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Final Bow

Final Bow: The Sound Inside's Will Hochman Isn't Ready to Pore Over His Broadway Debut

Hochman will be leaving Studio 54 with boxes of books and a secret handshake he'll always share with Mary-Louise Parker.

Will Hochman's dressing room at Studio 54 is just what you'd imagine for the actor inhabiting the skin of Christopher Dunn — the reclusive Yale freshman with literary ambitions and a gravitational pull toward his writing professor Bella Baird (Mary-Louise Parker) in Adam Rapp's two-hander The Sound Inside.

Books are the space's main feature, with copies of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and James Salter's Light Years among others resting on his shelves (if you've seen the play, you understand the relevance of those titles). The Sound Inside — Rapp's long-awaited Broadway debut — is an ode to storytelling and its ability to connect human souls. And with only two weeks left in the show's Broadway run, Hochman (in an auspicious Broadway debut as well) is just starting to unpack all that this experience has meant to his own story.

"I hesitate to do the big reflection, because I don't want to rattle too many things," said Hochman, just following his landmark 100th performance on a Broadway stage. "Part of me knows that this is just the most profound, life-changing thing that's happened to me in quite some time. I haven't let myself pull on that string."

He can unravel it all after January 12. Until then, here's the first thread.

Will Hochman plays Christopher Dunn in Adam Rapp's The Sound Inside through January 12 at Studio 54.
(© David Gordon)

1. What is your favorite line that you get to say?
Probably, "I'm from Vermont, son. Snow is like my sibling." I get to channel this Brooklyn-ness. I don't know if that's necessarily how Adam heard it in his head when he was writing the line, but it does say "I'm from Vermont, comma, son, period."

2. What is your cast's best inside joke?
I don't want to give away too much about Mary-Louise. I will say this: We have a secret handshake that we do before every show. And the handshake has grown as the show has evolved.

3. What was the worst technical difficulty you experienced during the run, and how was it handled?
I mop in one of the scenes. And I've had no problem with the mopping. In one show maybe three weeks ago, I don't know what was different, but I was mopping and my foot slipped out a little bit and I froze. No problem. I gather myself. I continue mopping during the scene. I finish mopping, we go into the next scene, and Mary-Louise and I have a conversation about the novel that my character is writing. I took one step to go get a chair, and my foot went out from under me and the chair went out from under me and the chair flew off into the downstage playing area, and like a cartoon character who slipped on a banana peel, I did three or four or five full arm swings with coordinated leg swings until I gathered myself. I immediately walked downstage, grabbed the chair, came back on, slammed the chair down, sat down, looked at Mary-Louise, and kept talking. Oh — and I said a line. I went, "Whoa! slippery floor!" I'm not yet convinced that people didn't think it was scripted.

4. What is the most interesting present you received at the stage door?
A dear friend surprised me and didn't tell me that she was coming. That was a beautiful surprise.

5. Who is the coolest person to come see the show?
I've been doing the show blind a little bit. I don't really know who's been here, so this is not an informed opinion. That said, last week, the Queen of Norway was here. I didn't get to meet her. But she did see the show.

Mary-Louise Parker plays Professor Bella Baird opposite Hochman in The Sound Inside.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

6. As a play about a creative writing professor and her student, you and Mary-Louise spend much of your time onstage discussing books your characters love. What's your personal favorite?
I have such a hard time with this question. Largely because what I read changes so regularly depending on my tastes at the time and also where I'm at in my life. Also, how do you even pick a favorite book? Is it a book that captured your imagination? Is it a book that moved you emotionally? Is it a book that gave you new tools in your life? I will say this — I haven't read it in a long time, but I remember reading East of Eden and being moved immensely. I also read All the Light We Cannot See a couple years ago and bawled my eyes out when I finished.

7. What has The Sound Inside taught you about the power of storytelling?
"Silence is mysterious but stories fill us like the sun," to quote James Salter. That's sort of my quippy, easy answer. It seems like humans are storytelling animals. It's how we make sense of the world. And if the story is really good, like I think ours is, I don't have to do too much. David would like to say in rehearsal, "Don't put a hat on a hat." You don't have to make a moment more than the moment that it is. Just say the line.

8. How has Mary-Louise Parker helped you grow as an actor?
Mary-Louise is one of our greatest living actors. She has an uncanny ability to pull things out of the text and to widen moments, so it has inspired me to look further into the text. What are things in there that I can pull out? And what are moments there that I can make even more specific? I think she's a master of specificity. Every moment is a hand movement or a head gesture, one sentence to the next. So now I've done the show on Broadway 100 times — I know my performance has changed drastically. I think it's become deeper and more honest and more specific and hopefully more true.

9. How has this play illustrated to you the importance of human connection?
Our play is, in many ways, about connection — about just trying to connect with a person in a world that can feel like it's an infinite black void. So it's been really beautiful to do a play about human connection and see that people are moved by it. You get roughly 1,000 people to sit in a big space in silence — it seems to be bringing people together to have a common experience. There's something very primal in what we do. Sit in the dark, turn off your life for a second, and let us tell you a story. At the end of it, something's gonna happen. I don't know what it's gonna be. But something will happen at the end of 90 minutes and we'll all be changed one way or another for it.

10. In the play, your character claims to be the child of an author whose name you never reveal. If you could be the child of any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?
Let me preface this by saying that I love my parents deeply. They are astonishing human beings who have given me tools beyond my understanding.

This is such a sh*tty answer but it would be so cool…Shakespeare? That's such a dog sh*t answer, it's too easy. This is an impossible question. I love my family — I don't want to trade them.

Hochman and Parker in a scene from The Sound Inside at Studio 54.
(© Jeremy Daniel)
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