Matt & Dan Bogart: True Bros Tackle 'True West'

Last year, Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy boasted a stunning Broadway real-life husband and wife team, Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell, as the season's Artistic Producers.  With creative juices flowing, from both the New York and the Raleigh talent-pools, they return this season with a fresh batch of invigorating theatre! But can this town be big enough for two family acts?

This summer, real-life Broadway brothers Matt Bogart and Dan Bogart will star in Sam Shepard's True West, directed by Kennedy, beginning Wednesday, July 2 through July 13.

True West world-premiered at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco 28 years ago. Tommy Lee Jones and Peter Boyle first gave it life in New York at The Public Theatre before the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago revived it with (then unknowns) Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.  When True West finally hit Broadway in 2000, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly played the leads and were known for switching roles every so often during the run.

Now, the Bogart brothers add their names to a list of milestones surrounding this notable play…

Eugene Lovendusky: Howdy boys! Congratulations on making your Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy debut in an incredible brotherly-focused play, True West.  Thanks so much for finding a moment to talk with BroadwayWorld.

Dan Bogart: Hi Eugene, nice to hear from you.  Thanks for your well wishes.  Rehearsals are going very well and we're having a great time tackling this material.

Matt Bogart: And it does feel like we have to literally tackle this piece; tame it in a way.

Eugene: Don't work-up too much of a sweat in the summer heat! Before we dive into True West as a piece, let's get to know a little more about these players. Matt, how was your trip to Ireland?

Matt: Ireland was fantastic and challenging.  I was there to perform a piece about James Joyce and his wife Nora called, Himself and Nora during the Bloomsday Festival in connection with The James Joyce Cultural Center.  At first, Dubliners were resistant to an American cast flying in to play-out a story about one of their own, but in the end, we won them over with the production.

Eugene: One day you're in Europe and the other you're in North Carolina! How did the Bogart brothers get involved with the Hot Summer Nights season?

Matthew: Lauren Kennedy, my long time friend and director of True West, had called me to talk about doing the play and she hadn't yet figured out who the other actor was going to be.  Since the characters in the play are blood brothers, I naturally suggested my brother Daniel as a possibility.  Lauren instantly loved the idea and we were off and running.

Daniel: When the idea was originally presented to me I thought, "Of course!  I would love to do that!" But in the back of my mind I questioned whether or not it would be possible.  I figured the chances of getting our schedules to match up were pretty slim.  I'm glad it worked out!

Eugene: I'm not certain if this is the first time True West has starred real-life brothers, but it certainly has its novelty! Does it feel special to you?

Daniel: Actually, this isn't the first time brothers have starred in the piece.  In the mid-1980s, Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid performed together in True West at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.  The fact that Matt and I get to perform together feels very special to me.  As actors, we find ourselves on the road much of the time; unable to see family as often as we would like.  This amazing opportunity of performing together combines what we love with who we love.  It's truly a blessing.

Matthew: It's great to have the opportunity to play these brothers with our own family history, both spoken and unspoken, to inform us.  It's always a welcome experience to have the opportunity to share the stage with one of my own from the Bogart dynasty.

Eugene: Were you familiar with Sam Shepard or True West before getting the phone-call from Hot Summer Nights?

Matthew: I had studied and performed scene-work from Shepard's other plays in Conservatory, at CCM.  Also, many years ago, we had seen a video of the John Malkovich and Gary Sinise Off-Broadway production, a very impressionable portrayal.

Daniel: Though it's been years ago now, the memory of the film continues to live on whenever I hear my brother Dominic say "You better get yerself a 7-Up, boy."

Eugene: Dan, you'll star as Austin, a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed Hollywood screenwriter scribbling-away on a potential big-bucks deal.  Matt, you sweep in with the dirty desert-wind as Lee, his thief brother, itching for a fight (and a film-offer in your back pocket)… Paint us a picture of how you're embodying these two roles…

Matthew: I think we're attempting to bring to light the pervading ironies of the piece, beginning with its title.  Each brother lives at opposite edges of the spectrum but the tables turn as Austin and Lee search for their place in the world, true meaning in their lives and, more accurately, their identities.  I believe Lee is a kind of tortured man-boy who cannot assimilate into the social fabric of our world; however, he believes that is exactly where happiness resides.  I'm attempting to embody his chameleon aspects which will enable me to undermine my brother for my own gain.  The fun is in the turning of the tables and how that tightens up the slingshot for the finale.  I hope audiences will take the ride with us from one end of the spectrum to the other, feel the whiff of the golf club and smell the "salvation."

Daniel: For me it's been about examining this family and the causes of its apparent dysfunction.  Therefore, I've been exploring and analyzing each relationship – not only that of Austin and Lee but the relationships between every family member, including the father who, despite never making an appearance, plays an extremely crucial role.  This examination is important because each relationship is different and affects the character and his or her behavior in different ways.  Austin is coming to life based on the information provided in the text about these relationships and from the onstage exploration of the relationships.  I'm making lots of discoveries all the time.

Eugene: Those familiar with the play always anticipate the pinnacle "western showdown" with the smashing of… well, without giving it away…  Are you looking forward to the fight?

Daniel: One of the greatest perks of theatre is having permission to do things that you may rarely (maybe never) get to do.  The desire is there but, oftentimes, acting on it is either impossible or inappropriate.  Theatre grants us permission to indulge.  Yes, I'm very-much looking forward to the fight.

Matthew: It's not a fight for the sake of fighting.  Each of us desires something extremely specific, whether it's to be our identities or to find our place in this ever-changing world around us.  I think what's wonderful is how the play can allow it's actors an enormous amount of freedom, physical vitality and permission to move from one tactic to another in order to achieve what it is that each brother needs.  However, this play is also synonymous with the actors smashing everything on the stage and Dan and I are not in opposition to that assumption, but rather pretty juiced for the showdown.

Eugene: In that same vein, we're dealing with some serious sibling rivalry on-stage.  Pointedly, are any of your real-life brotherly "fights of the past" coming to the surface for this?

Matthew: Nothing personal is at stake between Dan and me (as far I'm aware).  In a play such as this, trusting your acting partner is imperative.  Nevertheless, we indisputably have more than enough familial references to pull from to make this experience very "true-to-life."

Daniel: Matt and I both possess certain attributes of our on-stage characters.   Therefore, some of what comes to the surface for Austin and Lee is the same for Matt and Dan.

Eugene: Matt, you're the oldest of four boys from a farm in Dayton, Ohio.  Apropos? Have you talked it over with each other, about leaving the drama for the stage.  Does your mother approve?

Matthew:  Finally and thankfully, our family dynamic has shifted in recent years from a group of angry, young men to a more mature group of less-angry, not-so-young men.  We have always been able to rough-house and horse around with the best of sophomoric creatures but I believe we've all successfully adapted and assimilated to the sophistication of big-city social life as well.  Mom probably hates us for the drama we've put her through, and still putting her through, except now, we make her pay to sit in a seat and watch us on the stage, all dressed up in pretend clothes.  Weird.  Like a familial Clockwork Orange.

Eugene: What audiences can expect at the end of the evening…

Daniel:  The audience can expect to learn a lot about these characters who learn a lot about themselves.  And this play will either resonate with them personally or at least make them more aware of their own family dynamics and how everyone is affected.

Matthew: I want them to leave our show feeling like they can't wait to host their next family holiday gathering.  Good times.

Eugene: Lauren Kennedy will direct True West – and has also looped-in some great performers like Jarrod Emick and Jessica Phillips (to couple with local talent) to bring some superb pieces to Raleigh…

Matthew: Lauren (and her husband Alan) have been nothing short of amazing friends to me as well as thriving artists in the theatre community across the country.  They each, in their own right, the highest caliber of actors and Lauren, though new to directing, knows how to fashion a piece of theatre with a deft hand.  She grew up in the theatre and now continually works on innumerable shows from their birthing stages.  Alan has worked in almost every aspect of entertainment and between them they have all the bases covered for overseeing the Hot Summer Nights series.

Daniel: It's been an absolute joy working with Lauren.  She's the best.  She's smart, talented, fun, creative and extremely positive.  Lauren has created an environment where we feel safe and, as a result, uninhibited, allowing us to reach our full potential.

Eugene: Daniel, following your stint in the national tour of Les Miserables, you stretched your legs on the Great White Way with its recent revival engagement…  What do you have coming-up next?

Daniel: I have a wonderfully long and rich history with Les Miserables.  I'm about to utilize my background with the show by assuming the role of Assistant Director for Maine State Music Theatre's upcoming production.  I'll also be returning to the role Marius.

Eugene: Matt, Broadway last saw you in Aida in 2002, but you've been hard a work throughout the US, most-recently starring as Lancelot in the national tour of Camelot. You were also connected with the new musical ACE for some time. What can theatre fans hope from you next?

Matthew: Within the next year I'm slated to do a couple theatre productions, I plan to do more straight plays and hit LA for a few months of auditioning for TV and film work.  I'm also a solo recording artist with the Jay Records label and am set to release my second CD this fall entitled, "Sky Above Manhattan."

Eugene: Again, congratulations and have a smashing-good time!

The Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy remaining season includes:
True West (July 2-13) directed by Lauren Kennedy
Skylight (July 23-August 3) directed by Kristen Coury
Personals (August 6-17) directed by Tito Hernandez
Gods of Autumn (August 20-August 31) written & directed by Tony Award nominee Jack Murphy

All Performances: Wednesday-Saturday at 8PM. Sunday matinees are at 3PM. Tickets are now on sale now through Ticketmaster by calling 919-834-4000 or online at or by visiting the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts Box Office. Group rates are available by calling 919-828-3726.

Tickets: $27.50 (Wed-Sat) and $20 (Sundays).  Seniors, Students and Military (with ID) are only $17.50 (Friday-Sunday).  Special July 4th Savings Spectacular: All Military just $15!  Also we will be giving away a pair of tickets at the July 4th show!

For information, please visit the Theatre's website:

Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy is a professional theatre company whose mission is to serve the citizens of Raleigh, Wake County and Eastern Carolina with shows that are varied in type, attitude and scope and employ actor, stage crew and staff of all ages, races and creeds from North Carolina and Broadway. Hot Summer Nights will use our resources to nourish, celebrate and employ many theatrical groups, colleges, charities and citizens and support and assist the City of Raleigh with entertainment needs.

Photos: Matt Bogart and Dan Bogart (2005, Ben Strothmann); Matt Bogart and Dan Bogart with Director Lauren Kennedy True West rehearsals (2008, Katherine Kennedy); Matt Bogart; Dan Bogart

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From This Author Eugene Lovendusky

Eugene Lovendusky graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a BA in Writing for Electronic Media and a minor in Drama. Raised in the SF (read more...)