Interview: Arin Arbus on THE LEHMAN TRILOGY

The 2022 Tony Award Winner for Best Play Comes to D.C.

By: Feb. 21, 2024
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Arin Arbus directs Shakespeare Theatre Company's D.C. premiere of The Lehman Trilogy, with a cast of three actors covering 160 years of family struggles, achievements, and missteps. As Arbus prepares for the beginning of performances on Feb 22, we had the opportunity to chat with her about the play heralded by The New York Times as a “captivating…feat of storytelling.”

What brought you to this piece? Do you have a past relationship with the play?

I was in NYC in 2008 during the financial crisis. And I remember the earth-shaking moment when I learned that the Lehman Corporation had collapsed. I remember a kind of suspension in the air during which our whole financial system was on the brink.  People were asking – will it all come tumbling down? And of course, that’s when the play begins.

How does a piece like The Lehman Trilogy align with or differ from your work on Shakespeare and classical texts?

Like Shakespeare’s plays, The Lehman Trilogy is epic in its scope, experimental in its structure and is reliant upon virtuosic performances. Borrowing from Shakespeare, The Lehman Trilogy is written in verse and uses language to paint the scenes and bring many characters to life. Although some of Shakespeare’s characters talk to the audience, I’ve never worked on a play that relies so heavily upon direct address. I’m excited and nervous to build a theatrical vocabulary with the actors and designers to bring this text to life.

How do you feel about returning to STC? 

I’m thrilled to be return to STC! In 2021, when my production of The Merchant of Venice staring John Douglas Thompson as Shylock came to STC, I loved encountering D.C. audiences. And can’t wait to encounter them again.

What do you personally feel is the most resounding theme or element of The Lehman Trilogy that audiences connect with? 

I love the way the play is structured: it tells a sweeping, epic story about America and capitalism, by looking at a single family. On a basic level the play is about brothers and fathers and sons. But embedded within this family story, there’s a larger cautionary tale about our American values and the capitalist system.

Is there something particularly unique or exciting about this production that you are looking forward to, either in design or staging?

The play requires virtuosic performances from all three actors – they play about 50 characters over the course of 170 years. We have an incredible cast – Edward GeroMark Nelson, and René Thornton Jr.. Audiences will know Edward from many, many productions at STC; he of course was a founding member. Mark Nelson was last at STC playing Shylock in a wonderful production in 2011. And I’m thrilled for René to make his debut at STC as he’s extremely experienced with Shakespeare – a rare actor who has completed the canon. The script offers a great deal of room for authorship from its actors. I can’t wait to begin digging into the text with them.