The Mnemonist of Dutchess County
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Josh Koenigsberg
January 9, 2013
What is your job on this show?
What is your show about?
THE MNEMONIST OF DUTCHESS COUNTY is a bittersweet comedy about campus security guard Milo Mazowski - whose determination to woo a lovely local bar owner is only hampered by one thing: an unlimited memory, which makes him spout out pretty much every unromantic thing he has ever heard in his life.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I've always loved theater but the moment I knew I wanted a career in it was when I was interning for a theater company in upstate New York and a during a play, an elderly woman in the audience soiled herself. What amazed me was that she got up, cleaned herself up in the bathroom, then came back to watch the rest of the play. I remember thinking "man, theater must be pretty special if you're willing to come back from that just to find out what happens."
What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
My first play right out of Columbia's Playwriting M.F.A. program was a show called "Al's Business Cards." It's a short comedy about a business card mix-up that causes a chain reaction of catastrophic events for this one guy. It's published by Samuel French if you want to read it. My next show that got produced was called "Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis" and it was a dark comedy about a doctor who deals with an existential crisis by stealing drugs out of a dead patient's rectum. During a radio interview for that show, I said the word "rectum" on air, and that apparently was not a good thing to do. It's published on Indie Theater Now. I also have a short play "Dance Lessons" that's published by Samuel French and I have an upcoming short play going up at Ars Nova that's part of "The Netflix Plays" - all plays related to Netflix, written by some great writers.
Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
This play is about a campus security guard who was born with a condition that gives him an unlimited memory. After he gets fired from his job, he decides to go on the road with a local bouncer and make his living by performing memory feats for people. So naturally I wrote in some 'play-within-the-play' scenes of him doing memory tricks for the people in the audience as if they're at his show. Except now I'm completely terrified because these scenes that I wrote in my underwear now actually have to be staged. So if you come see the show, you will see a fearless actor actually performing crazy memory tricks for you - through the magic of theater - as if he's a real Mnemonist.
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
For me it's definitely Harpo. He's closest to my personality. In fact, my parents almost named me Harpo. That's true. I was going to be J. Harpo Koenigsberg because my father is a huge Marx Brothers fan (Groucho was his favorite). But at the 11th hour my mom vetoed my Dad naming me Harpo.
Who are your heroes?
Off the top of my head, my heroes are (in no particular order): Harpo, William Goldman, Woody Allen, Nora Ephron, Kenneth Lonergan, Iman Shumpert, August Wilson, Larry David, Tina Fey, Leslie Nielsen, The Coen Brothers, Clifford Odets, Louis CK, Laura Savia and Right Said Fred.