MTWorks’ Interview With Balm’s Lowell Byers

Check out this fabulous interview with Balm actor Lowell Byers posted on  MTWorks’

Carrying on the Family Legacy: An Interview with company actor Lowell Byers by Robin Madel

Your play, Balm in Gilead at T. Schreiber Studios, has been selling out almost every performance. Congratulations. Tell me about your role.

I play Bob. As Lanford [Wilson] puts it, he is a “hood” who will steal anything from anyone just to get one step ahead. The cafe is the center of activity and for a character like Bob he is always working on something new to make more money. Some of my favorite moments are the scenes on stage with the “unspoken dialogue,” or improvisation among the characters. There is wonderful chemistry among the cast and crew every night – we had plenty of time to get to know each other, discuss characters, and most importantly, think about what life was like in 1960’s New York City.

You come from a family of actors. What do they think about your decision to be an actor?

I grew up in Chappaqua, NY. I was a theatre major at Denison University participating in seven main stage productions and was All American for four years on the Varsity Swim Team. My family has been very supportive of my decision. It is reassuring to me that they have seen my work and believe in my talent and drive as an actor. I am proud to say that I have family members who have performed on New York stages. My father, Ralph Byers, was in Big River on Broadway when I was born and the revival of The Music Man when I was in high school. My grandfather, Athan Karras, was in various Broadway productions including Most Happy Fella. He also choreographed some of Julian Beck’s productions at the Living Theatre in the beginnings of Off-Broadway. My great aunt, Margaret Hamilton, started in Off-Broadway venues and eventually played the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.

How does the role of leading man as an archetype in theater apply to you?

Honestly, I’m up for playing leading man or character parts depending on the material. It is more rewarding to have a supporting part in a quality production than a leading part in something that is weak. That is why I am so proud to be a part of Balm in Gilead. With each part, across the board, every actor in this show is taking their role very seriously, which is a pleasure to be a part of. I understand that this [leading man type] is most common for men in their 30’s or 40’s. I just try to keep adding experience and strong credits to my belt.

What was the hardest role you ever played and how did you prepare for it?

Right now, I am doing a show called Women and War where I play four different American soldiers. A teenager from Brooklyn during WWII, a young Italian from Philadelphia in Vietnam, a man from Atlanta during the Korean War, and a pilot from Chicago in Vietnam. The first step in preparing each role was creating a back-story for each character. Then came dialects and body language to really make them very different from the play’s standpoint and more specific for my own needs as an actor. I am switching in and out of these men during a one-hour production, sometimes one right behind the other. This has been one of the more challenging feats I’ve had to tackle as an actor, but I was fortunate to have a great director in Peter Zinn.

What would be your dream role?

I am very fond of the classic pieces. I would love to play Biff in Death of a Salesmen (my father and I have talked about doing this together one day, having him play Willy). I am also a big Tennessee Williams fan so Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is another part that comes to mind. The fact that they were former athletes living a new and very different lifestyle is something I can relate to.