ONE PLAY, THREE PERSPECTIVES: An Interview New Voices 2018 with Actor Matthew Janis (TU Class of 2019)
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Haddon Township, New Jersey, where a childhood of forcing guests at family parties to watch me sing and dance eventually led to the pursuit of a career as an actor. I ended up enrolling at Temple, excited by the prospect of studying musical theatre in a city rich with exciting theatre, art, and culture… and great food.
Now I’m in my senior year as a musical theatre student at Temple. I’m graduating in May 2019!
Is this your first time working on New Voices? What got you involved?
New Voices was actually the very first project I worked on in the fall of my freshman year at Temple. The play was Curtains by Harrison Freed, directed by Shavon Norris. I remember feeling so empowered by Shavon’s creative energy, and inspired by the care and enthusiasm with which everyone on the Philadelphia Young Playwrights staff treated the entire process.
I’m thrilled to be back, three years later. The energy in the room is just as exciting as I remembered, thanks to a gorgeous script by playwright Lily Rivera and the leadership of our fabulous director Bi Jean Ngo.
What character are you playing? Tell us about them.
Lily’s play is called Prom Queen, and I play a boy named Jax who orders a dress to wear to his senior prom. Jax wants others to see his true self, but he’s not quite sure exactly what that is. Jax is funny and fierce and has a lot of love to give. And he’s handling the awkwardness of adolescence a hell of a lot better than I did.
What it is like to work on a brand new, still-in-progress play? What is the biggest challenge? What is most exciting?
With no roadmap or precedent from a previous production, it’s easy to start to worry, “Am I doing this right?” That fear can be a hindrance, but I actually find it thrilling, especially since Bi takes such care to create a space where actors can be vulnerable, and Lily has written such a compelling script.
Our play uses a lot of direct address to the audience. It will be challenging to honestly connect with audience members – to look them in the eyes, ask them questions, and be vulnerable in front of them – but this challenge is the thing I’m most excited about.
What are you learning as an actor (or otherwise) through this process?
I’m learning to demand nothing less than a 100% honest performance from myself. I’m learning how important it is to breathe. Oh, and I’m learning how to gracefully slip into a floor-length prom dress in one fluid motion. I mean, that’s a skill you can take to the bank, don’t you think?
Catch Matthew in Lily Rivera's Prom Queen (Bill One) beginning October 25th. New Voices Workshop Productions runs through November 3rd. All performances are Pay What You Decide. Reservations are required.