BWW Interview: Actor, Casting Director and Presenter Matt Young
Next up on my local artists segment is the incredibly charismatic Matt Young who I've had the pleasure of working with virtually one of his virtual Story Chunder segments. Matt is an American-born, Brisbane-based actor, who is best known for playing James Cook in the ABC's Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery in 2007.
After touring the USA, Canda and Europe in Broadway musicals including A Chorus Line, On the Town, and West Side Story, he moved to Australia in 2001. He was an original Australian cast member of The Producers, and toured with the most recent revival of Annie. Brisbane audiences will know him for his roles in the Matilda Award nominated musicals Goodbye Miss Monroe and Yank! He is currently the host of The Story Chunder on Insta-Live, which started as a live weekly storytelling event at BackDock Arts in Fortitude Valley. His tv credits include HBO's The Pacific, Hallmark Channel's Pearl in Paradise, and TBS's Wrecked, as well as serving as the Fiji casting director for #blackAF, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Here's what he had to say...
VIRAG: How did you become involved with the arts?
MATT: As the youngest of 4 children, I was always doing things because my siblings did it. I played hockey and did gymnastics because my brothers did. I was a swimmer and an instrumentalist because my sister was. And strangely enough, I did my first musical in my final year of primary school, because all my siblings had done the same. But after my first play, I knew that this was the thing that was going to be mine, and mine alone.
At age 18, after doing dozens of plays and musicals in my hometown of Gardner, Massachusetts, USA, I moved to New York City to attend New York University. Within 3 months of landing in New York, I was hired for my first professional play, as the reluctant angel Gabriel in William Gibson's "The Butterfinger's Angel...", switched my major from education to performance, and proceeded to embark upon a career in theatre, tv, and film that has lasted nearly 30 years now.
VIRAG: How has the coronavirus impacted your own creative practice?
MATT: I lost about 30-40 thousand dollars worth of work in about 2 weeks. I was booked to direct and choreograph The Mystery of Edwin Drood for Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Mackey (postponed), was in negotiations to serve as local casting director for an independent film starring Billy Zane that was to be filming in Fiji (cancelled), and the live show that I had just started, The Story Chunder, had to be put on hold. I was also in auditions for two other major musicals that have now been postponed.
Because I love social media, I decided immediately to move The Story Chunder to Insta-Live, as platform that I feel has the same intimate feel as our live event (and people react and comment as the stories are being told, so it doesn't feel completely disconnected. Luckily, it's a relatively easy was to capture the stories as well, for our podcast and YouTube Channel.
But, with no timeline for when we will be getting back to regular performance and practice, it has been an absolute struggle to keep motivated. Depression sets in, feelings of isolation and disconnectedness. So, I've taken to championing others' creativity, since mine feels like it has a limit, and I'm coaching actors a bit more, which always inspires me.
But creating has become much more of a struggle. If an actor performs in isolation, and nobody applauds, did it actually happen? If I tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, did it really make a sound?
VIRAG: Have you developed any new routines in which to stay creative during your time in self-isolation?
My son is in Year 12, and attends school from home, so I suppose I am spending much more time in front of the computer and working "office hours" during his school hours. Sadly, being confined to our small apartment makes singing and dancing, or even rehearsing difficult, because not only is my son in our small two bedroom unit with me, but the neighbours are always home! So the ranting, shrieking and vocalising of my normal at home rehearsals are now very public. So I'm not doing nearly as much.
At night, however, I am still trying to honour my "live theatre" traditions by checking into people's online performances. Trevor Jones' daily showtunes are a highlight. And I never would have watched Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's 2018 production of Hamlet, or The National Theatre's Jane Eyre, or Australian National Theatre Live's presentations, if I wasn't forced to stay home.
And I suppose I'm not as fearful of making a complete arse of myself online, or in an on-camera rehearsal, because what have I got to lose?
VIRAG: What advice for you have for any artists that might be losing hope and wondering whether they've chosen the right path?
MATT: We are all in mourning of the temporary loss of our industry. And I think it is important to acknowledge that cultural loss. And understand it is affecting us mentally as well as financially.
So it is more important now than ever that we reach out to each other as creatives and creators. And share our stories. And look back on what led us to this calling in the first place.
Being an artist is, and always has been hard. We have to face rejection, self-doubt, and lack of government support. But those struggles aren't unique to this crisis.
Set yourself creative tasks. Watch the amazing amount of seminars and online meetings from the entertainment industry that are available online right now. And don't be upset or afraid to just spend the entire day lying in bed and dreaming, or binging a show, or watching YouTube or TikTok. We all have to do that sometimes to recharge. But remember, the arts and storytelling have existed for thousands of years, and will continue for thousands more. Something humans will always have is a need to tell and listen to stories through the arts. And you can continue to be a part of that now, and in the future.