Meet The Acclaimed Author of THE INHERITANCE, Matthew Lopez
This highly-anticipated two-part play asks how much we owe to those who lived and loved before us, and questions the role we must play for future generations.
Brilliantly re-envisioning E. M. Forster's masterpiece Howards End to 21st-century New York, it follows the interlinking lives of three generations of gay men searching for a community of their own - and a place to call home.
This exciting new production marks the Broadway debut of this talented playwright, after over a decade of high-profile Off-Broadway and regional productions that have given his work an extended life on stages throughout the country.
Born in Panama City to two public school teachers, Lopez is the nephew of another Broadway favorite, Priscilla Lopez.
An actor since childhood, Lopez graduated from the university of South Florida with a degree in theatre performance. Despite his love of acting, however, a life on the stage had left Lopez feeling burnt out and seeking a new challenge. Inspired by a playwriting course he took in his junior year, Lopez began spending long stretches of his time honing his writing skills.
He told Hartford Stage, "I discovered I was more interested in staying at home and writing than I was in going to vocal lessons, dance classes or auditions. It was a very subtle yet definite shift in my priorities. As I grew in confidence as a writer, I began to share my work with friends and colleagues, and I found the encouragement I needed to continue and to ultimately leave acting completely and focus all my energies on writing."
He continues, "There is something ephemeral about acting on stage that I suspect is alluring to many actors. It wasn't for me. I liked the definitiveness of writing, even as it changes and grows in development and production."
In 2006, his breakout work, The Whipping Man, which tells the story of two freed slaves encountering their former master, made its debut at Luna Stage in Montclair, New Jersey.
The production quickly moved on to an off-Broadway premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club. The acclaimed production extended four times at MTC, winning 2011 Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards, as well as the John Gassner New Play Award for Lopez. The Whipping Man went on to be one of the most widely produced plays in America from 2012 - 2016.
In September 2011, Lopez' next work, Somewhere, debuted at The Old Globe in San Diego. The play tells the story of a theatrical Latinx family living in Manhattan in 1959, as West Side Story makes its debut on Broadway. Proposed construction of Lincoln Center and demolition of their neighborhood leaves the family fighting for their home and their dreams amidst aggressive gentrification.
The story of the play has roots in Lopez' own family life as his father appeared as an extra in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story. The acclaimed Old Globe production featured his aunt, Priscilla Lopez. Critics lauded the play, comparing Lopez' writing to that of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.
2015 brought Lopez to Hartford, Connecticut, where his next work, Reverberation, made its debut at Hartford Stage under the direction of Maxwell Williams.
The play tells the story of a young gay New Yorker, who battles agoraphobia following a violent attack that leaves him unable to leave his Astoria apartment. As Jonathan befriends his upstairs neighbor, a social butterfly named Claire battling her own anxiety and loneliness, the play examines the impact of violence against women and the LGBT community, and how the effects of violence reverberate to those not directly affected by it.
Of the play, Lopez said, "Being young and single in New York for many years informed much of the writing. Being older and in a relationship informed it as well. Everyone knows what it feels to be lonely, to be afraid they will never find happiness. Everyone understands the need for connection, for intimacy, even if those things ultimately are pretty frightening. Many people, I suspect, have made sexual decisions they regret. Many people, myself included, have experienced great loss, have mourned and have suffered countless broken hearts. This play, ultimately, is a meditation on those feelings."
The work was acclaimed with Charles Isherwood of The New York Times writing that "the play is marked by a perceptiveness about the echoing loneliness that many urban dwellers live with."
In 2015, Lopez returned to the off-Broadway scene, with his play The Legend of Georgia McBride, in which a down on his luck Elvis impersonator embarks on a new career as a drag queen. The play ran at MCC Theater in September 2015, following a world premiere at Denver Center of Performing Arts.
The play's MCC production was widely acclaimed, earning Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations. In the years since its off-Broadway run, the play remains a widely produced title at regional and community theaters throughout the country.
In 2018, Lopez' most recent and most acclaimed work, The Inheritance, opened at the Old Vic in a production directed by Tony and Emmy Award-winner, Stephen Daldry. The premiere featured a cast that included Vanessa Redgrave, John Benjamin Hickey, and Paul Hilton.
After receiving widespread critical acclaim, the play transferred to London's West End where it played at the Noel Coward Theatre, The West End production earned eight 2019 Olivier Award nominations, winning four for Best New Play, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Lighting Design. Lopez also received the Evening Standard Award and the Critics Circle Theatre Award for Best New Play.
Following its West End success, a Broadway transfer was announced in June 2019, featuring the play's original cast. The play is currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where it will officially open this weekend.
Among the many important lessons Lopez wishes for audiences to take out of The Inheritance is the ability to express oneself, "I think that one of the things the play is really about is finally letting go of stories that we've been holding onto for a really long time. We always tell the actors who have big, long speeches in the play that 'you have to deliver this as if you've never done this before.' It's the first time that Walter has told his story in years. It's the first time that Margaret told her story. It's the first time that Toby or Adam have told their stories. And it's something they've been holding onto for a really long time, and we catch them at the moment when they're ready to tell their story. Every character goes through a kind of change as a result of having told their story. And for the audience, they can take encouragement from the characters."