The actress Katrina Lenk is the face of “The Band’s Visit,” the musical now up for 11 Tony Awards including best new musical, which it’s tipped to win. That’s Lenk on most of the show’s advertising images, striking a balletic pose in the desert, and the actress (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) — who plays the viola, fronts a band (Moxy Phinx) and has Broadway credits including “Indecent” and “Once” — is also the top contender in this year’s lead actress in a musical category. She sat down with Variety to talk about her role, her youthful shyness and whether she’d want to play a superhero someday.
“The Band’s Visit” has been doing great business on Broadway since it opened in November. What’s the audience response been?
Here’s the thing: We try really hard to have this delicate balance of noticing the audience but not noticing them. Because there are so many laughs and jokes, if we’re too aware of how the audience is responding, then it winds up becoming about that. Like, “Oh, no, if they don’t laugh, that means we’re ruining it!” That’s a dangerous place for us to be in. So I try to just be aware but not aware. But I do know that there are people there, and they keep coming!
How much are you like Dina, the character you play in “The Band’s Visit”?
I would say Dina has taught me things. How to be still, and be OK with being still. And I’m trying to do this thing that she does, but I haven’t quite achieved it, which is when you’re feeling something, positive or negative — something overwhelming — that it’s OK, and to be still with it, and to feel it and it’s OK. She does that so well, and I’m not quite there yet.
You started performing young. What attracted you to it back then?
I started dance when I was 3, and I was so shy as a kid. My mom would tell me these stories that, even in an elevator, if anybody looked at me and was like, “Oh, what a cute kid,” I would just start crying. I hated any attention. So I don’t know how it happened, but my parents took me to ballet, and I remember crying and being so scared before I went into the class. My mom was like, “Go in. Once you get in there you’ll be fine, trust me.” And she was so right. I just fell in love with it. Being onstage in that manner was totally normal to me somehow, even when I was a kid. So I think that naturally led to being around music, and to playing the viola, and to the theater.
Have you thought about what you want to do next?
I feel like it’s slightly cheating on the show to think about doing other things at this point. I don’t know; it’s more like I want to work and collaborate with people that inspire me. Whatever shape that winds up taking is second to the pleasure of getting to create stuff. But I wouldn’t mind being in a superhero movie. Maybe a superhero that doesn’t exist yet, something like “Atomic Blonde,” or maybe somebody with superpowers. Something fun and fantastical.