Matthew Collie is making his fourth appearance in a Theatre B production, as Shagspeare, in Equivocation. You may have seen him around town in the last couple of weeks making appearances as the Bard of Avon for this year’s WinterArtsFest, a community-wide celebration of Arts, Culture, and all things Shakespeare. Matthew is relatively new to theatre, but is no stranger to performing. He is a member of the National Forensics Association Hall of Fame and an American Forensics Association All-American.

TB: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MC: I’m a recent Fargo-Moorhead transplant, having grown up in southern Minnesota (area code 507), and I work at CoreLink Administrative Solutions as an IT Team Lead.  I’m a cinephile and a geek with specializations ancient history, public policy, gaming and superheroes.  Former math-wiz.  I believe public health will save humanity.

TB: How did you first get involved with theatre? Or what drew you to theatre?
MC: My foray into the local theatre scene happened in 2014 when my partner, Megan Orcholski, decided to audition in the Fargo-Moorhead unified auditions to shake the rust off (she’s has a BA in theatre).  I tagged along and auditioned to meet people, try something new, and find an outlet to perform.

My first theatre involvement, however, was pre-natal.  My mother was in a production of On Golden Pond as Chelsea Thayer while she was pregnant with me.  She and my father met on a stage in a theatre class.  Ask my Dad about it, great story.  My siblings, Alex and Sarah, have also been in numerous theatre productions.  I’m the late bloomer.

Matthew in 'The Oil Project'. Photo courtesy of Kensie Wallner Photography.

Matthew in ‘The Oil Project’. Photo courtesy of Kensie Wallner Photography.

TB: How does your forensics experience translate to the stage?
MC: Hopefully well!  Forensics (also known as competitive speech) is a competitive performance activity where competitors give speeches or interpret works of literature (prose, poetry, drama, etc.).  The interpretation events are a lot like short one-person shows or long monologues so I have seen and evaluated a lot of performances.  I try to draw on that for inspiration on what might work performance-wise.

In forensics vocalics, presence, and poise are all very important.  These skills hopefully are helping me connect with my fellow actors and the audience.  My best event was Impromptu Speaking, which, at its core, is just thinking on your feet – very important when a scene doesn’t go as expected.

TB: Favorite production or experience you’ve been involved in?
MC: The experience of acting in Fargo-Moorhead has been phenomenal all around.  In a short time I’ve had a collection of very different experiences from not realizing my first role was as the antagonist (Dr. Jason Posner in Wit) to helping create one of the area’s first devised pieces (The Oil Project) to performing in three very different venues (B’s black box, FMCT’s thrust, and an art installation at The Plains).  I am still learning the theatre codes and lingo, and every experience has shown me a different side to theatre.

My favorite experience to date, however, would be Suzuki theatre training for 33 Variations.  The rigor of the physicality tested the entire cast and crew, but gave me something physically to push against.  I was born two months premature and spent the first few years of my life with regular physical therapy.  To contextualize theatre movement and emotion against a measurable (if ultimately unattainable) physical ideal was centering.

And painful.  And frustrating.  And gratifying.  There were boundaries to measure against and when we (as a company) failed to reach them we could still see the goal.  On those moments when we inched closer to the ideal everyone else saw it and supported the gain.  It was unifying.

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Matthew as Shag in ‘Equivocation’. Photo Courtesy of Kensie Wallner Photography.

TB: What’s it been like playing Shag in Equivocation and playing Shakespeare in the community so far during WinterArtsFest?
MC: Shag in Equivocation has been the biggest challenge for me to date.  He’s confident, brilliant, and his reputation precedes him, attributes that I share (in pale comparison) or at least have faked before.  But Shag’s also a father who has faced great tragedy – an uncharted concept for me.  It’s terri-citing (terrifying + exciting) to go out every night and try to have a nervous breakdown prompted by a crisis of conscious as the greatest writer in the English language.

Playing Shakespeare in the community has been great.  People have been leery to be approached by a stranger in costume and then tickled to find out they are talking to “Shakespeare.”  I’ve been brushing up on my Elizabethan idiosyncrasies to meet people’s expectations but, in the end, it’s all just for fun.  People go to the Shakespeare Fest events (http://winterartsfest.org/ or Facebook WinterArts Fest or Twitter @WinterArtsFest) for the great art, culture, discussions, and beer, so having Shakespeare introduce himself and hand them his business card is a nice, frivolous bonus.

TB: What do you enjoy most about working with Theatre B?
MC: The striving for quality.  A theatre production is a big commitment, and I enjoy most that when I work with Theatre B everyone is working to put out a high-quality product.  I want my leisure activities to have just as much impact as my career.  It’s why I enjoy our multi-week runs so much; we’ve worked so hard at this piece of art I want to keep doing it.

TB: Anything else you’d like the audience to know?
MC: Word to the wise: If you name your cats after a Roman Emperor (Titus) and a Greek God (Apollo) it’ll only feed their egos.