Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meet Matt Daniels

A THOUSAND CLOWNS starts tomorrow! Today we hear from Matt Daniels who returns to MCT after playing British icons Jeeves in JEEVES INTERVENES and Phileas Fogg in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.  Later this season he will reprise his role as Jeeves in JEEVES IN BLOOM (April 11-28, 2013). Matt is also a budding 'ukulele master' and a member of the Milwaukee Ukulele Club.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?
Matt Daniels
Whew! So many. As an actor, I truly think that every experience goes toward making me who I am, but I'll try to break it down... The first play I remember seeing was a National Tour of THE KING AND I, with Yul Brynner, which come on! Yul Brynner!

I have fond memories of being in all my school plays, especially my fourth grade production of OLIVER!(I played Fagin). Other formative experiences include my first full Shakespeare play, ROMEO AND JULIET, in which I, as the youngest member of the cast, (I was in eighth grade and most of my cast mates were seniors in high school), played the oldest character, Friar Laurence. I played Bottom two years later, in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and I was hooked on Shakespeare.

I trained at The Juilliard School, in New York, where I studied with some masters who were truly fundamental in my growth as an artist: John Stix, Eve Shapiro, and Vanessa Redgrave were acting teachers; Ralph Zito, Elizabeth Smith and Robert Neff Williams for voice & speech, Barry Edelstein for Shakespeare, and amazing directors like Tom Hulce, Michael Kahn and Brian Mertes. Recently I've been teaching Viewpoints for First Stage Academy's Young Company, which never would have happened without my movement training at school: Moni Yakim for physical acting, Carolyn Serota for Alexander Technique, Ellen Lauren for Viewpoints, and Pierre LeFevre for mask.

After graduation I discovered the incredible world of downtown theater in New York City -- tiny, tiny storefront spaces, and great experimental and avant garde work everywhere! I was part of some great work in that downtown theater scene -- environmentally staged productions of the classics in public spaces with Gorilla Rep, and brand new verse plays by dizzying wordsmith Kirk Wood Bromley, among others.

Plus, of course, all the many, many moments that have made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as an audience member: The Broadway premiere of Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA, Janet McTeer as Nora in A DOLL'S HOUSE, the bone chilling Broadway production of MEDEA starring Fiona Shaw. The Globe productions of CYMBELINE and CORIOLANUS, and David Cromer's revelatory OUR TOWN, and a 24 hour BALD SOPRANO at the first NY Fringe Festival. And many, many more.

Tell us about your first reaction upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

I loved that it didn't tie up in a pat little bow at the end; that it was layered, funny, poignant. Also, I was particularly pleased to find out I only appear in the first half! I'll get to spend the second act prepping for my next project (Plug alert!): 44 PLAYS FOR 44 PRESIDENTS at Forward Theater in Madison.

What’s it like being an up and coming ukulele master on stage?

Ukulele Master is overdoing it a bit, especially in light of the fact that we have a couple of true uke masters in our midst here in Milwaukee, in the persons of Lil Rev and Jon Prown. I've only been playing for a couple of years, but it has become a real passion of mine, and I have, of late, been trying to find ways to insert the uke into as many productions as possible! And now, here's one where it's actually called for, even if my character would never in a million years play. That said, it has been a blast taking my playing to the next level by arranging some tunes, and ultimately, forming a band with our own Beth Mulkerron!

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?

Albert Amundson does everything by the book. He describes himself as "not one of the warm people," but that doesn't mean he doesn't care. He's a social worker, and cares very much for the children he's tasked with, and so he plays by the rules to ensure their safety. Sometimes this means that the other people around him get the short end of the stick, I guess, but he tries as hard as he can.

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

He'd definitely check out the Art Museum, maybe the War Memorial. City Hall, too. Maybe a night at the Rep (or the BTC). I think he'd try to find out as much about the city as possible - one of those river tours, perhaps, or Old World Milwaukee at the Public Museum.

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