Matt Reece: Interviews Are His Life
Considering this is the third interview we’ve done with Matt Reece in this calendar year (dude must have some publicist!), you might think you know all there is to know about him. Think again, gentle reader! Matt is back on stage once more in Christmas on the Rocks and here he is…to provide some joy to your holiday experience!
WHT: You really are milking these interview opportunities this year, yeah?
Matt: I have no comment. You can talk to my agent instead.
WHT: Just in case folks don’t know, you’ve done how many shows at The Warehouse now?
Matt: If my memory is right, this will be number 24 I believe. 25 if you count the time I directed Santaland Diaries. Last show was The Rocky Horror Show.
WHT: What’s your favorite Christmastime show or film?
Matt: We watch The Muppet Christmas Carol every year. (Matt begins to sing) “We’re Marley and Marley! Whooooo!” See, you cast me in a musical this season and now I can’t stop singing. Also, we always try to work in It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart is wonderful and it is one of my favorite stories. Those are our favorite to watch together. After Chad goes to bed, I usually sneak in a viewing of Black Christmas (the original) and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. I may be adding Krampus to that list once I see it. All of those blend horror movie elements into them. I like a little horror mixed in with my holidays.
WHT: What is your favorite Christmas memory?
Matt: When I was young, I had a lot of toys. My Uncle decided to wrap up a big refrigerator box and fill it with toys. I remember crawling inside of it finding toy after toy. It took me a good 5 minutes or so to realize that the toys I was so excited about getting, were actually toys from my own closet. He basically wrapped up the toys I never played with and re-gifted them to me. It was genius. I have never forgotten it. I also get a craving for Snickerdoodles this time of year thanks to my Grandmother who always makes them.
WHT: How did your research for this show affect your performance?
Matt: I watched the films that the characters originated in to refresh myself. Also, I always tend to read reviews of other productions of any show that I do. The positive ones help, but the ones that are not so positive really help. I want to know what didn’t work for that particular reviewer. I may disregard it or I may see where they are coming from. It gives me a starting point as to what traps or pitfalls I may want to avoid. However, for this play, I didn’t really see any negative ones. I came in prepared to just embrace the outlandishness and roll with it.
WHT: How much did the iconic movie portrayals of the characters affect your choices on stage?
Matt: It was 50/50. With Tiny Tim, there are so many movie versions of the character that it was hard to narrow down which one to use. Plus the play’s version of Tiny Tim is so drastically different that there wasn’t a lot to use from film. However, with my other character (see the show to discover who Matt’s other character is), I went back and watched that film and video clips numerous times to find some vocal inflections and quirks of the character. Plus, he references so many other characters and incidents from the film that I needed to know who they were and what they sounded like. I always loved that character growing up and suspected he had a secret. It is so fun to show his “true” self in the play…not the G-rated censored version of who he is.
WHT: Was there anything in the costume, lighting, sound or scenic design that shaped anything you are doing on stage?
Matt: As soon as I saw the costume designs for the characters, I immediately knew what direction I wanted to take them. Alley had a very clear vision of these characters. I have to wear a wig in one scene, and it really gives me a lot to play with. As Tiny Tim, she allowed me to use my own gloves as part of the costume. The gloves were given to me by a cast mate, Deanna, when I played Scrooge 2 years ago. To wear those gloves now that I was playing Tiny Tim only seemed fitting. Kevin, Tal, Jim, and Genesis have really created a great environment to play in with their lights, props, sounds and set.
WHT: Due to its limited run thus far in the theatre world, this script is not well known. What was the greatest challenge or favorite thing about working on this script for the first time?
Matt: I loved that the fact that the material was fresh. I had never heard of it before. I had no frame of reference for what to expect when I read it the first time. I actually laughed out loud just reading it. It is such a wonderfully comic idea. I want there to be a sequel that explores other characters from other movies. The potential is there since there are so many others you can pull from. What will be interesting is to see how audiences react on any given night. I think reactions will vary each night based on how well a particular audience knows a particular story or remembers a particular character. I think even if you have no frame of reference it is still enjoyable, but you may pick up more of the subtle things if one of them happens to be your favorite film.
WHT: Is there a moment in this show that’s changed drastically from beginning of rehearsals until now?
Matt: This is going to sound utterly ridiculous, but what has changed the most for me is drinking the drinks we order at the bar. During the rehearsal process, we primarily used water. Once we got into tech, the actual props were used. Oh boy. The props used to make one of my drinks is a combination of water, tea, and root beer. I can’t stand root beer. Once you combine it with water and tea…let’s just say that I am glad my next line is “that’s disgusting.” No acting required. I wish I had a video of the first time I took a sip.
WHT: Given that a different playwright wrote each of the scenes, did this give you any advantages or challenges in your process?
Matt: I saw this as an advantage. The characters and perspectives were completely different. When tackling multiple roles, that is something you look for as an actor…how are these characters physically, emotionally, mentally, vocally different from each other? With two separate playwrights giving voice to each character, a lot of the work is done for you.
WHT: This show is coming directly on the heels of your last show. How do you handle that change of pace and having roles (completely different roles at that) slammed together back to back? Do you like it when this happens between roles or do you really prefer more time?
Matt: This whole year has been a rarity for me because I usually prefer to have breaks in between shows. It gives me time to catch my breath and also provides time for some reflection. However, this year I worked on Richard III starting back in March and since then have been working on shows back to back. I have probably had a little over a month where I have not been working on a show since then. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities to be a part of some great stories, and the constant parade of characters have really made me focus in on making sure none of the character choices bleed over from show to show. While reflection time is nice, sometimes the lack of time can really force you to make clear, bold choices. And given that the last show was Rocky Horror, this is a definite change of pace. Although, I do have to sing again in this one. Be warned.
WHT: We’re never going to be able to shut your singing voice up now, are we? The space is set up in a configuration that I’ve never experienced at The Warehouse. Even though it is the same theatre, does it feel like a totally different experience working in a different configuration than last time you were on stage here?
Matt: I always love finding out how the space is going be transformed. That is one of the special things about The Warehouse. Each show feels like a new theatre space. Rocky Horror was a different beast all together. There was a runway, people sitting at cabaret tables, lots of playing directly to the audience, and audience interaction. So, yes, it does feel very different. I kept waiting for people to start yelling callbacks at me during rehearsal. I love the coziness and intimacy of this set-up.
WHT: What was your favorite part about this rehearsal process or the show’s progress?
Matt: The people. Hands down. This is my 9th or 10th show with Anne, my 4th show with Brock and Louise (our SM), my 2nd show with Amanda and Kira (our ASM), and my 3rd working with Chip. I hadn’t worked with Chip in over a decade. It was great to reconnect with people I enjoy collaborating with and to also work with David for the first time. When you have a cast, crew, and leadership like we have, the rehearsal process is so relaxed, supportive, and collaborative. It was really a smooth process.
WHT: What is one thing you learned during this process?
Matt: One thing? That’s a tough one. I think what was reinforced for me in this one is that when you have strong, collaborative, supportive leadership at the helm (like we had in Chip), you really can relax and enjoy the process. When there is a mutual respect and trust built among the entire cast and director, you can play and fail without worry, because it just makes the moments where you play and succeed even better.
WHT: Next production is?
Matt: We bought a house back in October and since then I think I may have spent more hours at The Warehouse then I have in our home. Going to take a much needed break and focus some attention there. After that, I will be playing a guinea pig-obsessed zoologist in The Explorer’s Club at Centre Stage. It runs June 16th through July 2nd.
WHT: Any question we didn’t ask that you wanted to answer?
Matt: You didn’t ask me what I wanted for Christmas. I’ll send you a list.
Catch Matt Reece playing a few of your Christmas favorites in our Christmas on the Rocks now through December 20th!