It’s the thrilling conclusion that you’ve been waiting for! In one week, District 13 Presents will stage the finale to its hit musical series with Mockingjay: The Musical! In our last newsletter, we interviewed Playwright Mark Vandenberg, who told us how he brought the award winning series to life. This week, we speak to New Westminster improviser and actor Matthew Simmons about how he used his experience at Off Key Improv and Second Storey Theatre to take on the beloved Caesar Flickerman and the not so beloved President Snow.
Theatre Wire: What are some of your most memorable past roles and productions? Why?
Matthew Simmons: The first stage play I did in Vancouver was an adaptation of It’s A Wonderful Life as a radio play. Not only was I doing voices for multiple characters in that show but we were also creating foley sound effects live on stage. It was so much fun.
TW: What drew you to this play and role?
MS: The first two musicals were so much fun that I knew I had to come back for the final installment. Everyone with District 13 are great people to collaborate with.
TW: What has been challenging about learning this role?
MS: The songs and the story I already knew, but I don’t have a dancing background so learning the choreography is always a challenge. I know that it will take me longer than the other performers and I need to put in extra time outside of rehearsal to get it right.
TW: How do other actors and their characters influence your work?
MS: I love working with the other actors in the show. We riff a lot in rehearsals in order to find jokes and new approaches to the humour. They’ve definitely pushed me to be bolder with my characters.
TW: How much does the director influence your work and interpretation?
MS: Mark is great as a director because he has a clear picture in his head of what he wants to see but always wants us to try out our own ideas. If ever I’m having trouble understanding the point of a line in the script he can explain it in the simplest terms that make it suddenly seem obvious.
TW: Are there any behind-the-scenes stories you can share with us?
MS: Jen Pielak and I knew each other from Second Storey Theatre and she’s the founder of Off Key Improv, so we’ve already been very close as performers for several years. We have this ongoing gag of greeting each other by lifting our arms out to the side, pulling a weird face, and shouting each other’s name before hugging. This happens every time we enter or leave the same space.
TW: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this show or yourself?
MS: If you have seen either The Hunger Games or Catching Fire musicals then you won’t be disappointed with how we’re ending the saga.
TW: Can you give us a sneak peak of what audiences will expect?
MS: Four words: President Snow dance break.
Catch the finale to District 13 Presents’ Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay: The Musical November 23-25 at Studio 1398! Visit our website to buy tickets, or consider getting tickets to the other dystopian future shows in the Theatre Wire season and save with a subscription!