Interview: Discussing ART with MATTHEW LaCHIUSA

Matthew is the Executive/Artistic Director for the American Repertory Theater of WNY.

By: Feb. 26, 2022

Interview: Discussing ART with MATTHEW LaCHIUSA

Since ART of WNY Incorporated in 2007, it has had a very impressive run. Like all theater companies ART has had their ups and downs. It's a business. What business hasn't? I admire all the Buffalo theaters who keep pushing no matter what is tossed at them.

During this Covid life-changer some theater companies folded. ART still remained alive, even if the stage was "dim" (but never dark) for a short time. In 2021 the ART's stage lit up with some powerful theater written by local playwrights. It's 2022 now, and ART continues that new playwright format.

Leading all of this is Matthew LaChiusa. Matthew is the Executive/Artistic Director for the American Repertory Theater of WNY. His directing career has spanned over 20 years with 14 of them with ART/WNY. Receiving two Artie Award nominations for Best Direction of a Musical and two nominations for Best New Play (winning and Artie for his work "Shine"), Matthew continues to bring his craft to the ART/WNY stage.

In between work, writing, producing, directing and running a theater Matt answered a few questions.

Here is an easy one. What is theater to you?

Actually, it's not an easy question to answer. At least not in a brief paragraph or two. Theater to me is about the process. The building from ground up to the finished product. I love the collaboration as well. The X's and O's of stage. But besides the craft and mechanics, theater also has that poetic harmony between intelligence and passion. When all four of these elements come together it is beautiful composition, a spoken word opera. That's theater to me.

How did you get into theater?

Family background, but I always wanted to be a rock 'n' roller. I got into theater, here in Buffalo, to bring a different angle on what was being seen on stage 14 years ago, Still trying.

What makes a good Director?

Good and smart actors. Story helps.

Describe your way of directing.

I try to model my approach to the process after great directors such as Lee Strasberg, and the "system" presented by Stanislavski. When it comes to actors, I don't want programmable robots who go where you point them. Give me actors who come prepared, who put their heart, soul, and mind into the character then bring it to rehearsals. I want actors to be on their feet and making instinctual acting choices from the very first day of rehearsals. You'll hear me repeatedly say "let's do it again for muscle memory". What goes against the grain of my directing style is having to work with mercenaries who have a bag of tricks who won't listen to any suggestions and self-direct themselves. I'll give up on those types of actors, and let them do their thing. Hate it because that's not my style.

How do you put the show together?

A good show starts with a good story. The telling of the story depends on how good the storytellers are. Once those two elements are in place, the vision of the director takes over. That's the creative process behind a show. The logistic process involves a creative team of designers. I've been blessed to work with talented designers like Michael Loddick, Katie Ludwig, Elaine Heckler, and Rebecca Mutchuck. These individuals help build the "bones" of a production including lighting and costumes. Finding good core production personnel is such an important step in putting a show together. Lastly, time. It's having the time committed to building sets, marketing the show, maintaining the theater, and house management.

What are some of the difficulties of Directing a show that the audiences aren't aware of?

Perhaps an apprehension towards the show not being familiar or being a chesnut piece, but, and to give credit to 716 playwright James Marzo for saying this, if the show is good and it receives a solid 3 or 3 1/2-star review from The Buffalo News, people won't care if it's familiar or not, local playwright or not, they'll be curious to check it out. With the last two productions I directed at ART/WNY, we received great reviews and had solid houses throughout the run, and these works were unknown, written by local playwrights. With that said, a poor review can be devastating to an unfamilar work. The greater difficulty is getting people to come out to theater. That has nothing to do with the creative process but a larger effort by regional media to highlight all theaters equally. Sure, it's not the media's job to freely promote theater, but it is the media's job to feature stories on the positive creatvie efforts made by Buffalo theater, as a whole, and how they shape the community.

Please tell us about what your most current show is? I see you're directing more than one piece.

The current show is entitled "Fall from the Grace of God" and features one-acts based on the music of Celtic/Punkers The Pogues. All 10 works featured in this showcase are written by 716 playwrights. I am directing James A Marzo's peripeteia story of a runaway bride, "A Rainy Night in Soho", Mark C LLoyd's kinky couple role-play in his "In a Dark and Dirty Bar", and the didatic slam of Justin Karcher's "The Angels Won't Receive Me". Each unique and each entertaining, much like the other 7 works featured in the evening.

How do you direct more than one Play and still run a theater company? (Besides liquor)

I don't have much of social life to drink. I work a 40-hour job then straight to the theater. Bottom line, it ain't easy. With that said, I've been blessed to have a great group of supportive people throughout the last 14 seasons with ART/WNY. That's the key. I am always grateful towards those who've helped in the past and present. Will I be able to continue for another 14 seasons? Dunno. But in the meantime, I'll just keep plugging away, stay consistent, and keep loving what I'm doing.


American Repertory Theater of WNY Performance Venue:

The Compass Performing Arts Center,

545 Elmwood Avenue. Buffalo NY 14222

ART/WNY continues a season dedicated to 716 playwrights with a showcase highlighting local writers.. Featuring playwrights Jennifer Tromble, Mark C. LLoyd, TJ Snodgrass, Monish Bhattacharyya, Tim Joyce, Justin Karcher, Karen McDonald, Matthew LaChiusa, John F Kennedy and James A. Marzo, works are intertwined in a OUR TOWN meets Brendan Behan narrative connection all taking place at neighborhood dive-bar Martin's Bar & Grille.


FALL FROM THE GRACE OF GOD features a talented ensemble including Alyssa Grace Adams, Michael Breen, Ian Michalski, Matthew Rittler, Trevor Dugan, Isabel Deschamps, Matthew Mogenson, Susan King, Kayla Victoria, Elliot Fox, Cameron Kogut, and Sarah Emmerling.

Directed by Catherine Burkhart, Steve Vaughan, Stefanie Warwick & Matthew LaChiusa. Music direction by Susan King . With choreography/movement by Suzanne Hibbard.


FALL FROM THE GRACE OF GOD opens March 10th and runs until April 2nd, 2022. ART/WNY has a pay-what-you-can ticket policy for the entire 2021-22 season

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