Spotlight On: Matt Powell
Matt Powell is a performer, director, writer, and teacher with 20 years' experience in improvised and scripted theatre. A member of Christchurch's Court Jesters for 12 years, he is now based in Wellington and performs regularly with PlayShop, Late Night Knife Fight, and Wellington Soap Factory. He has been invited to teach around New Zealand and Australia, and in 2015 at Réunion Island's FÉRIIR festival.
Tell us a bit about your show and the idea behind it, and why/how it excites you.
I guess there are two ideas behind Don't See This Show Alone. The first is that improv can be about much more than comedy, although laughter is an easy response because improv is by nature a very tense medium. The second is that improv is at its best when the whole audience is on board with what the performers are doing. So if I want to make work that is inspired by a single person's suggestion and there are 99 other people in the room, how do I bring them all the way in? I'm really looking forward to exploring those ideas with the cast.
What show other than your own are you most excited to see? Why?
I'm really looking forward to the second ever Improdome. Some of the most fun last year was watching teams of strangers create weird magic together. There was one team made entirely out of cheekbones, I swear.
What's the best thing about improv?
The way it brings people together and makes them complicit in building something out of nothing.
How would you describe your personal improv style?
I really love language and a lot of my improv ends up really wordy, whether that's just stupid puns or big flowery speeches. So I'm TRYING to get better at more nuanced, physical characters, and I've been doing some solo work to kind of force me into that mode of working.
Weirdest/best way improv has helped you in daily life?
I've recently got to a point in my career where they've started letting me interview candidates for jobs (!) and I'm finding I can get a really interesting read on what they might be like to work with. It's pretty interesting!
What's going on in the improv world where you are?
In a way I think Wellington improv is kind of branching out into other things. Shows like Late Night Knife Fight and Black Light Comedy are encouraging improvisors to explore other ways of working, but also engaging and involving performers who haven't done much improv before. I think the lines are blurring a bit.
Any Improv/Theatre/Comedy heroes?
I'm in love with Jason Geary. He's one of those people whose work just looks effortlessly graceful and purposeful, but with such intensity and commitment to craft that you know he's working his ass off at the same time. He has such a huge heart for improv and is so generous with his talent.
Matt directs Don't See This Show Alone at BATS Theatre, 8pm Friday 20 October. He's also the director of Improdome, our all-week improv battle at 6:30pm. Our full programme runs 17-21 October, and tickets are on sale now!