We Asked the Stars & Creators of Incognito What Theatre Legend's Brain They'd Like to Explore
May 18th, 2016
by Josh Ferri
Brilliant playwright Nick Payne (Constellations) and Tony winner Doug Hughes (Doubt) reunite with MTC to present the New York premiere of Incognito, starring Daredevil's Charlie Cox, Turn's Heather Lind, Morgan Spector, and Tony nominee Geneva Carr. The play involves three interwoven stories, one of which is "a pathologist steals the brain of Albert Einstein". So naturally Bbox asked each of the stars and creators, if you could examine and study the brain of any great theatre artist, who would you choose?
Arthur Miller springs to mind. Not so long ago, I saw one of his early plays, The Man Who Had All the Luck, and I really thought it was spectacular. I was surprised I didn't know more about it. Then even more recently, I read that they found a new play that is potentially attributed to him as his first piece of drama. Later in his life, he said when he looks back at his career and he rereads his plays, he really thinks his early stuff was the best—he had it all down. It was simple and specific. I would love to explore that idea that maybe when you're actually less wise and more naive you do your best stuff.
If I could dig into the mind of any great theatre artist, I'd choose Laurence Olivier. I never saw him onstage but I'm such a fan of his work, and the stories for actors about him are so intense. I would love to be the Ophelia to his Hamlet if I could get into a time machine.
I'd go into the mind of Eleonora Duse. I recently read a biography about her and she was fascinating. She never looked in mirrors, and she was awful to people—aggressive and self-righteous and brilliant. She was also a vagabond. She traveled around Europe and had lovers. She just sounds like a fascinating human.
The people whose brains you'd want to look at are the people who make the sort of wildly counterintuitive choices where you think, 'How the fuck did you just think of that? Why would you have given that reading?' Michael Shannon is like that, Paul Sparks is like that, and Jessica Hecht is like that. I've been in a couple of shows with her, and you sit down at the read-through and she does something and you go, 'Is that really what you're gonna do?' Then she gets onstage and it's perfect, and you can't think of anything else and it's been the same the whole time.
Nick Payne (Playwright)
I just saw The Crucible on Broadway, so I would go into Ivo van Hove's brain. I'm really interested to know what his process is, how he rehearses, and why he works the way he works.
Doug Hughes (Director)
I think I'd go after [Elia] Kazan's brain. Of course, I never saw one of his productions, but I find his Kazan on Directing book to be truly the most valuable book I've ever read on the very curious subject of directing. So Kazan is my instinctive response.
'Incognito' runs at New York City Center Stage 1 through June 26.