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Posts tagged ‘Matthew Gorman’

“Exploring Archetypes, Storytelling & Country Music that isn’t about Football” – In Conversation with Matthew Gorman, writer of WESTERN, a play with music at NSTF

Interview by Hallie Seline

I spoke with Matthew Gorman, writer of Western, a play with music, at the Next Stage Festival, to discuss exploring the Western genre in the theatre, using music as a driving force in storytelling and the excitement of watching the NSTF grow over the years.

Hallie Seline: Tell me a bit about Western, a play with music.

Matthew Gorman: Western started as a retelling of a Johnny Cash song. It’s actually written by Sting, but Johnny’s version is the good one. It’s a song about a boy accidentally shooting a man and being hanged for it. I had initially intended it to be a solo piece and just follow along with the plot from the song but as I got going, I started to like the people around that story more and more. After trying a few versions of the script, we hit on the idea of a theatrical campfire, where a story was shared between the characters and the audience rather than having it presented in a more traditional fashion. This gave us more space to breathe and see what parts of the story needed telling and what needed showing.

HS: What drew you to explore the Western genre in a theatrical setting with this piece?

MG: I like archetypes. You know a bad guy is a bad guy because he’s the bad guy. People have expectations of characters in a western, so you don’t need to spend time explaining who everyone is. The sheriff is the sheriff. You’re playing with the form those characters take.


HS: The show is described as being “a play with music”. What kind of role does the music play in the show and why was it important in the creation of the piece?

MG: Any good campfire has music playing. You pass around instruments and people take turns sharing a song. When we initially approached Gord (Bolan) about providing some music for an early staged reading, we thought he’d maybe play a few Hank Williams songs between scenes. When he showed up, he’d scored the whole thing and written a few originals. His presence in that reading showed us that he could be a featured part of the story, a driving force that influences the characters, rather than just accompaniment. We called it a play with music because it wasn’t a traditional musical, it’s a play where people sing sometimes.



HS: What are you most looking forward to this Next Stage Festival? (aside from the presentation of your piece, of course.)

MG: I was a bartender at the first couple Next Stage Festivals, so I’m always looking forward to how the feel of the whole festival grows every year and things change.

HS: If your audience could listen to a song, album or playlist before coming to see Western, what would you recommend?

MG: People should listen to lots of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Bonnie Prince Billy, Neko Case, some Gillian Welch. Any country music that isn’t about football.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite Western Film: The Proposition. Nick Cave wrote all the music, it’s great.

What are you watching these days? I’ve been on tour most of the fall, so a lot of Netflix. I watched a bunch of Penny Dreadful. It was amazing and terrible and cheesy and great and Simon Russel Beale is always delightful.

Where do you look for inspiration? Art galleries, always.

Favourite place in the city? We’ve been members at the zoo for years. We almost got married there. It’s the best.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten? Write whatever you want, let someone else worry about how to stage it.

Describe Western in 5 words: A campfire where people die.

Western, a play with music


Photo by Tanja Tiziana

Presented by The Harvey Dunn Campfire
Text by Matthew Gorman
Music by Gordon Bolan
Director Geoffrey Pounsett
Featuring Mairi Babb, Gordon Bolan, Brendan Murray, and Caroline Toal

Part myth, part campfire song, this show is a reckless chase through an imagined western landscape. Nance wants a son, Reach wants a home, Dirt wants release, Jenet wants her brother, and Rabbit just wants to run. Join these acclaimed indie theatre artists ‘round the fire for a story about family, blood, and claiming what’s yours.

Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst St.)

January 05 at 06:30 PM
January 06 at 05:15 PM
January 07 at 07:30 PM
January 08 at 04:15 PM
January 10 at 06:30 PM
January 12 at 07:15 PM
January 13 at 08:45 PM
January 14 at 02:15 PM
January 15 at 03:30 PM



A Fringe Festival Chat with Matthew Gorman, Writer & Director of “Adventure!” at the Factory Theatre Main Stage

Interview by Madryn McCabe

We sat down for a drink with Matthew Gorman, writer & director of Adventure! playing at the Factory Theatre Main Stage during the Toronto Fringe Festival.

MM: So, tell me about Adventure! How did it come to be?

MG: Two years ago, I was part of the 24 hour playwriting contest and the script I put together in those 24 hours became half of this year’s script, combined with half of the show I did at the Fringe last year, which was called Like a Dog. So it was kind of like… Do you remember the CBC show The Odyssey? It was this fantastic tween adventure show, where there was a kid in a coma, but his coma dream was this world where only children were in charge. So my 24 hour play was like that. There was this contemporary story, but then the dream was of this guy who thought he was Don Quixote and ran around as a knight. It didn’t really work out, so I cut it in two, and then wrote last year’s show. But, I missed all the fun swords and squires and horses and things from that show, so I thought I’d try to see what happened to them. So the characters are different, but that’s where they came from.

MM: Did you add any characters to it from the original script?

MG: Yeah, all of the monks and the crusade-y stuff are new. They didn’t really have much of a plot when they were just those odd characters. It was just that a knight freed a princess from a tower and then had nowhere to go, and that’s where that story ended. So all of the weird, “people’s crusade” stuff is new. In this version of the play there isn’t too much of that stuff, because we had to cut a lot of it. This is mainly because the original script was like, two and a half hours long.

MM: I was going to ask if there was a longer version of the play.

MG: We did a staged reading in April of the whole thing, and it clocked in at two and a half hours or something, so I polled the audience that night and I asked if we had ended at Act I, was there enough in the script to make them feel satisfied? Would they be okay knowing that Act II might never see the light of day, or should I try to truncate this whole thing and squish it into an hour, and that’s what we ended up doing.

MM: So what we see of Adventure! now at the Fringe is the truncated version?

MG: It’s the whole plotline smashed together with a lot of things taken out, some characters got turned into other people and stuff like that, but I think it’s fun. The version we have right now is pretty neat. It’s been fun to get to see it develop further and realize what the play is actually about. Because when you write it, you think it’s about one thing, but then the actors start talking, bringing the play off the page and you realize “Oh! It’s actually about something completely different.”

MM: So it changed for you as you got into rehearsals.

MG: I think so, yeah. And it’s changed a bunch since we started to the time it went up on Thursday. It got a bit darker, but other things became much, much funnier. So it’s not until you can see a character walk about that you understand what they really want. Some playwrights are brilliant and they can lock themselves in a room and they can walk out with this fully formed, masterful piece of writing, but lots of us have a messier process. There are a lot more bodies on the floor. So, what I’ll do with it after, I’m not 100% sure, but it can definitely stretch out again.

MM: So you think you’ll revisit Adventure!?

MG: I would love too! There’s a lot of stuff that we cut that I really miss. And I’m very possessive of the things I’ve written. I don’t like cutting things. (laughs) There are things you have to cut, and you get over it. When it comes to a 60 minutes slot and you’re running 65 minutes, then yeah, you cut this, you cut that, you get on with it, but….

MM: To go from a 2 ½ hour play to a 60 minute play…

MG: Yeah! There’s all kinds of stuff that I feel is missing. [The character of] Death used to be a guy who walked around, he had a castle, and it was fun. So there are things that it would be nice to revisit. Now that we have an idea of who some of these characters are, we can open it up again and we can let the actors catch their breath and not have to run around so fast onstage like they do right now.

Adventure! playing at the Factory Theatre Main Space - Toronto Fringe 2013

Adventure! playing at the Factory Theatre Main Space – Toronto Fringe 2013

MM: There are some really dark times in Adventure! What can you tell us about that?

MG: Well, I always thought that nothing is funny unless Death is right behind it. There’s nothing that’s really going to bring that belly laugh unless there’s fear involved in some way, unless there’s real consequence. There’s a lot of Monty Python influence in this. There’s a lot of Peter Barnes and Caryl Churchill, and angry playwrights like that, but when you think of Fawlty Towers, all of the running around, all of the whacking over the head business, et cetera, it’s not funny unless his hotel will fail if this night doesn’t go well. If his whole life savings isn’t on the line, if his wife isn’t going to leave him if this goes wrong, it’s not funny. There is important consequence. So if Pumpkin isn’t going to die, if she’s not this weird possessive person, it’s not funny that she’s running around trying to get her own castle. It’s not funny that she hates going outside if she isn’t horribly agoraphobic and would rather wall herself up as opposed to go outside and not be safe.

MM: You mentioned Caryl Churchill, which I see in the character of the boy. Is she an influential playwright to you? Who makes you want to make theatre?

MG: People like Howard Barker and Peter Barnes, people like Wadji Mouawad, all these big, spanning plays where you go to six different countries and stuff like that. There’s a Scottish writer named David Greig I’m a big fan of. There’s something about how mean Caryl Churchill is to her characters sometimes. You can only do that if you love them. You do the worst things to the people you love, right?

MM: There’s a fine line between love and hate. 

MG: Right. So you write these characters, and you’re very deeply invested in them, so you break them, you do awful things to them, and that’s good! That’s why I go to theatre. I don’t want to see my own life. I live my own life every day. That’s what documentary films are for. So I want to see something with a little more imagination, a little more magic, some silliness, something over the top, something crazy, because that takes me out of my life. Something that you can look on your own life in the reflection of that distance, whether it’s a different time period, or it’s a different place, something that gets you out of your everyday. You’re in a weird room where the lights go off and people are wearing costumes and there’s nothing “real” about that, so why pretend it’s an apartment and this couple wants to break up? Who cares? That happens all the time. But the emotions are real. The realism comes in them being human beings in these extraordinary circumstances. So with Adventure! it’s nice to take a knight or a princess, and chip away at that. Take them out of the fairy tale and see what happens after the happy ending. That’s not the newest idea, obviously, but it’s fun to allow them be a real person, to have a real want, a real desire. Most of our desires are crude and nasty and mean and base and ugly. The princess wants to kill her rival, and people eat people and it’s gross and fun. It’s not fun until it’s dirty.

MM: So your company is Your Good Friends. How did that develop?

MG: [My Partner] Gillian Lewis and I also run a company call Cart/Horse, which does very serious plays. And they’re great and wonderful, but we do a more specific kind of show, these very narrative driven pieces, which usually tend to be sad, so we wanted to do something a little different. This was also a way for me to split my own writing away from that company because I wanted that company to stay doing those bigger, classier, more polished projects, and let my silly writing have its own place somewhere else, with a friendlier version of a theatre company. A “we created this thing and we’d like you to come see it” company. We want the audience to be comfortable and have a good time and for it to be an enjoyable, friendly thing.

MM: So that’s where the name comes from.

MG: Well, you think of most Fringe companies and shows and they’re about people looking at the program to see who they know and who they recognize, and going to see their friend’s show. So this way, we’re already your friends, or would like to be your friends. Fringe is all about hanging out with your friends and doing a show together. This is a way, hopefully, for people to see that I’m not all dark and depressing all the time! It’s an opportunity for me to showcase some lighter work. Some of those Cart/Horse shows get pretty bleak!

MM: So do you see Your Good Friends doing something again soon? Do you have another project in mind?

MG: There’s a thing I started working on about the Tasmanian tiger, which is an extinct marsupial that was hunted to death in Australia and Tasmania at the turn of the century. I like explorers. I like pith helmets and big moustaches and blunderbusses. You can be big and silly, but you can also be very serious in what you’re talking about. I think Adventure! is about loneliness, I think it’s about being unsatisfied with what you have, but if you do that in a silly way, it’s not necessarily about sugarcoating that message, but it’s about making people think about that without making them cry. It’s a more approachable way of dealing with those things. You don’t have to be so God-awful serious all the time. It’s nice to be loud and silly and run around and wear stupid costumes. People are more willing to talk about loneliness and sadness if the guy is dressed like a knight.

MM: So, in three words, why should people come to see Adventure!?

MG: Trumpets, knights, tigers.

ADVENTURE! by Your Good Friends in association with the Toronto Fringe Festival
Written and Directed by Matthew Gorman 
Featuring Andy Trithardt, Colin Edwards, Carter Hayden, Tara Koehler, Eleanor Hewlings and Jim Armstrong 
When: Opens July 4 and runs until July 13
July 4 – 10:30pm, July 6 – 3:30pm, July 7 – 10:30pm, July 9 – 3:00pm, 
July 10 – 1:45pm, July 11 – 7:30pm, July 13 – 9:45pm 
Where: Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst St. 
At-the-door tickets: $10 At-the-door tickets are available at the Factory Theatre starting one hour prior to show time – cash sales only. 
Advance tickets: $11 50% of tickets are available for sale in advance. 
Purchase online:
By Phone: 416-966-1062, ext 1. 
In Person: During the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).