Paying It Forward for Acting

Tania Thompson
 | Jan 02, 2020
Michael Matthys
Michael Matthys

Fundamentals of Acting: Act III

In this advanced scene study and characterization course, you’ll dig deeper into creating more believable, focused and truthful onstage relationships. With at least two semesters of actor training under your belt, you’ll be comfortable with the language of the basic tools and may find more and more consistency in the ability to apply these tools. This course concentrates on skills including relaxation, commitment, listening, truthful response, characterization and speaking heightened language. There’s time to address any individual blocks you might be struggling with. We’ll work on multiple scenes over the eight weeks and learn how to make committed choices in a relatively short period of time, which is one of the hallmarks of the professional actor.

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When a young Michael Matthys saw Jesus Christ Superstar, it changed his life.

“I walked out of the theatre thinking, ‘This is what I want to do!’” he recalls. And he never looked back.

Matthys, who joined SCR’s Theatre Conservatory faculty in the winter of 2019, has been teaching acting for a dozen years including at San Diego State University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Stella Adler Academy and the Actor’s Studio of Orange County.

He started his professional career as a member of the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, Minn.) and remembers the impact of that company's mentorship of him. He uses that as a guide to pay it forward and serve as a mentor and teacher to others.

As an actor, he has performed in more than 100 plays at theatres around the country. His roles on stage include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Treves in The Elephant Man, Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, Alan in Equus, Levin in Anna Karenina and, most recently, Mike Dillon in Good People.

We caught up with him to find out more as he prepares to teach Act III: Advanced Scene Study and Characterization beginning Jan. 27, 2020.

What has been your proudest moment as an actor?
My proudest moment as an actor was playing Treplev in Garland Wright's acclaimed production of The Seagull (1992). The recording has been archived at Lincoln Center.

What drew you to and guides you in teaching?
I always knew that I wanted to teach and act. I really admire the members of the Guthrie Theater acting company who mentored me during grad school and I always envisioned myself giving back in that way. My approach to teaching is largely instinctual, while being rooted in Stanislavski and Meisner acting techniques. I believe in the power of the imagination—releasing into that and finding yourself in the flow of the character's life and immersing yourself in the world of the character. If you can convince the imaginative part of your brain that you are in the story, you will start flowing moment to moment.

What “aha!” moments by your students are special?
When they realize there are no rules! When they realize the reality of doing spurs them on to honest behavior and choices. When they acquiesce to ongoing stimuli and find themselves in flow.

What book are you reading now?
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

What was the last play you saw?
Elijah at the Victory Theatre (Burbank)

What was the last movie you saw?
The Two Popes

What do you do when you’re not acting or teaching?
I watch basketball, play ultimate Frisbee, hike and see tons of movies and plays.

In addition to his stage work and teaching, Matthys is active in television with appearances including the role of Dr. Kent on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Save By the Bell: The New Class" and "Profiler." He has appeared in several feature films including Full Blast, Destiny Turns on the Radio, BASEketball, Nightwatch and The House of Deadly Secrets (both on Netflix). His latest feature film endeavor, Stan the Man, is slated to be released later this year.