Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Quick Visit with Brian Matuszak, Where He's Been and Where He's Going in 2018

Anyone who has watched Brian Matuszak's career over the past 30+ years knows he's had his fingers in a lot of pies, some of them raspberry, a few blueberry, and even one huckleberry. What I know is that when Susie and I moved here in 1986 we thoroughly enjoyed our first Colder By The Lake Christmas Show, and were pleased to discover the robust quality of the local theater scene over the years.

In addition to theater, Matuszak has been a columnist in the Budgeteer, ever chewing up the scenery. Here's a little snapshot of the man many of us only know from the audience.

EN: How would you describe Brian Matuszak? Writer? Performer? Entertainer?

Brian Matuszak: I would say Entertainer. Originally, I was a Performer, eventually became a Writer/Director/Producer. Since I retired from the stage in 2015, I have been focusing on my writing. I have some ideas coming up for Rubber Chicken's 10th Anniversary this year (we formed in February 2008) that will involve me wearing all my old hats again. But I think ultimately, I just want to make you laugh/cry/feel something. That's entertainment!

EN: What did you study at UWS?

BM: Theater, but the unique thing about the program at the time was that you had to take radio and TV production as part of the major, which ended up giving me the bulk of my employment right out of college. I have worked at several radio and TV stations here in the Northland, as well as advertising agencies.

EN: You were an integral part of Colder By The Lake with Margi Preus. Who else was involved with CBTL and what did you learn through that experience?

BM: That was a fantastic time of my creative life! I LOVED Colder and what Margi and crew were doing with their sketch comedy shows. I went to as many as I could at the Orpheum, DeWitt-Seitz, even the Norshor back in the day. When I was invited to be a part of that group, I jumped at the chance. My first show involved working with Bruce Ojard, Susan van Druten, Julie Ahasay, Bud Backen, Donn L. Hanson, and Andy Nelson. All amazing, talented, funny people. Most rehearsals, I just sat back and laughed. I was in awe of all of them and didn't contribute right away. I'm pretty sure Margi was going to ask me to leave at some point, probably because I was being too much of a fan boy and not enough of a performer. But I eventually learned to get out of my own way, trust my instincts, jump in, and join in the fun. I also learned a lot as a writer.

The first sketch I submitted was OK, nothing special. It was a parody of Bob Ross and his painting show on Channel 8. But Andy Nelson took it and turned it into something magical, weird, and wonderful. I learned how you don't have to struggle to put ALL the funny into a script. Trust that the actors will help it succeed by bringing their unique talents to it. And, boy, did Andy make me look good with that one.

EN: In addition to Rubber Chicken Theater you were a long-time columnist for the Budgeteer. What other pies have you had your fingers in?

Atlas trying to decide whether to shrug.
BM: Well, over the years, I've been fortunate enough to take part in several creative projects in the Twin Ports. I've acted and directed for Colder, UMD, UWS, St. Scholastica, the Duluth Playhouse, Wise Fool Theater, Twin Ports Stage, and the two theater companies I co-founded, Renegade Comedy Theater and Rubber Chicken Theater. Working with John Munson from WPR, I created the Renegade Radio Hour and Rubber Chicken Radio. I also created the Chicken Hat Plays, which gathers eight writers, eight directors, and a whole bunch of actors from around the region to create eight original one-act plays in 24 hours. Also with Rubber Chicken, I developed the popular Live Reads, where we take a famous movie script and give it a staged reading. So far, we've done Star Trek 2, Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein, Princess Bride, A Night at the Opera, and Clue.

EN: The Improv nights seem to have been remarkably successful. To what do you attribute the attraction of this kind of entertainment?

A hard-hitting humorist. The gloves are off.
BM: When James Young and I started Renegade Comedy Olympics back in the late 90's, we knew right away we had a hit. People just enjoy being a part of seeing something created right in front of them. The idea of "Yes, And" is powerful and funny.

EN: Has anyone ever compared you to the Energizer Bunny? What's ahead for 2018?

BM: Not that I'm aware of, although I have been compared to a few other things….

Lots coming up for Rubber Chicken's 10th Anniversary! We'll be doing another Live Read this May of Doctor Strangelove and our big Holiday Comedy Revue 10th Birthday Celebration this December. Also, later this summer, we'll be debuting a completely original type of theater down at the Underground. It's a one night event that will have some fun with the idea of funding the arts, how artists go through that process, and the board of people that get to decide who gets how much money. Tentative title is "The Twin Ports Annual Board Meeting of the F-ARTS (Friends of the Arts)."

* * * *

Photos: Sue Matuszak

No comments: