SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Mark Koenig: Hi! I’m Mark Koenig and I’m an actor in NYC. I also write and direct — sometimes together, sometimes separately. I serve as Artistic Director of Our Bar, a company (in its 14th year) that produces all-original monthly site specific theatre in a bar. We’re on a bit of a hiatus right now because the bar where we perform is undergoing renovation for some structural issues on its 2nd floor. I believe that theatre should always include an element of danger, but maybe not that literally.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Mark Koenig: It wasn’t really a decision for me; it just sort of materialized. When I was a kid, my world was all about imagination. I was always pretending, probably to a problematic degree – I had trouble staying focused in school. But in sixth grade – I was eleven or twelve I guess – I was cast as Stephen in the school play, Godspell. To get a better idea of the story, ,my mom suggested that I watch the movie with Victor Garber. I was consumed. I ended up imitating everything he did in the film. Turns out that that imitation was my way into “acting.” It gave my imagination some structure. And here I am. Still imagining.
SKSM: How did you become involved in The Monkey Dollar Baby film?
Mark Koenig: Thanks to a website called ActorsAccess, I submitted an audition tape for the general call. Opportunities can be hit or miss on the site, but the posting had me at “Stephen King adapted short story.”
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Mark Koenig: Easy! A wind-up monkey toy that’s a harbinger of death? I’m in. But then you get into the world of the story and it’s so compelling. Stephen King’s characters are so real, so relatable, so human. Their worries are your worries. Their flaws are your flaws. To me, the story of The Monkey, is about anxiety. No matter who you are, you’ve probably felt a heart-stopping lack of control over something in your life. If you’re a human being, you’re going to relate to this.
SKSM: Did you have to audition for the part or was it written directly for you?
Mark Koenig: I auditioned! After seeing my initial self tape, Spencer called me back to read a scene with Matt Bagley (who was already cast as Denis in the film) over Zoom. Matt and I read our scene once and Spencer offered me the role of Pete on the spot. I’m not used to that happening, so I became immediately suspicious. Thankfully, I stopped being an idiot and the next day I accepted the offer.
SKSM: You worked with Spencer Sherry on this film, how was that?
Mark Koenig: To me, directing is a lot like throwing a party. A good director is like a good party host. You juggle a lot behind the scenes while keeping your guests happy. In that sense, Spencer is a naturally gifted director. He cares about people, he cares about the work, and he cares about creating a positive atmosphere on set. But most importantly, Spencer is an excellent communicator. He always gave the fullest context to his actors when shooting a scene, from both an emotional and technical storytelling standpoint. He also encouraged collaboration – if anyone on set had an idea, he wanted to hear it. Beyond that, Spencer hired extremely talented and profesional department heads and crew. It was a joyful experience and I came away from it making friends for life.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when they made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Mark Koenig: There were tons! One of the most memorable… During one of the shoot days, our DP, Jim Powers, looks down at his phone and gives a bemused “Huh.” Those of us on set look around at each other, worried that something’s come up and the day’s going to be super delayed. There’s a pause. Then, completely nonplussed, Jim goes, “I was just nominated for an Emmy.” Needless to say, we were all relieved, but moreover we were thrilled for him. We had a champagne toast that night. A few months later, Jim and his colleagues won that Emmy.
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Mark Koenig: Absolutely! I definitely consider myself close with everyone that worked on The Monkey. Spencer and I generally text each other a few times each month. And it’s been great seeing the cast and crew at different premiere events for the movie. I wish I stayed in better contact with everyone. Film shoots create really intense bonds in a very compressed amount of time. For me, it’s like sleepaway camp. If you’re with good people and love what you do, it’s an experience you wish to continue forever. But life goes on and everyone gets busy with other projects. That said, we’re all in each others’ spheres and follow each other on social media. It’s a great way to keep track of what everybody has going on professionally and in their personal lives.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Mark Koenig: Looking for the next thing. Always. I’m auditioning a lot. I mostly work as a commercial actor, so, lots of those. I’m also writing a few projects… at a more liesurely pace than I care to admit.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Mark Koenig: One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s On Writing. As for his fiction, I’ve avoided him for much of my adult life only because I was such a scaredy cat as a kid. For so long, I heard the words “Master of Horror” attached to his name and was like, “no thanks.” But his writing is obviously too captivating to ignore. I’ve read several at this point (including The Monkey obviously) and can’t wait to read more.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Mark Koenig: Good question! I don’t think I have too many surprises rolling around in me. Or maybe I do? I don’t know. Am I that predictable? Well, this has now launched an existential quandary that will haunt me for a few days. Thanks.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Mark Koenig: Hey Stephen King fans! Thanks for reading this interview. I really hope you get to see The Monkey. Spencer’s adaptation is smart, suspenseful, and very different from Mr. King’s original story, while still thematically relevant. I’m honored to have been a part of it and I’m grateful to have my name attached to a piece that was based upon one of his works.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Mark Koenig: If you ever find yourself in a position to buy a cymbal clapping wind-up monkey toy, don’t.