement that has to happen to make the action unfold truthfully and hit all the elements of drama, comedy and romance.
Lastly, what do you want the audience to take away from this show?
Well, first of all, I want them to have a great time because this is a great play! But it is also a play that makes you want to go out after for drinks with your friends and talk about it! That is what I hope the most, is that when it is over you feel like you really got to know the four people in this play and they make you question and explore how you have previously thought about the issues they grapple with in this play. I know that is what it did to me when I saw it.
Kim Tobin-Lehl is a co-founder of 4th Wall Theatre Company, formerly Stark Naked Theatre Company, established in 2011. In addition to her involved work at 4th Wall Theatre Company, she and her spouse Philip Lehl both teach at her acting studio, Kim Tobin Acting Studio. Both have co-directed and starred in several shows at 4th Wall Theatre Company.
LOBBY HERO opens in preview on May 11. The opening night performance is on May 12, and the show runs through June 3 at 4th Wall Theatre Company,1824 Spring Street. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, with one "Pay What You Can" performance Monday, May 29th at 7:30 p.m. For information or to purchase tickets, please call 832-866-6514 or visit 4thwalltheatreco.com.
Photo courtesy of 4th Wall Theatre Company.