Saturday, August 8, 2015

Spotlight On...Matthew Dicken

photo by Ken Ek, Kenek Photography
Name: Matthew Dicken

Hometown: Germantown, MD

Education: B.A. Theatre (directing & performance studies concentrations), Muhlenberg College

Favorite Credits: Way before I knew I would be working as a solo performer or making queer theatre, I played the Archduke/Archduchess in Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. What a fabulous role—I got to do a terrible Romanian accent to boot!

Why theater?: It’s just the medium I’ve found. Always was, I guess. Mutual presence is important to me when unpacking power relationships and identity. So is the sense that the intervention could take any shape. It could all break down, or there’s always the potential to walk out of The Performance Garage and onto the streets.

Tell us about butyou’reaman or: The Seven Men I Came Out to in India: butyou’reaman is a solo performance about my experiences as a white, gay American man living and loving in India during, what I like to call, a cyclone of international sexual shifts.

What inspired you to write butyou’reaman?: I studied abroad for a semester in New Delhi during my undergraduate, and I actually just returned from a year-long fellowship studying Hindi in Jaipur, which I did right after graduating from Muhlenberg. So, the show was prompted by exploring my own gay identity in India, in another context, and also about an almost 3 year relationship that I had with an Indian man. The show has allowed me to write about negotiating across cultural difference, national difference, difference across race and class both in India and upon return to the US.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I get off on gritty, rich language that I can’t wrap my head around but lets me inject my own queer consciousness into it--whether its historical, total fantasy, what have you. Pair that with daring, hand-made, beautiful, amateur-y theatricality and you’re golden. By the way, I talk about queer consciousness very expansively. I don’t exclusively mean sex or identity; I’m talking about work that lets me imagine a world beyond what late great Performance Studies scholar José Esteban Muñoz called the “prison house of the here and now.”  A couple names would be Tina Satter and Half Straddle, NTUSA (The National Theatre of the United States of America), The TEAM, Young Jean Lee….

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Ah! DarkMatter. Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian’s trans south asian performance art duo. Without a doubt. Noone else could challenge my entire political project so deeply or importantly.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Mariano Pensotti’s El Pasado Es Un Animal Grotesco. And I didn’t see this live, but I’ve made a lot of friends watch Rude Mechs’ The Method Gun on On the Boards TV.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think a movie about me right now would be tremendously dull. What I’d hope for actually wouldn’t be a movie about my life at all, but someday some young artist working in some other form who has to bring me back to life to tell their own story. E.M. Forster and Jack Smith are those kinds of voices for me in butyou’reaman – I can’t tell my story without invoking them.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Opening/closing night of Ubu Roi in 1896. Or anything Jack Smith ever did in his apartment.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Bad campy porn? For the last few weeks (since seeing YOUARENOWHERE up at Mass Live Arts), recalling Andrew Schneider and Peter Musante jive to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.”

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: In Varanasi. And, eventually, finding my way to working as a cultural diplomat.

What’s up next?: I’m in the early stages of working on my next solo show—a companion piece to butyou’reaman. This new piece will unite and dissect the lives of seminal British and Indian homosexual writers: “ancestors” of mine, historical queer figures who themselves engaged the erotics of uneasy, racialized power dynamics across nation and class difference.

For more on butyou'reaman, visit and