"I made a promise to myself about five years ago that I would do more theatre," says Quinto, currently in rehearsals for the MCC production of Smokefall by Noah Haidle. "That I would do a play at least every other season; I've been working to keep that promise."
"Coming back to the place that feels the most familiar and where I feel most connected is something that I really wanted to create time for," he continues. "I'd lived in L.A. for a long time and done a lot of film and television, but theatre is where I come from and how I started. I went away from it to achieve other goals; I'm really fortunate and grateful that I was able to achieve a lot of them."
"Achieving other goals" included star turns in a number of hit TV series like "Heroes," "The Slap" and "American Horror Story: Asylum" — for which he was nominated for a 2012 Primetime Emmy Award. He played alongside Kevin Spacey in the Oscar-nominated "Margin Call," and will soon reprise his role as Spock in the anticipated "Star Trek Beyond" film, to be released this summer. Despite his many successes in film and TV, he continues to pursue work on the stage, both on and Off-Broadway.
"[Theatre] is rewarding in a way that film and television just simply can't be," he explains. "Theatre is ultimately — of the those three forms of expression — the one in which the actor gets to tell the story from beginning, to middle, to end and be responsible for the audience's experience."
"[Film and television] is a little more fragmented and disjointed. It relies on the contributions of many other collaborators after the actor has made their contribution," he continues. "Theatre, in a way, is the opposite. The contributions from the creative team and all of that collaboration happens in process, leading up to the opening. Then from that point, it becomes the responsibility of the actors to maintain that, to honor those contributions and share the experience with the audience. There's a magic and level of creative expression in that form."
Quinto also speaks of the "ritualistic devotion" that accompanies doing a play. "You're showing up at the same time and at the same place; you're standing in the same spot; you're saying the same things. It's evolved from a spiritual practice," he says. "There's something really meaningful in that."
Does the actor have his own rituals when performing onstage? "It depends on the show but yes, absolutely," he says. "It's about cultivating a mindset that allows me to enter into the performance I'm going to give. It could be as inane as getting a coffee on my way to the theatre or it could be more about what I listen to, what I do when I get to the theatre, how I create my space in the dressing room or how I spend the time leading up to 'places' call.'"
In Smokefall, Quinto plays a man named Footnote, who acts as a guide throughout the intricate family drama. "The play itself is beautifully poetic and hauntingly funny. It's complex and profound," says the actor. Much of the work examines family connections as they stretch and warp through time and space while never quite breaking. Directed by Anne Kauffman, the play premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 2013, where due to critical acclaim, it was remounted for a return engagement in 2014.
"I've done a lot of work to understand what aspects of my family that I've inherited that I want to incorporate in my life, personally, and what aspects that I want to move on from, or leave behind or peel away," says Quinto. "This is a play that really explores that. What do we have a choice in, and what don't we have a choice in? I really value and appreciate that exploration — that's something that I've paid a lot of attention to in my own life."
Smokefall is set to begin previews Feb. 4 with an opening night slated for Feb. 22. It is scheduled to run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through March 13. For more information and to purchase tickets visit mcctheater.org.