“Lobby Hero” tackles serious themes in Studio 200

Written notes fill senior Saul Bazer’s copy of the 2001 play “Lobby Hero”–a sign that the student director is dedicated to his craft. Bazer and the cast are in the middle of a four-week rehearsal process that will end with  the premier of the show on Feb. 15, followed by two more performances Feb. 16 and 17. 

“Lobby Hero,” written by Kenneth Lonergan, focuses on an apartment building security guard named Jeff. It premiered off-Broadway in 2001, then was revived on Broadway in 2018. The 2018 show starred big names like Michael Cera and Chris Evans.

 The play covers issues of racism, sexual harassment, love and self-discovery. “The way it is written is just powerful in itself,” said Bazer. 

Senior Pablo Gonzalez plays the lead, Jeff, who according to Gonzalez is a messed up guy. “I tend to have some buckets that are filled by the character. I feel like everyone has (messed) up at one point in their life,” said Gonzalez.

The cast is made up of Gonzalez, senior Joshua Bonds, sophomore Sonja Emerson and senior Will Valentine. The chemistry of the four-person cast  is evident when seeing them interact. One rehearsal began by having a few people on stage mouthing words, while others off stage filled in the dialogue. Absurdity ensued. 

But once rehearsal of the script started, Gonzalez and Bonds got serious, fully becoming their characters. Gonzalez, as Jeff, was slouched in a rolling chair while Bonds, as William, sat across from him recounting a situation involving his brother. William became palpably upset as the scene continued.  

Bazer interrupted at one point and asked Bonds about William’s emotion in the scene. “Taking that time to have group discussions and explore the themes and different people’s thoughts is really important,” said Bazer.

Student directors for high school plays are a key aspect of the Studio 200 series. Though the Studio 200 room can often be missed when walking through the school, the program is a big part of Oak Park and River Forest High School’s theater program. Its shows are produced, directed and acted by students. Michelle Bayer is the Theater Director and Performing Arts Chair. “Very rarely do they (other schools) let a kid do a full run of a show,” said Bayer. 

Bazer has been a part of seven shows with the OPRF theater program, and Gonzalez has been a part of nine. For Bazer this will be his last show in the OPRF theater program. “You can really be yourself, try new things and it’s really an opportunity to meet new people, develop bonds and also just explore your creative side,” said Bazer.