Theatre department showcases “Lobby Hero”

On Oct. 4 through Oct. 7, Guilford’s theatre studies department will be transporting audiences to the ultimate waiting room; the lobby of a middle-class New York apartment building during a security guard’s typically-tedious graveyard shift.

“Lobby Hero,” written by playwright Kenneth Lonergan and directed by Michael Tourek, tells the tale of two apartment building security guards, a rookie NYPD cop and her senior partner who are all forced to face the reality of their convictions and the lies they tell themselves, all within the setting of a Manhattan lobby.

Guilford’s production of “Lobby Hero” boasts four senior theses, including Costume Designer senior Max Schumate and Lighting Designer senior Alex Conkright. Additionally, senior Jeremy Toda-Ambaras is portraying the unkempt and sarcastic security guard Jeff for his thesis, while senior Madison Stranahan plays the young NYPD officer Dawn for hers.

“‘Lobby Hero’ is about what four people would do when they’re pushed against the wall,” Toda-Ambaras said. “When you’re backed up against impossible odds, what do you do? So much happens from seemingly inconsequential conversations that just build up and ultimately explode, and it does that with a lot of heart and humor, but also a lot of drama.”

The integral lobby setting was created by Set Designer junior Sora Mullis in conjunction with Assistant Set Designer Cassidy Snow. It was important to Mullis that the set was distinctly New York-influenced.

“We actually got huge inspiration for the set from 30s to 70s New York City apartment buildings,” Mullis said. “I personally wanted to make (the set) unnecessarily big, so it would feel more old-fashioned. I heard really fashionable New York apartment buildings right now have really tiny lobbies because nobody actually uses them. I just wanted to give the feeling that it was both old and set in modern times.”

The lobby’s middle-income inhabitants and ambiguous date of construction allowed the design team to utilize interesting elements and techniques.

“(Conkright) and I had great conversations about how the lighting was going to work out because I decided I wanted some practical lighting like sconces and streetlights, so that allowed her to play around with more light sources,” Mullis said. “One of the light bulbs may be flickering, or one light may be a little too bright because it isn’t maintained correctly. It gives you fun things as a designer to play around with.”

Schumate was able to conduct his costume research firsthand while living in New York City over the summer.

“I went out to NYPD stations and took pictures and talked to officers, which is very scary,” Schumate said. “Then I went to the nice luxury apartments in Manhattan that have security guards and took pictures of the apartments and the city. A lot of my research was talking to people and trying to get what a day in the life of an NYPD officer is.”

According to Schumate, one of the primary challenges he faced when creating the costumes was trying to instill each character’s personality through their uniforms.

“I’m really looking forward to Guilford seeing my designs on stage,” Schumate said. “It’s really exciting. Even though it’s uniforms, it’s my touch and my research that went into them.”

With a cast of only four characters, “Lobby Hero” is a comparatively smaller production than other shows Toda-Ambaras has worked on in the past.

“Compared to a cast with a larger ensemble, your focus is a lot smaller and more intimate,” Toda-Ambaras said. “What makes this play so wonderful and so funny and heartwarming is the fact that the playwright sets it up so that new moments can happen every night you do the show on stage.”

Toda-Ambaras hopes that “Lobby Hero” will leave audiences feeling introspective regarding the play’s themes.

“I definitely want audience members to feel like there really are no easy answers,” Toda-Ambaras said. “Audience members should start to consider when they’re being honest with themselves and when they’re lying, because I think it’s a huge idea that’s covered in the play. I hope people leave with the sense of wanting to find opportunities to do good, even if it’s in small moments of your everyday life.”

“Lobby Hero” will have performances from Oct. 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. in Sternberger Auditorium, with a matinee performance on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.. The performance on Oct. 5 will be interpreted in American Sign Language. Tickets are available in Founders Lobby and are free for students.

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