An Interview with Lobby Hero’s Michael Black

An Interview with T. Schreiber Actor Michael BlacknnBy Doug StrasslernnMichael Black takes on the role of Jeff in the challenging Kenneth Lonergan show Lobby Hero. Below he talks about his love for the show and some of the other writers that inspire him.nnWhat do you like most about T. Schreiber?nnYou get more hands-on time with the teachers than you do at other acting schools.  As an acting student, you’re frequently being asked to step outside your comfort zone, but in ways that are necessary. I think any actor has limits to their thinking as to what they can or can’t do and what I have found at T. Schreiber is those concepts are always being challenged. I frequently walked away from classes going “Well, maybe I could play ____ after all” or being surprised by what was drawn out of me.nnBut the thing that makes T. Schreiber a must, particularly for people new to New York, is the sense of community. You genuinely get to know people in your classes—much more so than any other acting classes in New York I have attended–and that is completely invaluable.  New York City probably has the most supportive community of actors in the world, but I have felt T. Schreiber is the best place to get that started. I know of at least two off-off Broadway theater companies that have been generated by like-minded students who first got things started here.nnWhat do you love most about Lobby Hero?nnFor my money, it’s one of the very best plays of the last twenty some-odd years. I remember first reading it and just glowing by the end of it, going “I HAVE to do this!”. It’s a very simple play but it’s such a confluence of love story, character study, play of ideas and something resembling a thriller that is totally unique…the way Lonergan blends all this so seamlessly is just incredible to me. Anyone interested in great writing should check it out one way or the other.nnWhat is most challenging about your character, Jeff, and/or the play?nnNobody writes better dialogue than Kenneth Lonergan.  Nobody. He writes almost exactly the way Americans talk—jagged, repetitive, incomplete sentences that convey more in their skips and jumps than what is clearly communicated. It’s brilliant. And it is SUCH a challenge to memorize, my God! I think we all struggled with it.nnWhen did you decide to become an actor, and why?nnWhen I was very, very young my family took me to see Up With People. And I remember asking my mom, “How do I get to do that? Do they get paid?? Can you make a living doing that?” Mom was decidedly worried about my line of questioning but my mind was completely made up: I was going to be a performer in Up With People and that was how I was going to live my life. Period. Somewhere down the line, an interest in the likes of Streep and Brando distracted me from my lofty goal. I have yet to play any football stadium, which is just heartbreaking as you can imagine. So, yeah, if you come see Lobby Hero and hate my performance…blame Up With People.nnWhat is your favorite role of those you have ever played?nnJeff is up there…oh, boy is Jeff up there. Years ago, I played Moritz in Spring Awakening—the play, not the musical—which is still a big one for me; it just such a beautiful play, I’d love to direct it one day. I also had a lot of fun doing this workshop of a really wonderful, crazy play by Craig Lucas called The Singing Forest. I really love working on new pieces.nnWhat role/play would you love to do most?nnThe ones that pay me? Other than that, anything by Caryl Churchill, Kenneth Lonergan, Craig Lucas, Tony Kushner…I’d be happy to play window dressing for free in any of their plays. Oh, and Albee’s Tiny Alice!nnnnDoug Strassler is a freelance writer covering film, theater, television, and pop culture. He is the managing editor at OffOffOnline and editor of the newsletter for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. His work can also be seen on such sites as New York Press, Theatermania, Show Business magazine, Backstage, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit, Tail Slate, and The Critical Condition. Additionally, Doug is a past member of the Drama Desk nominating committee.