Week 50 | Artist 50: Created to Create 2016 | Matt Greene, Writer/Director/Actor/Professor
Matt recently spent six years as a Blue Man in the popular Blue Man Group. He performed more than 1,000 shows, playing in front of millions. He has helped the company create new works and implement new techniques that have gone on to be smash hits. He has either written, acted in or directed more than 70 pieces of theatre and film, and enjoys the freedom to move from one discipline to the next. Matt's work has been seen at such theaters as the Charles Playhouse, Astor Place Theatre, Hartford Stage, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Dean College, and Carnegie Hall to name a few. Matt has had the fortune to work alongside Horton Foote while serving as Fight Director on the 50th anniversary production of The Trip to Bountiful at Hartford Stage. A graduate of the University of Connecticut's Drama department, he has also done graduate work in Directing at Indiana University and holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Stage and Screen) from Lesley University. His plays/screenplays include The East, CHOKE, For the Love of Dog, 160 North, The Heist, god in a 747, Black Diamond, The Architect, Betta Fish, Rattlesnake Suitcase, Son of Valor, The American Dream, Taped, The Long Road to Light and In Deep. Local directing credits include: In The Heights, Cabaret, The Crucible, Noises Off, The Boys Next Door, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Almost, Maine. His original play, The East, written with Craig Handel, will premiere this October on Dean College’s Main Stage in Franklin, MA.
Where were you born?
Where do you live/work?
What fuels your desire to act/create?
My inspiration can come from anything or anyone. But what draws me to theatre above any other art form is the constant exploration of what it is to be human; delving into fictitious stories and making them come to life in the most honest and truthful way possible.
The best thing about being an artist is...
Being an artist allows you to touch many people through a medium that fosters empathy. Through our stories we are able to peel back the layers of certainty that people form and solidify in this age of social media, political correctness, and Left vs. Right. If we make characters accessible and likable, we are able to guide the audience down paths they normally would not travel down.
The biggest obstacle in working with self is?
This work, though incredibly rewarding, can take a toll on the self depending on the material. Our work requires us to find the conflict in every moment—that the harder we make life for our characters the more dramatic the result. Since we blend character with self, we are not immune to the dilemmas that our characters experience.
What advice you would give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
I would tell my 18-22 year old self to read more. More plays, craft books…anything. I’d also tell myself to relax and have fun more. You need to take the business seriously, but you shouldn’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t add to the already crushing pressure of finding work.
Are there any strategies/rituals you created to help self in times when working feels difficult, when you feel stuck?
Most blocks are created from the constant barrage of information. The great actor and playwright, Tracy Letts, recommends sitting and doing nothing (no phones, no meditating, etc) for at least 30 minutes/day. Allow your mind to wander without judgment. As an actor, one must understand that the past matters little compared to the present moment. We see the Target and everything in our being is dedicated to changing it and making it agree with what we hold true. Stuck actors must realize that the play is not about the character but about the space in between the characters. The tension between the opposing forces is what make theatre thrilling and unlike any other art form. "The Actor and the Target" by Declan Donnellan is a must-have book for all theatre artists. I feel it is the most important, enlightening and empowering books on acting.
Talk about a piece of work, you experienced recently that moved you and how it found its place in your work?
Two years ago I directed The Crucible. My favorite part of the play is when John Proctor tears up the signed confession and howls that they can’t have his name. It is a moment of strength in the face of death. My own play The East, which recently closed a run at Dean College, is peppered with Crucible influences. At the end of the play the character Anne chooses a grim fate, but demands her soul and heart are pure. I regularly refer to this as “Anne’s Proctor moment”. Ironically, the actress playing Anne also played Elizabeth Proctor in that same production—and I wonder how much The Crucible influenced her in that moment.
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/discipline help you in your work?
Music drives me. It is my pulse. For me, music is the quickest hack to changing my mood. I even have music on while I write. Sometimes I use classical music that matches the intended mood of the scene. Other times, I use it to get “pumped up” to work. Oddly enough, I would listen to Eminem before most sessions of writing The East, which is about a group of young women in Hitler’s Germany. I think it tapped into the underdog struggle and perseverance that he raps about. Inspiration can come from anywhere—be open to all of it!
Describe a productive day at work.
A productive day of work is any day in which I help contribute to the world of theatre. Some days it is achieved by writing a new scene, others by training and mentoring actors, and nights by directing.
What is important for you to teach your students?
That hard work beats out talent in the long run. It’s not so much about working yourself sick, but about developing a sound work ethic. No one needs to make theatre their living, but if you decide to, then you need to approach it as you would any other business. Make plans, set goals and work towards them. Too many actors live a flighty existence where they float around and wait for the wind to blow opportunity to them. All artists must be proactive and create their own opportunities. Not only is it rewarding, but it looks good to other producing entities.
How do you reward self for a job well done?
This is perhaps one area that I fail miserably at. I am never completely content or satisfied with my work and, therefore, never celebrate the accomplishments. The same night The East closed I started a revision of the script. I wasn’t always like this, however. When younger, I was a mix of laziness and anxiety that really crippled a few years of work. To get over that hump, I would reward myself with a new C.D. whenever I went to an audition. I was trying to build a neural connection that saw auditions as pleasurable experiences. It actually helped.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.