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Interview with Michael Matthews
by Bill Kaiser
© June 2005, Bill Kaiser

Michael Matthews
Photo: Paul Sherman  
In March 2005, Michael Matthews was appointed as the new managing artistic director for Cerebration Theatre, a 26-year Los Angeles institution. Michael succeeded Derek Charles Livingston, who left to devote his attention into other ventures including his film career.

Michael recently moved to Los Angeles from Chicago. His Chicago directing credits include:
      “In the Blood” - Circle Theatre (2004 Joseph Jefferson Nominations: Best Production, Best Director)
      “Being 11, Victory Gardens” - Trap Door Theatre (2001 Joseph Jefferson Nomination for Best Director)
      “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” - The Journeymen Theatre Company
      “The Judas Kiss” - Circle Theatre

Along with several awards and nominations, Michael’s productions have been designated “Critic’s Choice” (Chicago Tribune), “Top 10 Plays of the Year” (Chicago Sun-Times), and “Critic’s Pick” (Chicago Reader). Michael has performed and studied with National Shakespeare, N.Y., and La Jolla Playhouse, California, and is a graduate of Columbia College, Chicago.

After attending a fabulous benefit to celebrate Celebration Theatre’s upcoming 2005-2006 season in the newly refurbished theater, I decided it was time to get to know Michael Matthews, the new artistic director at Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles. We talked by phone as he had left town to finish a prior committment.

What’s the project you are completing?

I’m directing Patrick Wilde’s play, “What’s Wrong With Angry” at The Circle Theatre.

That’s a very intense play, I believe it was done at Celebration a few years ago.

Yes, I think Celebration hosted the U.S. premiere in 2000.

How about a little background on yourself? Where are you from?

I’m from South Carolina, but spent 10 years working in theater in Chicago, and moved to L.A. in August 2004.

Did you notice a difference between the Chicago and L.A. theater scenes?

Things are certainly different. In Chicago, I feel it was completely supporting the work, and the words. In LA, there is a lot of “showcase” theater. I really feel my goal is to support the language, with good and smart casts.

What is your vision for Celebration and how do you plan to accomplish that vision?

First, I set up a company of ten individuals to assist me. We worked well together, and spent the last few months renovating the theater.

I was certainly impressed with the way you have spiffed up the space. What else do you plan to do?

My team and I are dedicated to a thriving theater. I’d like to do edgy work. I’d like to build a subscription base for Celebration and set up a season. I want to continue building a professional gay and lesbian theater for the L.A. community and include an art gallery space too.

I noticed that at the Celebration benefit you mentioned forming a company, and then introduced your team of theater administrators. Do you also have an interest in forming a company of talent?

I can’t stand the idea of people paying to be in an acting company, but I do wish to continue gathering talented directors, actors, and designers to Celebration.

Well I am looking forward to the official announcement of your new season.

It should be announced very soon.

Celebration was one of the founding theaters of GALTA (The Gay and Lesbian Theatre Alliance), which generated The Purple Circuit. I hope we can continue that relationship! Thanks for talking with me.

You’re welcome. I’m really excited about this fantastic opportunity to make Celebration even better.

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