Amy catches up with Tom Lenk who is gearing up to star in Lottie Plachett Took A Hatchet, a true crime inspired play which is on at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer – based on the infamous case of Lizzie Borden.
Hi Tom, how are you feeling ahead of the Fringe?
So excited! I can’t wait to get back to Edinburgh! I was last there with our production of Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist (**** Stars from the Guardian) the summer before the Pandemic. Performing every day and watching theatre every day, making new friends and staying out late in the various beer gardens with castmates and audience members from around the world is maybe my favourite thing!
You’re best known for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but have recently moved into theatre – what prompted this change?
Actually, I started out in the theatre and have never left! I went to drama school at UCLA where I won the Carol Burnett Award and Scholarship for Musical Theatre! One of my first big jobs before Buffy was the European tour of the musical Grease! And I was actually in rehearsal for the first play I wrote/starred in when I booked the job and had to get an understudy in case I couldn’t make it to the theatre because of filming. I even got to go to Broadway with the role I created here in Los Angeles in Rock of Ages which was amazing! I went to my first Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 with my solo show Nerdgasm that I workshopped at the Soho Theatre in London. And, I was lucky enough to perform Buyer and Cellar at Pittsburgh Public Theatre and Hartford Theatreworks which is the most challenging theatrical role I’ve done to date!
Tell us a bit about Lottie Plachett Took a Hatchet.
I like to describe it as a hilarious, queer, camp, parody of the Lizzie Borden case (which has been made into various films and TV shows starring Christina Ricci, Chloe Sevigny, Elizabeth Montgomery) but, like if the Muppets were doing a production of the Crucible as directed by John Waters, if that makes sense?
What attracted you to this production?
I was a fan of the writer of our show, Justin Elizabeth Sayre, and have seen many of their shows (which often include them in the cast) and I got the opportunity to do some readings of their mid-pandemic zoom productions and when I heard about the idea for this show I jumped at it immediately!
Who do you play in the show?
I play Lottie’s brother Pansy, who yearns to participate in the glamorous, homosexual lifestyle outside the walls of his staunch, conservative and controlling household.
The genre of true crime is hugely popular right now, why do you think people love it so much?
Maybe adults love true crime the way kids/teens love rollercoasters? The threat of near death makes one feel so alive? Funnily enough, I cannot get into true crime TV shows, but I am OBSESSED with British fictional crime/murder shows… Vera, Shetland, Agatha Raisin, Hinterland, Line of Duty. I need at least one episode of a murder show with idyllic British landscapes to put myself to bed every night hahaha!
What is it about the Lizzie Borden case that makes it infamous?
So many reasons! She was acquitted and no one else was accused. The case was never solved! It was such a gruesome murder and perhaps the idea that a woman in the late 1800’s could have committed such a crime was unthinkable? Also, you know how they say human brains can’t easily process large scale traumatic events but can focus on individual events? Case in point: widespread child poverty vs. Baby Jessica falling down the well. Perhaps the same goes for people not being able to focus on large scale death tolls due to wars and epidemics, which were happening in the late 1800’s – but the popular consciousness was able to focus in on this one shocking and intriguing murderous event? And people love to be amateur sleuths when it comes to unsolved mysteries?!
What are the key themes / messages in the show?
One of the key themes is a powerless person taking their power back. This was true for Lottie and for most women in 1870, and it’s true for many women, even today.
You’ve previously performed at the Fringe; how does it feel to be returning?
Speaking of feeling so alive…I feel so alive to be coming back to the Fringe! It’s my favourite yearly artistic recharge! The theatre camp I never got to go to! And a gorgeous city filled with potential Scottish husbands!!!
What is the best and worst thing about performing at the Fringe?
Best Thing: Making new friends
Worst thing: Sometimes they run out of chicken nuggets at the chicken nugget hut.
What shows will you seeing whilst you’re in Edinburgh?
Finally, why should people come along to see the show?
A pair of tiny plastic hands.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Lottie Plachett Took A Hatchet, Assembly Roxy (Upstairs), 8.35pm, 4th-27th August (not 17th)