BWW Interview: Get to Know Nick Choksi, Star of Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks THE TOMB OF KING TOT

BWW Interview: Get to Know Nick Choksi, Star of Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks THE TOMB OF KING TOT

As Clubbed Thumb kicks off it's annual Summerworks collection, THE TOMB OF KING TOT is the second play in the line up, described as a comedy with a twist. An actor, musician and illustrator, Nick Choksi is no stranger to the arts, starring in KING TOT, his second Summerworks production. This fall, he'll be making his Broadway debut in NATASHA, PIERRE, AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812. BroadwayWorld sat down with Choksi to learn more about his work.


So you're no stranger to performing at Summerworks. Is there still a special feeling that comes along with participating?

Oh yeah, definitely. I feel they really take risks on these plays. You feel it in the room, when you work year after year. We work really hard to figure out these really tricky, strange plays, and they pick really good stuff. So the care that goes in throughout the year to get these plays to what we want them to be, and finally share them with people for only ten performances... it definitely feels like a real team effort. It is exciting down there. This is the second Summerworks I've been apart of, and I was originally going to do another, but I had to leave the play for a movie. It was a bit of a bummer though, because the play was so great. It's a really good vibe there.

Tell us about your role in THE TOMB OF KING TOT, how you prepare for this piece?

I don't know how much I want to give away about the show, but this play is at some points just a pure sitcom, and at some points, a serious tragedy. The turn is very sudden, and I remember reading the script and seeing the change, and it's just like when you get horribly shocking, terrible news, it feels unreal. I remember reading the script and getting to one page and saying no, that's not possible, and going back and reading it, and I think that's been the mission of Portia [Krieger]'s, directing the play, to invoke that same feeling to the audience.

Because of the particular tragedy that's part of the play, I don't know if it's good or not to tell people about it going in. The play is about this woman, Jane, and her husband, who I play, and her daughter, who I'm stepfather to. In my life, I've been married almost a year and a half, and my wife and I have started to lay down the tracks to have a family. For working on a play like this at this particular time, I didn't have to do much preparation in terms of that, but that changes when you start to think about the next generation. I guess that's part of what drew me to the play too, Olivia [Dufault] has written such a complex set of people who have an incredibly human, but super complicated response to a very tough event. Negotiating that thing feels exhausting and challenging, and beautiful and strange, and yeah, I come out of these rehearsals exhausted in a good way - I need to hug my wife, and have some tea, go for a bike ride, talk to my family, something!

What's been the most rewarding part of KING TOT so far?

Definitely the most rewarding experience is working with these people- definitely Portia and Olivia and the cast. In terms of me being in the right place the right time, I think maybe it was the reverse, that I was the right thing for the play, given where I am [in my life], I could really contribute to the play in a helpful way. I think the rewarding thing has been the process. The play itself is tough, super emotional stuff, and I think I felt grateful I could give to the play a perspective of somebody who feels particularly tuned into this thing of family, so. I guess that's been exciting too- to help share this crazy beast with the real world, bring some real life into the room. It's rewarding; it's cathartic; it's good.

This piece is very emotionally dense, so what about KING TOT is going to surprise audiences?

I'd say the deep complexity of how people process loss, even that's giving something away! This is tricky! The most surprising thing is going to be really surprising, but I don't want to give up too much about what it is! [Laughs] We make the audience think they're watching one type of play, and then in the way that real life interrupts anything, it can change the whole play into a rabbit hole, while still maintaining that comic strip feeling. It's also a comedy. That's the trick.

I think people are going to be surprised by the breadth of strange humanity in the play... the strangeness of humanity. It's a beautiful play. And it goes back and forth between these two worlds, the comic strip and the real world. People process things, it's not so easy, it's not like you hear bad news and start to wail, it's a very evolved response. Sometimes you hear horrible news and it's so against the grain of humanity that you literally can't process it. I'm always the character coming in to bring in the bad news. Sometimes I come in to bring the bad news, and I have my line, like, do you hear what I'm saying to you? Because I don't think I can say it again. It's tough, especially in times like these, where we're hearing bad news all the time. To understand how to flex the muscle of our empathy- to witness people responding to grief, and know that people are so complicated, and their responses to grief are so complicated, and the actor has to work for all of them. It's a particularly poignant thing. Just in this climate of fear, you have to have love for people, especially people we don't understand.

When you're not onstage, what can you typically be found doing?

Well for the last eight years or so, I've been teaching myself animation. The last year or so I've been very serious about it. I'm working on a short and doing some training in animation. I bring my computer to the theatre. I'm working on stuff all the time, and sometimes I'll get an audition or a job and I'll think oh shoot, I don't have time to work on my cartoon! Which is a little backwards, I have to remind myself, "Good thing I have a job!" I think that's my primary alternative track thing that you can find me doing. I'm taking this training program with these awesome Dreamworks animators online, we have sessions twice a week, it's all sitting on my desk. It's astounding to talk to people around the world. It's an amazing time to be able to do anything you want to do and learn how to do it immediately.

Do you think that being an actor lends a hand to the appreciation for animation?

Oh, definitely. I came into it and I started this class, I didn't go to art school. Animation is newer to me, so I'm a little behind. I didn't go to art school. I'm not an 18 year-old dedicating my life to it, but my instructor said to me that the acting training is going to pay off big time. The techniques [of animation] you can learn, but the acting thing is ultimately the most important thing. People don't leave movies thinking about follow through or overlapping action, they think about the story and once you get the technical things done, you'll be a leg up over other people who don't see themselves doing acting, aside from witnessing and analyzing it. All this training will come into play. It's already coming into play. It feels like a good parallel career possibility. It was something I was doing for fun- little projects here and there, and my wife suggested it might be a good way to develop into a side career, if I could work from home and make stuff that I really love, something I really love. I give my wife credit to pushing me to pursue it pretty hard.

THE TOMB OF KING TOT plays June 11 - 21, 2016. Tickets are available now at clubbedthumb.org

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From This Author Ashley LaChant

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