Winner of 10 Tony Awards, “The Band’s Visit” is currently playing at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. until August 4, 2019.
I had a chance to interview Pomme Koch who plays Itzik in the production. Itzik invites one of the members of the band, Simon, to stay at his home with his wife and child. Simon learns about Itzik’s interesting relationship with his wife.
Broadway: ‘The Band’s Visit.” Off-Broadway: The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Educational. Regional: La Jolla Playhouse, A.C.T. San Francisco, O’Neill Theater Center, Theatre Calgary, Marin Theatre Company, Theater J, Shakespeare Theatre Company D.C., Folger Theater, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Round House Theatre, Studio Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse. TV: “Blue Bloods,” “House of Cards.” BFA The University of Michigan. Pomme is thrilled to be on tour with Bligh Voth and their dog, Karen, who is not thrilled. www.pommekoch.com
- Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and lived there until I graduated high school and left for The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!)
After college, I moved to Washington, D.C. despite knowing virtually no one in the area. The talent pool in New York and L.A. is so bloated with actors, I knew that if I wanted to work professionally with any regularity, I would have to take a different path. I was positively overwhelmed by the number of theatres at every level in the area, and I figured having local housing and being non-union (read: cheap) might get me in the door. I worked for three years in the DMV on some spectacular productions, even appearing with Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Meyerhoff and Strathmore (a highlight).
I moved to New York in 2014 and spent a couple years hustling there until “The Band’s Visit” changed my life.
I was lucky enough to have been with “The Band’s Visit” for the entirety of its Broadway run, and I’m so happy to be introducing the piece to audiences around the country along with my girlfriend Bligh (who I met in D.C. and is another actor in the production), and our dog, Karen, a Puerto Rican rescue, we can’t live (or sleep) without.
- Did you have anything in your background that helped you with your character, Itzik? Did you have to do any research?
Unlike a lot of the productions I’ve been a part of, “The Band’s Visit” is not politically based and doesn’t require as much academic research as, say, “The Invisible Hand,” or any other show that takes place in the Middle East. Truthfully my favorite part about playing Itzik is the fact that it requires abandoning any sense of vanity. Often when we’re onstage, actors are conscious of their hair, their makeup, their posture, their stature, etc. After all, you’ve got thousands of eyes on you. But Itzik’s a bit of a schlub, and as such, I really can’t slouch too much, and my hair really can’t be messy enough. Beyond the fact that this makes preparing to go onstage a lot easier, it’s great exercise to get in touch with those elements of my physicality that I find least impressive and to highlight them instead of hiding them. So I’m embracing my weak chin and my patchy neck hair, and I’m letting my head jut forward instead of maintaining my posture, and I’m letting my feet spread out like a duck when I walk. It actually takes a lot of work to embrace your physical deficiencies onstage, as opposed to instinctively masking them, and I find that it frees me up to be more truthful with the text as well.
- Have you ever been to Israel and what were your impressions? If not, would you like to go and explain your answer briefly?
I have been to Israel, but it was such a structured, whirlwind trip. I would love to go back and move at a slower pace. Having been, though, helped with a note that our director gave often, which is that people move at a different pace when the horizon stretches out farther. There’s something about a city, especially one as dense as New York, that fosters a quickened pace and a stunted sightline. But when you can “see for miles, and things never change” (as Dina sings in “Something Different”), everything changes internally as well. So, when we’re onstage in “The Band’s Visit,” staring off into the audience, I replace the seats at The Kennedy Center with the view from the top of Masada or the endless highway stretching across the Negev.
- If you could be another character in the show, which one would you choose?
I understudied eight roles in the production for most of the Broadway run, and all I wanted during that time was to just play one role. So, I’ll stick with Itzik, thank you very much.
- What other production, other than “The Band’s Visit,” was your favorite?
Back in 2013, I got to work with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a concert/performance hybrid piece about the relationship between Wagner and King Ludwig II of Bavaria. I was still only a couple years out of college, so working on the Meyerhoff and Strathmore stages with one of the top conductors and orchestras in the world (not to mention the lavish costumes) was pretty dizzying, especially when “Flight of the Valkyries” kicked up behind me. The piece kicked off a personal fascination with Wagner and Ludwig that led me to Neuschwanstein Castle in 2017–Ludwig’s endlessly kitschy residence outside Munich, with the design of each room based off a different Wagner opera
For information and tickets at Kennedy Center go online.
Missed this production at Kennedy Center? You can try to catch them at other locations. Check out their touring schedule.