Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Interview with Matt Williamson

Come Back Little Sheba
One of the stars/directors of Crown City Theatre's smash hit The Apple Tree - Matt Williamson -shares his love of theatre with us.

Q: How many plays have you done for Crown? Have you always alternated as actor/director?
MW: Since I met Bill and Gary in 1999 I've done 9 plays with them. We became CCTC in 2005 and since then I've done 4 shows. This is the first time I've directed but I really enjoyed the process so I'm sure it won't be the last. It is a challenge to do both simultaneously so next time I'll just do one or the other.
Q: What's your favorite role so far?
MW: I've been fortunate to do a lot of different roles but the ones that stand out are Lee from True West and Hamlet.
Williamson plays Adam in The Diaries of Adam and Eve in The Apple Tree.
Q: What are the challenges of playing Adam and making him interesting to the audience?
MW: My biggest challenge with Adam was to make him somewhat endearing. He's written sort of short tempered and mean on the surface but I tried to make all that come from being nervous, unsure, innocent, and very attracted to Eve. He's experiencing emotions that we all take for granted before anyone else, so everything that he feels is a surprise.
When asked if it was ever suggested that Adam and Eve be played in the buff, he responds:
It was suggested to go without longjohns and then quickly rejected. He's traditionally done wearing some sort of clothing which I think is a great idea. I don't think au natural is too risky, I just think it can be an unnecessary distraction. I personally feel that audience members miss much of what's being said when it's being said by naked people on stage. Or even mostly naked people.
Q: What is the appeal of the three musicals that make up The Apple Tree?
MW: I think there are several appealing aspects to this show. Variety. You get three shows for the price of one. Also, it's just a ton of fun. It deals with basic and powerful human emotions in a way that doesn't take itself too seriously. Finally, the music is really great. It's catchy and playful without being too overbearing.

In 2007 Williamson played the milkman to S. Epatha Merkerson’s outstanding portrayal of Lola in William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba @ The Kirk Douglas Theatre for CTG. (see top photo) In 2008 the production went to Broadway for a limited engagement.
Q: Talk a little about the difficulties of getting Come Back, Little Sheba to New York.
MW: Well, it's always a challenge to get any show on Broadway but Sheba was especially hard because it's not considered to be one of Inge's best works. I personally feel that it was S. Epatha Merkerson's beautiful performance that made it happen. I'm sure that the producers felt that it was a risk, but a risk worth taking. I'm glad they did because it was one of the most memorable experiences of my career.
Q: Did New York treat it differently from LA? I mean, both audiences and critics?
MW: Not really. If the critics on both coasts had any problem with it, it was with the play itself. I think it is a wonderful play that is funny and heartbreaking but many people don't agree. I was particularly impressed by the fact that people in both LA and New York quickly let go of the fact that Lola and Doc were a mixed race couple in the 1950s. That is a testament to the strength of the acting and directing.
Q: What role do you really want to play?
MW: Wow. Um, I kind of feel like Bottom in Midsummer in that I want to play all of them. I think acting is the most fun you can have with your clothes on so there are few roles that I wouldn't enjoy. If I had to make a short list though, I'd say McMurphy in Cuckoo's Nest, Brick from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Macbeth, and either one of the men in Pinter's Betrayal. Beyond that, I just love playing characters that allow me to break out of my comfort zone and really work. That was one of the things that made Apple Tree such a challenge was the fact that it was the first time in my life that I had to sing solo. I was terrified, but it made me work hard to avoid totally embarrassing myself and in the end it was a lot of fun.
Q: Who are your acting idols?
MW: I've always really looked up to people that can do it all and that really commit to whatever they are doing. The list is long but distinguished. Ben Kingsley and Meryl Streep are right up there at the top along with Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Kline, Sean Penn, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and even Robert Downey Jr. The list could go on and on but those are the ones that pop out. Actually, S. Epatha Merkerson is someone that really impressed me. She brought her A-game 100% of the time and could draw on a huge range of emotions at will. I'm biased, of course, but she earned every bit of praise that she has ever received.
Q: Tell me about your film company - Nautaroc Films.
MW: My brother and I started it several years ago to produce a short film that he wrote. It was called The Box and was directed by CCTC's Gary Lamb. We would like to make a few more shorts and eventually expand to features or documentaries. However, my primary focus right now is building up CCTC to be one of the most respected 99 seat theatres in the city.
Q: Any final comments about the future of theatre?
MW: I just hope that people continue to support live theatre in Los Angeles. We have such a well of talent in this city that it is a shame that the theatre scene isn't on par with New York or London. It would be nice to have more Equity houses in Los Angeles so that more actors, directors, and technical staff can earn a living applying their craft.

Catch Williamson and Fredricks in The Apple Tree @ CCTC on Camarillo in NoHo through the end of this month!

No comments: