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Bringing History to Life

January 19, 2024

“He had been dreaming of America. The son of a cattle merchant, a Jew with only one piece of luggage, [he] stood as still as a telegraph pole on Dock Number Four in the port. Thank God he’d arrived.”
- The Lehman Trilogy

On September 11, 1844, Henry Lehman arrived in New York City with nothing but a suitcase and a dream. Over the next 163 years, his descendants would build upon his legacy to create one of the most powerful financial institutions in the United States: Lehman Brothers Inc.

Today we remember Lehman Brothers for its role in the devastating economic crash of 2008. But how did a small, family-run agriculture business in Alabama grow to become a globally renowned financial giant? How did a tight-knit trio of brothers come to wield such immense influence over the American economy?

Stefano Massini’s critically acclaimed family epic, The Lehman Trilogy, invites the audience into the lives of the generations of dreamers behind Lehman Brothers Inc., from its 19th century inception to its 2008 collapse.

“It’s a beautifully constructed story that covers an immense swath of American history,” said show director Richard Hopkins. “Through the experiences of Henry Lehman, his two brothers, and their descendants, audiences see all that America has been through—from the Civil War and Ellis Island to the Great Depression and World War II.”

Described by critics as a “Riveting,” “Gripping,” and “Vividly human” story, The Lehman Trilogy is the story of one family’s pursuit of the “American Dream” across several generations.

“I’m excited to rise to the challenge of portraying this epically dramatized history,” said Beethovan Oden, who makes his FST debut playing Emanuel Lehman, one of the three original brothers who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. “This play illuminates how the mythological heights of the American Dream are often attainable only at the expense of others.”

As the play unfolds, audiences see how the Lehman family members sacrifice faith, love, and relationships in order to achieve success and wealth.

“One of the things that hit me the most about this play was how the family’s relationship to their faith and to one another changes,” said Hopkins. “When Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer arrive in America, they have a strong connection to Judaism. But as time goes on and more generations follow, this connection dwindles, and they become very secular. Through this evolution, you see how society’s—and the family’s—values are changing.”

Bringing this sweeping, multi-generational drama to life are three seasoned actors: Rod Brogan (Network), Howard Kaye (Tom Jones), and Beethovan Oden, who has performed in regional theatre productions across the country.

With a change in physicality or by swapping a costume piece, this trio will play at least 50 characters, including the three initial Lehman brothers, their wives, and their descendants. While these artists tackle that Herculean task, FST Resident Pianist Jim Prosser will provide musical underscoring for the entire performance.

“The drama of the piano keys establishes a distinct place and mood,” said Hopkins. “The music also heightens our emotional understanding of the characters and their perspectives.”

Experience the epic tale of a family’s decades-long journey from rags to riches to ruin with The Lehman Trilogy.

Pictured: Rod Brogan, Howard Kaye, and Beethoven Oden. Photo by John Jones.