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BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR

The seventh installment of Geffen’s Stayhouse series Is THE DOOR YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE: A CHOOSICAL MUSICAL opens May 22, 2021

BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR

The seventh installment of Geffen's Stayhouse series Is THE DOOR YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE: A CHOOSICAL MUSICAL has been in previews, with opening May 22, 2021. This world premiere, written by Matt Schatz, is geared for children and the young at heart. An 'Adventure Suitcase,' full of puzzles and special items will be pre-mailed for the youngsters' interaction during the Zoom of the show. Katie Lindsay directs the cast of Michael Faulkner, Shyla Lefner and Gabrielle Maiden.

Amidst juggling his many writing projects with a newborn in his lap, Matt managed to carve out some time to answer a few of my inquiries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Matt!
It's my pleasure. Thank YOU!

You have a healthy list of plays you've written. Is THE DOOR YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE: A CHOOSICAL MUSICAL the first play you've written specifically for children?
It's the first full-length show I've written for this age group. I collaborated on a Young Adult BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR Musical a decade ago or so with the composer Michael Kooman for a specific event. And I worked on shorter pieces for kids at the 52nd Street Project in New York City.

In 2020, I wrote the songs for the hit Spotify/Gimlet Podcast The Two Princes (created by my dear friend Kevin Christopher Snipes), which is geared towards older kids and young adults. Also, last year I worked on Taika Waititi's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Netflix Animation which I think is for slightly older children than THE DOOR YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE. But certainly, the experience of working on those two pieces helped put me in the mindset to write this one.

What inspired to you to write this? Did you write THE DOOR with your daughter in mind?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR Well, my daughter was born in March 2020 (pandemic baby!), so she is too young for the show (though she has been on my lap for a lot of the rehearsals). But certainly, having a child made me think about and value writing for children in a new way.
The pandemic has had an effect on all of us for sure, but I think it's been especially tough for elementary school-aged kids, a year for them is like a decade for adults, and they just had to adjust to so much. I wanted to write a show where they were heroes because I think, really, they have been.

What would your three-line pitch of THE DOOR be?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR You're a kid, you've been stuck inside your house for a year, when you suddenly notice there's a door that leads to another world. That world needs to be saved and it's up to you to make the choices to save it! You're the only one who can do it. We need you!
That's more than three lines I think. How's this?

1. A modern-day Wizard of Oz.

2. The Wicked Witch of the West is COVID-19.

3. You're Dorothy.

Has your script been set in stone? Or is there room for revisions in this world premiere?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR It's not set in stone; I write on a computer! Ha, ha!
New plays always make changes until the last possible moment. I've so far cut three whole characters and quite a few songs. That's the agony and ecstasy of working on a new musical!

Would you share your experience of being a member of The Geffen Playhouse Writers' Room program in 2018-2019?
It was an immense experience. I was so lucky to get to be in that room with the Geffen's Rachel Wiegardt-Egel and the other writers, all of whom have become my dear friends. Getting to know them and their work (and them through their work) has been a gift.
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR The musical I developed in my Writers' Room year
A WICKED SOUL IN CHERRY HILL was to premiere at the Geffen in October of 2020 in a production directed by the great Mike Donahue (but it was postponed for obvious reasons).
A WICKED SOUL IN CHERRY HILL is the best thing (for adults) I've ever written. I cannot wait to share it with the Geffen's audience (and then hopefully the rest of the world!) when it's safe enough to return to in-person theater.

Any one particular lesson from the Writers' Room you swear by to this day?
If what you're writing doesn't terrify you in some way, you probably shouldn't be writing it.

You've received numerous theatre awards and commissions. Do you remember your initial reaction to your very first one?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR I haven't received that many!
The first one I got was a small commission from the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York (EST) and the Sloan Foundation to write my play
THE TALLEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD. It was 2006 and I was a year or so out of grad school, and I got the call when I was at my temp job at Pfizer. Before that I was wondering if playwriting and theater was actually for me. That play was produced in 2011, but the reason it changed my life is that it led to me being part of the young playwrights collective Youngblood at EST which really began my professional theatre career.

How is the science musical you're writing with fellow playwright Anna Ziegler progressing?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR We just started! Get off my back about it!
Anna is one of my favorite writers and best friends. We wrote a short musical for the EST Marathon in 2015, and it got such lukewarm reviews we were compelled to write a longer one!
This one is another commission from EST/Sloan. It's about a groundbreaking female scientist who turns out to be kind of a terrible person. It asks the question: How much should someone's life affect how we think about their work?
Anna and I are both really busy, but we're excited to work on it together!

You wrote THE DOOR's book, music and lyrics. What did you study and want to be in your youth? Music? Or theatre?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR When I was a kid, I wanted to be Ritchie Valens (because of La Bamba), Mozart (because of Amadeus) and Michael Jordan (because who didn't want to be Michael Jordan?).
I was always good at two things. Rhyming and drawing. I'm still pretty good at drawing, but I'm better at rhyming.
When I was a kid, I didn't really study anything, but I always liked music and art and writing.

In college, I studied screenwriting, in grad school I studied playwriting, and in New York at the BMI Workshop, I studied musical theater writing. And those are the three things I do for a living.

What's in the post-pandemic future for Matt Schatz?
BWW Interview: Playwright Matt Schatz Takes Aim For Kids' Diversion With His DOOR My new musical UNTITLED is scheduled to open at Pittsburgh's Civic Light Opera in October 2021 (I think), my aforementioned other musical A WICKED SOUL IN CHERRY HILL will open sometime after that at the Geffen, and there's a possible New York production of my play THE BURDENS in the works.
I have some potential TV projects in development, but who cares about those?
My fingers are crossed for all of those things. My fingers are crossed for lots of reasons.

Thank you again, Matt! I look forward to checking out your DOOR.
You're more than welcome! I hope you like it!

For THE DOOR YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE: A CHOOSICAL MUSICAL viewing tickets through June 27,2021; log onto www.geffenplayhouse.org. Each household will be pre-mailed an 'Adventure Suitcase' full of puzzles and special items to interact with the show.



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