This was a very exciting opportunity – the chance to interview Tom Lenk. Yes, he’s the gay guy from Buffy who grew up to bring Barbra Streisand to Pittsburgh. Read on for details on the performance and some Q&A with Tom himself.
Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 40th anniversary Season of Legends concludes with the Pittsburgh premiere of Jonathan Tolins’ one-man comedy, Buyer & Cellar, the hilarious hit about Barbra Streisand and the stuff she collects. Directed by Don Stephenson (Noises Off last season), Buyer & Cellar runs May 28 – June 28, 2015 at the O’Reilly Theater. For tickets call 412.316.1600 or visit ppt.org.
Tom Lenk will play an out-of-work actor named Alex More. Lenk is best known as Andrew in the TV hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and has appeared in numerous projects directed by Joss Whedon, as well as many other TV shows and movies. Lenk also starred on Broadway in the musical Rock of Ages, and performs often at Los Angeles’ best comedy venues, including Upright Citizens Brigade and Comedy Central Stage.
In addition to the character of Alex, Lenk will conjure Barbra, her assistant, Alex’s boyfriend Barry, and even Barbra’s husband James Brolin. The budding relationship between the starstruck employee and the superstar leads to penetrating insights about celebrity culture – and plenty of laughs.
I had the chance to interview Tom who has been in Pittsburgh rehearsing and launching the play.
Tell me about your first visit to Pittsburgh and what resonates with you about our city?
The abundance of fresh free flowing water! I live in Los Angeles where the existence of rivers are the stuff of legend and hearsay. The sight of your glorious river brought tears to my eyes (we’re also not allowed to cry in LA as that would also be a waste of precious water). And now, I rejoice and sing to myself as I take more than one shower a day!
Also, I love hearing the entire stadium cheering from across the river as I pace around my apartment, running lines and talking to myself….OK, I’m jealous. I’m jealous of everyone in the stadium, because I have an aversion to hard work and I’d rather be there drinking beer and eating hot dogs!
Are there any Pittsburgh artists (based here or born here) that influence you?
Jennifer Beal in Flashdance? That counts right? Plus, she welded sculptures and things?! I’m totally the first person to make that joke. Right? RIGHT?! But seriously….Martha Graham and August Wilson are just a couple of the prolific native Pittsburgh artists whose work I have studied and admired. And actors I love…Frances McDormand, Michael Keaton…So many astounding visual artists…Keith Haring, Bruce Weber, Andy Warhol…I could keep going! I almost forgot about Fred Rogers! Does he have a museum here I could visit?
Who was the first LGBTQ person that you met and how did they impact you?
Lady Elaine Fairchild (from the Land of Make Believe). She was an incredibly sexually frustrated lesbian right? She seemed like a real outsider…living by her own rules, not taking crap from anyone. She didn’t need a man to complete her. She was an independent business woman and museum owner. She supported the arts! She really questioned authority a lot, which I can respect, and she had a badass boomerang, which meant she was kind of sporty and liked to travel. Very well rounded. And with that pixie cut, and her liberal application of rouge and feminist overtones…she was very punk rock, don’t you think?
How did you get involved in this production?
Our Director Don Stephenson (who is also an incredibly talented and accomplished actor) was my onstage partner in crime in “Rock of Ages” on Broadway and we shared a small dressing room, and when you spend that much time in your underwear together, you learn…a great deal…about a person. A-hem. So I had to say yes because I knew it would be incredibly challenging, but fun and Don makes me laugh, long and hard…another A-hem. And he promised me chocolates and silk robes and the finest frankincense and myrrh. I really do feel spoiled though, I love this wonderful downtown Cultural District and the O’Reilly is GORJUS as Barbra would say.
What am I gonna love about this show?
You will love everything. And by everything, I mean me. Because I’m the only one in it. It’s a one person play. And let me just say…my acting is A-MAH-zing. You will be astounded. The faces I make. The words I say….I will take your BREATH. A. WAY. But seriously, I walk, I talk, I move…sometimes even with grace. Also, there’s a lesbian joke I think you will like.
Tell me about your dream Netflix series starring Tom Lenk?
I’ll play a character named CHANDLER, and I’ll have two guy friends and three girl friends, and we all live in NYC, and my one friend Monica has a HUGE purple apartment. And no one will wear a bra, and people will wear belly shirts and navel piercings and I’ll make jokes about how good it feels to sit in a lazy boy chair. And then my one friend will constantly gorge himself on fatty foods yet he never seems to gains weight… hmmm I feel like this is really sounding a lot like “The Scarecrow and Mrs. King” so I may have to retool it.
Also I’d like to be the Anti-Martha Stewart on my own DIY/craft show, so that I can show others how they too, can make their own Bea Arthur Christmas tree topper.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature?
Past: Willow on Buffy for obvious reasons. Present: Titus on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt…can I get a tool belt, because Titus Burgess is NAILING IT.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community?
Buy tickets to my show.
Read this blog.
Stop holding hands in daisy chains of multiple people in crowded gay bars. You won’t get lost…I PROMISE.
Get Adam Lambert’s new album.
See if Adam will make out with me…Lambert or Levine. But mostly Lambert.
Tell Madonna to pay other people to write songs for her.
Stop picking on Madonna.
Come up with some decent original programming that Logo can play after RuPaul’s Drag Race.
And go to community LGBTQ activities like OUTrageous Bingo which I attended the other night. Get involved People!
That was nine things.
What is your love song to today’s LGBTQ youth?
Well, it’s not a love song, but it’s my favorite Barbra Streisand song…and you know LGBTQ youth need to know the repertoire of the important gay icons of our time, so take a listen childrens:
Is there anything “Pittsburgh” you’ve always wanted to experience?
Rest assured I referred Tom to the Mr. Rogers exhibit at the Heinz History Museum & sent him a video of Paprika LaRue’s rendition of ‘What a Feeling’
You can catch Tom in ‘Buyer & Cellar’ at Pittsburgh Public Theater through June 28. Tickets available here.