In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the cast of Folger Theatre’s The Second Shepherds’ Play, meet Matthew R. Wilson.
Sophia: Please introduce yourself to our readers. Where have we seen you recently on local stages? Tell us about that experience.
Matthew: I last appeared at Folger Theatre in Aaron Posner’s masked A Comedy of Errors and before that in Paul Mason Barnes’s sweeping Henry IV, Part 1. Theatre-goers may recognize me from other acting and directing work around town and especially as the founder of Faction of Fools Theatre Company, for whom I adapted and directed Our Town, Titus Andronicus, A Commedia Christmas Carol, and many others. Two years ago I relocated from DC to join the tenure-track acting faculty at The University of Mississippi, which has been a great fit for me. I’m happy, though, that the Ole Miss Theatre Department supports my continued professional work and has allowed me to return to this area each semester—to direct Much Ado about Nothing for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and Troilus & Cressida for UMD last season and now this season to appear in The Second Shepherds’ Play.
What have you learned about yourself as an actor, singer, dancer, and storyteller from appearing in The Second Shepherds Play at the Folger?
Until this year, my professional career has not included much musical work. Music was an important part of my life growing up, but my career just went a different way. Then earlier this year I was delighted to play the Major-General in Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance and now to sing early music with the Folger Consort. I’ve learned so much from these amazing musicians, and I’m excited to have music back as a bigger part of my performance work and to see where my career can go from here.
If Santa said he could give you any gift you want on Christmas Day, what would it be? And why did you select this gift?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make a world that works better for everybody and not just a few of us. I’d like to see more people speak up and be listened to—too many stories and identities are getting lost now, it seems to me. I guess that’s my modern version of “peace on earth” and good will toward each other.
As a theatre artist, you have played many roles; actor, director, fight director, writer and teacher. Are these roles similar in any way? Different? What aspects of yourself do you use in these roles and why?
All of these roles are about storytelling. That’s crucial to me. Sometimes I am in charge of small parts of the story or specialized parts of the story. Sometimes I get to have a larger say in crafting the whole story. But it’s always about collaborating with others to tell our story.
What do you admire about how the designers help you tell Gib’s story?
I love the simplicity and rustic charm of this production, starting with [adaptor & director] Mary Hall Surface’s concept and filtered through every aspect of the designs. It’s all good, old fashioned, low-tech Theatrical Magic!
What would you like to audience to take away from The Second Shepherds’ Play?
As someone who cares about Theatre History, and how the art of the past can inspire art today, I always think it’s great for an audience to look at something old and walk away feeling that they’ve seen themselves in it. Humanity shares so much in common and always has, and a show like this can really connect us with our ancestors and our society and the big questions that reveal our common human experience.
What are you doing next on the stage?
From here, I travel to Banff Canada to participate in the Paddy Crean International Stage Combat Conference and then back to The University of Mississippi where I start rehearsals for a newly devised work of Commedia dell’Arte (taken from Scala’s 1611 collection) called The Tooth-Puller. And I’m always on the lookout for more opportunities to come back here and be a part of this amazing DC-Baltimore community!
The Second Shepherds’ Play plays through December 21, 2016, at The Folger Theatre – 201 East Capitol Street, SE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office aKS:t (202) 544-7077, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘The Second Shepherds’ Play’ at Folger Theatre: Part 1: Ryan Sellers by Sophia Howe.
Meet the Cast of ‘The Second Shepherds’ Play’ at Folger Theatre: Part 2: Megan Graves.
‘Magic Time!’ ‘The Second Shepherds’ Play’ at The Folger Theatre by John Stoltenberg.
Review: ‘The Second Shepherds’ Play’ at The Folger Theatre by David Siegel.