This week’s Take Ten finds Matt Torney, associate artistic director at Studio Theatre, tackling Stoppard’s The Hard Problem, playing through February 26. Whether chatting on the phone with the illustrious playwright, or reminiscing about a Doll’s House performance enhanced by a nude rowing team, Torney has tales to tell.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first show I remember seeing was a production called The Fall of the House of Usherettes by a UK company called Forkbeard. There were 27 characters, and I didn’t realize there were only 3 actors until the curtain call. It was pure magic.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
I was a dancing plum in a Christmas pantomime based on "Jack and the Beanstalk," aged 9. It was a black light plum so it glowed. I also stood in for the giant when he wasn’t able to make rehearsals.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Definitely The Hard Problem. You really should see it. It appeals to the head, the heart, and the gut.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
I worked on film shoots in New York for several years. On one low budget shoot there was a scene that took place in a crack house…that they decided to film in an actual crack house. It was character building.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
I was playing Krogstad in a production of A Doll’s House at Trinity College in Dublin. In the middle of a scene the entire college rowing team decided to streak the stage during a hazing ceremony, and one of them humped my leg.
Tom Stoppard is such a brilliant writer, and is incredibly supportive. We have spoken on the phone several times, and he has been so passionate about sharing his ideas for the play with me and the company. It’s been a real treat.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Debbie Harry. She is a badass.
8) What is your dream role/job?
I really want to play Edmund in King Lear. It’s one of the few plays I’d rather be in than direct. He is such an interesting villain, and that speech!
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
Garry Hynes directed a highly controversial production of The Plough and the Stars while she was the Artistic Director of the Abbey in Dublin. It was an incredible moment in Irish theatre that still starts arguments in bars.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
I’d give them both the same advice. Never limit your imagination, and never forget your passion.
MATT TORNEY is entering his second season as Associate Artistic Director at Studio, where he has directed The Hard Problem, MotherStruck, Hedda Gabler, Jumpers for Goalposts (nominated for two Helen Hayes Awards including Best Ensemble), The New Electric Ballroom, and The Walworth Farce (nominated for two Helen Hayes Awards). Prior to his work at Studio, Mr. Torney served as the Director of Programming for Origin Theatre in New York, an Off Broadway company that specializes in European new writing. His New York credits include Stop the Tempoand Tiny Dynamite (Origin Theatre, Drama Desk Award nominee), The Twelfth Labor (Loading Dock), The Dudleys (Theatre for the New City), The Angel of History (HERE Arts), and Three Sisters and A Bright Room Called Day (Atlantic Theatre School). Regional credits include Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre) and Improbable Frequency (Solas Nua, Helen Hayes Award nominee for ‘Best Choreography’). International credits include Digging for Fire and Plaza Suite (Rough Magic, National Tour), Angola (workshop at the Abbey Theatre), Paisley and Me (Grand Opera House, Belfast), The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Making Strange, Irish Theatre Award nominee for Best Director), and Woyzeck (Rough Magic, Best Production nominee at the Dublin Fringe Festival). Originally from Belfast, Mr. Torney holds an MFA from Columbia University.