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Will Hochman talks about making his Broadway debut in the two-character play The Sound Inside
Will Hochman had only appeared in two professional stage productions before he found himself sitting with three of the most accomplished theatre artists working today. "It was David Cromer, who would go on to win the Tony [for directing The Band's Visit] three weeks later; Adam Rapp, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Mary-Louise Parker and me," recalls the 27-year-old actor.
The group had assembled in Parker's living room for an initial read through of The Sound Inside, Rapp's two-hander exploring the relationship between a lonely, cancer-stricken college writing professor and a precocious but socially awkward student who is willing to do almost anything to get her to help him with his novel. Their growing dependency unfolds in a tense 90-minute production that originated at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2018 and has now transferred to Studio 54 for a limited run courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater.
The show marks Hochman's Broadway debut, and he knows how lucky he is to be working with such celebrated veterans. "The three of them have so much experience and talent and a wealth of knowledge," he says of the show's director, writer and star. "I'm the new guy at the table and I'm glad to be here."
Hochman took a circuitous route to that table. Growing up in the affluent Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, he was a jock who played basketball and baseball. Yet secretly, he longed to act. "I've wanted to be on stage for as long as I can remember -- I just didn't tell anyone," he says. "I was too insecure. I was too afraid. You know, my twin sister was the dancer. So she would be doing the dance recitals and school plays, and I was the jock brother."
At Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Hochman played on the varsity squash team and majored in economics, but he couldn't shake the desire to perform. Finally, in the spring of his junior year, he went to the head of the school's theatre department and asked if he could switch majors. It was too late for that, but Hochman took as many acting classes as he could during his remaining time at school. He even managed to snag parts in two productions during his senior year.
Back in New York after graduation, he registered with various casting websites and pursued every opportunity. Working with directing students in the graduate program at Columbia University proved particularly valuable.
"Basically, for a year, I started getting my de facto M.F.A. from Columbia," he jokes. "I would go up there every week to act in one of their in-class exercises or to shoot a short film. And through that I wound up getting a somewhat professional looking reel, which then helped me to get auditions for off-off-Broadway plays."
In 2016, he landed his first professional acting job as one of the prep school students in Classic Stage Company's adaptation of Dead Poets Society. That actually led to his current gig, at least indirectly.
During a get-together last year with two of his Dead Poets Society castmates, Hochman learned that both were up for a part in a new play by Adam Rapp. So he called his agent and asked for a chance to read for it, too.
On the surface, the outgoing Hochman seems nothing like Christopher, the insular student in The Sound Inside. But Hochman says the script "shook me in my bones. I knew that I had to play the part."
A taped audition got him into the room with the creative team. That led to a meeting to test his chemistry with Tony winner Parker, which got him the gig.
"Will was compelling and fascinating and strange and used the language beautifully," says Cromer. "You sort of couldn't take your eyes off him. We all agreed we were bringing in a kid who was a little green. It was a gamble. But we were right to take it."
Hochman will be forever grateful that they took a chance on him. "This is just extraordinary," he says. "This is what I always wanted to do, to dive into a dramatically challenging play that stares right into the darkness of things and pulls out light nonetheless -- and to do it with incredible people."
Top image: Mary-Louise Parker and Will Hochman in The Sound Inside. Photos by Jeremy Daniel.