“Lombardi” to take center stage

In football, everyone knows the name Vince Lombardi. If they don’t, they are living under a rock. Lombardi played a critical role in transforming the Green Bay Packers into the most dominant NFL team in the 1960s, winning five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls. Because of his legacy, Eric Simonson wrote a play about his life and the MSU Theater Department is doing its rendition of the play. 

Director Hans Bloedel chose this play after attending a Green Bay Packers game. He wanted to see if there was a play about football. When he went digging, he discovered a lot of history behind the team and Lombardi and knew he wanted to direct it. 

“I was in the game day environment and it’s neighborhoods, packed with people walking out of the stadium. People are selling their front lawns for parking. There’s tailgating happening everywhere,” said Bloedel. “There’s this cool history and community making this team what it is, and I wanted to try to capture that lightning in a bottle.” 

Arthur Gonzalaz, who plays Lombardi, said he feels pressure about playing a real person versus a fictional character. 

“It’s very difficult compared to just playing like a fictional character because, with fictional characters, you can add a lot more of you as an actor to the character, said Gonzalaz. “It’s not that I can’t do that with Vince Lombardi, but I really have to make sure that this is not my role. This is Vince Lombardi and I need to make sure that he is being represented through me as a vessel.” 

Gonzalaz said what drew him to play this role was how much of a legend Lombardi is. He also said that he feels like he looks like Lombardi. 

“I’ve watched a lot of interviews on Vince Lombardi; he’s very loud and super confident. He fits my style of acting so well, so I think I can portray how he acts, his mannerisms and everything,” said Gonzalaz. “He turned the Green Bay Packers from this horrible team to this absolute beast of a team. He broke many records and is widely considered the best of all time.” 

Natalie Suarez, who plays Marie Lombardi, said the most challenging part of this play was getting into her character. She also said there was some pressure about playing a real person. 

“The dialect on top of her mannerisms, on top of the age she’s been, it’s been a good combination of challenges. We talk in Brooklyn dialects in the show, which is very different from how we normally talk,” said Suarez. “People recognize Lombardi, and they know who these people are, and I just want to do them justice.” 

Bloedel said he encourages people to go to the show, even if they are Vikings fans. 

“We’re still doing our art, and you don’t have to know anything about football to understand the show because the play is about relationships. Lombardi was about relationships. That’s how he was such a great coach,” said Bloedel. “You can be a Vikings fan. You can be a Packers fan. You can be a theater person. You can be a sportsperson. All here under one roof enjoying the same show.” 

The show runs November 15-18, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. in the Andreas Theatre. Tickets are available at mnsueventtickets.universitytickets.com or the box office from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. A tailgate is also happening at 6:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts building lobby before the first show, where people can meet the cast and grab a bite to eat.

Header photo: “Lombardi” focuses on former Green Bay Packers coach and the story of his life. Actor Arthur Gonzalaz (left) said Lombardi’s personality fits “his style of acting,” which is what drew him to the character. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

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