Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spotlight On...Matt Leisy

Name: Matt Leisy
Hometown: Kansas City by way of England

Education: Northwestern University

Select Credits: The Fantasticks (Matt, Off Broadway); The History Boys (Scripps, St Louis Rep; Arden Theatre- Barrymore Nomination); Ghostlight (Jack Pickford, NYMF)

Why theater?: Theater just kind of happened for me in college. I was studying opera and seeing a lot of plays and musicals at Northwestern. I was curious and started to study acting. I discovered that what excited me about performing was not the singing, but the acting, when I allowed myself to be vulnerable and present. I then got cast as Eugene Marchbanks in the theatre department’s production of Candida and it was all downhill from there. I was hooked.

Tell us about Ghostlight: Ghostlight is a new musical, in the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) by Matthew Martin and Tim Realbuto, based on the true story of Olive Thomas, a former Ziegfeld Follies girl whose ghost still haunts the New Amsterdam Theatre. Ghostlight follows Olive’s story as she stumbles into a secret affair, an unfulfilling Hollywood marriage, and a downward spiral into drugs and alcohol. It’s a great new musical that really captures Broadway's Golden Age and provides a backstage view of the life of a Broadway and screen star.

What is it like to be a part of Ghostlight?: Ghostlight has been a great experience for me so far. Since I am currently in a long run with The Fantasticks, I haven’t experienced the rehearsal process for a long time, starting from scratch with no established staging. It has been liberating to have the freedom to really create. I play Jack Pickford, Hollywood’s golden boy of the 1920s, who married Olive Thomas. The musical captures the highs and lows of their relationship and Jack’s continued devotion, despite their problems. I enjoy getting to expose their strengths and flaws.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as artists?: Theatre that makes me feel something. I hate to leave the theatre feeling ambivalent. I want to be moved. I want to be inspired. Frustrate me. Challenge me. Trigger an emotion inside me, maybe uncover a feeling I didn’t know even existed. That is good theatre. I often find inspiration from nature, especially when I’m feeling creatively stuck. Taking a walk in the park or along the river usually does the trick. I’m inspired by my Fantasticks cast and their consistently fresh performances. There is always a sense of play and freedom within the confines of our production. I’m also inspired by the creativity of the actors in Ghostlight. There are so many actors and people who inspire me.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I love creating roles. I look forward to playing the characters that are being written right now. I would love to do War Horse and Red. Candide has always been a dream role of mine. And Sweeney Todd is my favorite musical. Are you listening, universe?

What’s your favorite show tune?: I have lots. "Being Alive" (Company), "The Light in the Piazza" (The Light in the Piazza), "Somewhere" (West Side Story).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with people I can learn from. They say you get better playing with better players. I could learn a lot from these women: Mary Louise Parker, Brenda Blethyn, Laura Linney and, of course, Meryl Streep.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The autobiographical comedy would be called MATTY CHICKEN PATTY and would star Michael Cera. The indie drama would be called TRY, TRY AGAIN and star James McAvoy.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: War Horse, The Fantasticks, Ghostlight, The Book of Mormon, Follies

What’s up next?: Very good question. More Fantasticks and then who knows…

For more information on Matt, please visit http://www.mattleisy.com/