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EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Interview: Tom Lenk and Byron Lane

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Interview: Tom Lenk and Byron Lane

BWW catches up with actor Tom Lenk and actor/writer Byron Lane about bringing their hit show Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist back to Edinburgh and Tom's new solo show Tom Lenk Is Trash.

Why did you want to bring Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist back to Edinburgh?

Byron Lane: We had such a great time last year. We all feel like we're at theatre camp. The level of quality art stuff here is breath-taking so it was a really easy decision to come back.

We're so grateful to be here and we're so excited for people to come and see how the show has evolved. We're in a bigger venue and it's amazing. New energy, more love and more passion.

So was the plan to bring Tilda over and then you decided to do Trash as well, Tom?

Tom Lenk: It kind of happened at the same time. We'd been talking about bringing Tilda back and I thought it would be good to force myself to do a new show. Tilda is a comedy but I make myself cry a couple of times and its just non stop and intense for an hour. So I wanted something that was fun and easy.

My main thing was just to encourage people to be creative themselves. I think we're so under pressure with social media to look perfect and take the perfect photo. The whole thing is about getting messy and I just wanted to have something completely fun.

Tilda is a little messy in places and sometimes I drop a bag or slip on water or trip on a cable- I've done all of those things.

Is Tom Lenk Is Trash a new show for Edinburgh or have you done it elsewhere?

Tom: I did one preview in LA and I was like, yeah this is great I want to do an audience participation thing. But no-one told me everyone here hates audience participation! Sometimes I'm dragging up an audience member and sometimes I'm bringing in a friend. We won't rehearse it and then they can promote their show as well.

The nature is the show is that something goes wrong every night. But that's also the nature of Tilda.

Byron: So many things go wrong and some of them we keep in the show.

Tom: Maybe that's a theme between the two shows- nothing is perfect apart from Tilda Swinton. It's about embracing imperfections.

Also, if anyone wants to bring clothes that they want to donate we'll bring them up onstage and craft together or I'll donate them. Come to Trash and get creative with me!

Where have you been with Tilda since last August?

Byron: San Francisco, London, New York and Los Angeles. Sold out shows in all those places. San Francisco sold out in fifteen minutes so they added two more shows and those sold out in a couple of hours.

Tom: Next up- Disneyland! We're doing gay days at Disneyland. A friend of mine started it and its not in actual Disneyland but at the hotel.

Having been here for a month last year as well, is there anything you like to do or eat or anything in particular in Edinburgh?

Byron: I look forward to those dumplings all year. They're mandatory. Last year I was obsessed with the quesadilla truck and has a cheese quesadilla after every show. This year I'm having a burrito after every show. The nice woman at the burrito stand gave me a free burrito the other day and was like 'you gotta slow down'. I'm not good at planning restaurants and stuff.

Tom: The thing I look forward to is just going to see something and not knowing what it is. You can really just wing it here.

Byron: Oh my god am I trash because I said dumplings and you said art??

Tom: No! I also like walking back to our apartment through the Meadows.

Byron: I love seeing shows.

Tom: But you like the dumplings.

Have you seen any shows yet?

Tom: I've only seen one show but it was wonderful. It's the all male gay rugby production of Romeo and Juliet. I would highly recommend it.

Byron: I get really stressed in the first week so I don't see much but I did see Sleeping Giants. It's so brilliant. It's an hour but I wish it was three. It's written by one of the Supernatural writers and has a Tony winning actress in it. Its scary so its thrilling and its like a metaphor for Trump and Brexit.

Tom, is it twice as tiring doing two shows this year?

Tom: Do I seem more tired than last year?

Byron: No, I don't know what's got into you. I get up sometimes in the morning at 8am and Tom's bedroom is empty because he's at tech.

I think maybe the trash show warms you up for Tilda.

Tom: Tilda I don't have to think about at all. We used to walk to the venue last year and run lines to warm my brain up. But I have to do so much thinking on my feet in the trash show that once it gets to Tilda I can just relax.

Last year i slept every day until 1pm or 3pm because of the adrenaline but I've been forcing myself to go to sleep earlier. I woke up this morning at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and made eggs then went back to bed. And didn't clean the pan.

Byron: Living with Tom is so fun. My favourite habit of his is that he leaves drawers and cupboards open so you'll always know he's been in there because it looks like we've been robbed.

Tom: I don't even notice.

Byron: Jane was saying this morning that there's never a dull moment because she was upstairs curling her hair and I was doing paperwork and then we just hear Britney Spears' "Gimme More" blasting out operatically.

Tom: In my defence, I was practising for tonight.

What advice would you give someone doing the Fringe without PR?

Byron: This year I'm very active on Twitter so if anyone hints that they're looking for a recommendation- I'm on it. Tom's doing his Instagram thing. We have some flyers but we got two foamex boards that are 75 x 150 and when I'm standing out with it people are coming up to me and asking for a flyer so it feels like a nice way to not have bins filled with our flyers.

Last year Tom made a dress out of our flyers so we could do that again.

We were here performing last year so we feel really good about that.

Does Tilda Swinton know about the show?

Tom: I'm going to say yes. The one day I dressed up as her and handed out flyers last year, a family member of hers happened to walk by and came to the show.

Byron: She said that we did a good job capturing her.

Tom: Jerry Stafford, her stylist, came to see it in London. He came to see it with Gwendoline Christie which is amazing because we have a joke about her- for her- in the show.

Byron: In LA a producer of some big films reached out and asked for tickets. Some of her friends have come and you can always tell because they have huge top hats and handlebar moustaches.

Tom: What if she's come to see it in prosthetics?

Byron: Whenever I see someone in the audience with shocking blonde hair I die a little.

Did you bring your trash for the show with you?

Tom: *singing* Been around the world and I- I- I - I bring my trash baby.

No, there's so much trash to be had here. My poster is blue tablecloths but it looks like trash bags and we don't actually have them in the US but they do here so that worked out. I just went to the pound shop and the bargain store and got some stuff. I've just been collecting trash from around the festival. There's plenty of things being tossed out.

Byron: Yes. He brought a bag of trash.

Tom: Did I travel with my trash? I did travel with pipe cleaners.

How many pipe cleaners do you have?

Tom: I ordered three packs of a thousand on Amazon and I think I'll be done with those in a couple of days. They're more expensive here so I might do some different crafts. What was the crafting like being in the audience?

Great! You said my craft was amazing so I was happy!

Tom: I like that I'm maybe forcing the Scots to embrace audience participation.

Where do you find most of your audience comes from?

Tom: There's a lot of Instagram people. The title and probably word of mouth is so helpful as well. I think because I take a photograph with anyone who wants one after the show and then they're sharing that on social media so that's great advertising.

I feel like we couldn't ask for more as far as being an independent theatre company with no marketing budget. I'm so proud of us.

Byron: I am too. To think that this was just a minute ago some stupid idea and now its three years later. Now we're back in Scotland and it feels like we never left.

Is this Tilda's last outing or are you going on to do other things with the show?

Byron: We're excited to do whatever we can but it would be nice if we could find a producer and elevate it. In Edinburgh we're able to cover expenses a little but for other stuff like in New York we're sleeping on air mattresses and I'm not saying I'm against that because this is the opportunity of a lifetime but it would be nice if we could elevate it.

Tom: I think the next step is a bigger production on a bigger scale.

What's your response to negative reviews of Tom Lenk Is Trash?

Tom: Oh I love it. I've literally called the show trash. I had a review where they said 'never has a show lived up to its title'- well yeah! Embrace it. I was going to only post good reviews but the whole point of my show is that there can be no happiness without sadness and you can't tidy up if you don't make a mess.

What has been your post popular Instagram lewk?

Tom: Probably the J-Lo one with my pants around my ankles. That or the Kylie Minogue one.

What's been the best celebrity response to a lewk?

Tom: The Kylie Minogue one was great. Gwendoline Christie, whenever I do her she comments on it with like 20 emojis. I love her and I hope she gets the Emmy.

Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad on Craigslist and Tom Lenk Is Trash run at Assembly Festival until 25 August.

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