“his desire to accomplish great feats”
An Interview with Iain Kohn, the actor playing Christopher in the REP’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Actor Iain Kohn speaks with one of the dramaturgs of our production, Shelley Orr.
Shelley Orr: When did you start performing?
Poetry or acting?
SO: All of it, I think. How you find your way into performing in front of people?
My first taste of the performing arts was in 2014 when I joined Get Lit—Words Ignite
, a spoken word poetry nonprofit organization that promulgates a curriculum for writing spoken word to various schools in LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] and elsewhere. I would perform, on behalf of Get Lit, at various schools, as well as other venues, such as Dodger Stadium, multiple different auditoriums and theatres.
And in the following year, 2015, I would go on to the International Youth Poetry Slam at Brave New Voices
in Atlanta, Georgia. After that, I would just be on smooth sailing with Get Lit, doing performances on and off. Until 2019, when I was referred to the production crew for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
, which was being put together by the Greenway Court Theatre
Ever since then, I've just been acting in audition gigs on and off, occasionally getting a role. I did English language dubbing for an Israeli mini-series called On the Spectrum,
and I appear in it in the last two episodes as a minor character. And I hope to do more voice acting gigs, because that's my dream.
SO: What has been your favorite role so far?
IK: My favorite role? It’s probably this.
SO: Christopher in Curious Incident?
IK: Yes, on account of it being one of my only acting roles, so far, but it will definitely always be dear to my heart, because of how close the character is to me as an individual. Christopher is dear to me because I share the experiences even though Mark Haddon [author of the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
] goes out of his way not to ever explicitly state that Christopher is on the autism spectrum, even though it's implied because of his behaviors.
And I particularly relate to him because of his undying passion for his hobbies, his love for being alone, and his desire to accomplish great feats in spite of how daunting they are.
SO: Which of your poetry performances is your favorite? Is it the one where you are performing with two other people?
IK: Yes, “Wearing Different Faces,”
which I performed with my friends Pathum Madigapola and Khamal Iwuanyanwu. That one is my favorites because of the logistics of a group poem and how they sound. I think that's one of my favorite poems, not necessarily because of how it compares to my other poems in the writing quality, but because of how I love being part of a group that blends together voices in a harmony that sounds orchestral.
SO: I agree! I wondered when I watched the video, did you write the poem? Or did they write parts? Did you do some co-writing?
IK: We each wrote up portions of the poem.
SO: That makes sense. Obviously, it makes it very powerful when someone is able to speak their own words.
IK: Indeed, I've been out of spoken word for a while now, but I still have a keen interest in poetry. And I am continuing to write for the page, rather than for the stage.
SO: What do you like most about poetry?
IK: The freedom of expression that it permits the writer to use. There is an incessant debate among poets about what traditions we use within the art form, what we must, you know, uphold. You know there is rhyme, whether or not to use meter, whether or not a poem must have line breaks. But I believe that the innovation that has gone on within the tradition of poetry means that there are endless possibilities for what a poem may contain. There are no rules within poetry. I consider poetry to be any genre of literature that does not appropriately fit within genres of prose.
SO: My last question is what is your favorite part of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the play?
IK: I would say that my favorite part is the Maths Appendix [at the very end of the performance], it is when I am the only person speaking. Ideally, I am the only one on stage, if you discount the ensemble. They are an extension of Christopher. I'm the only one speaking. I'm the only one who's in the center of the stage, and the spotlight is on me. That allows for me to truly get into the role as best as I can and become one with Christopher. Because I have the ability to, you know, display his idiosyncrasies, unabridged, unadulterated, for the audience without any other characters interfering. And I can also bring my interpretation of the character in the scene as well, through using some of my idiosyncrasies to fill in for the gaps in characterization that the play provides for Christopher.
SO: Thanks again so much. I also appreciate that you're wearing a red shirt today. I think that Christopher would approve.
IK: Yeah well, this is just a coincidence. It also happens to be my CSUN [California State University Northridge] freshman orientation T-shirt.