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Matthew Gouveia: From Clown to Chekhov

Matthew Gouveia graduated in 2010 and hasn't looked back since. We spoke to him about what he's working on right now, what else he's done since leaving Humber, and how Humber helped him to get where he is now.

I am currently in rehearsals for Killer Joe by Tracy Letts, which opens on April 5th at The Coal Mine Theatre. Working on a text like this reminds me of why I fell in love with acting in the first place: the sheer fun and joy of playing! Killer Joe takes place in a white-trash trailer park in Dallas, Texas – and Tracy Letts has written, in my opinion, a brilliant play – one that reminds us that no matter where we come from or what shapes us into who we are, one of the constants in this life is our search for home.

Working with super-committed and hilarious actors makes it all the more fun, and being directed by Peter Pasyk, who’s got such an eye for detail and an imagination like a kid in a playground, makes it so much more important to tell this story. I’m stoked to show this piece of work. I also get to work again with Humber’s own Steve Wilsher, who’s the fight choreographer on this project!

Upcoming: I’ll be playing Michal in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman at Tarragon Theatre, directed by Ken Gass.

Most recently, I worked with Red One Theatre Collective on David Mamet’s Edmond at The Storefront Theatre. That was a blast! I got to play multiple characters, my favourite being a shyster cardsharp. I love gritty New York dramas and really plan on getting down there one day.

Last summer I was part of a really exquisite project called DIVE, which was a play/opera/”sonic theatre experience”, written by Richard Sanger and composed by Nik Beeson. I was privileged to have worked with two former Humber teachers of mine on that project: Alex Fallis, who directed the piece, and Fides Krucker, who I was lucky enough to perform alongside, as well as Earl Pastko. It was based on Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Professor and the Siren – a story about two Sicilians (a young journalist and an older professor) who meet in a seedy bar in 1930s Sicily and discuss love, women, books and sea-urchins – and at some point, there is a mermaid. We presented it at Array Music Space to a sold-out run. It was a really special experience – one that I will treasure.

I was also in a site-specific Toronto Fringe show last summer called BOUT, which was co-written by Stephanie Carpaninni and myself and staged inside Sully’s Boxing Gym. I played a boxing coach and the preparation for that role was a real treat. Getting the opportunity to learn pad work, combinations and studying real coaches gave me a whole new perspective on the art of boxing. We’ve since turned it into a short film and it is currently in the festival circuit.

In 2012, I travelled to Mozambique with Shakespeare Link Canada, where we created an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale with a local dance company, Montes Namuli. I met the artistic director of SLC, Kennedy C. MacKinnon, during my time at Humber – she was my voice and Shakespeare teacher. I gained interest in the project when she spoke of it while I was still at Humber. The mandate was to promote HIV/AIDS awareness in each piece they adapted. This was a trip, show and experience that truly shifted my perspective on not only telling Shakespeare’s stories, but breaking down language barriers and realizing that as artists, we only really speak one language: art.

I’ve also worked with Judith Thompson, workshopping one of her plays, Who Killed Snow White? with Nightwood Theatre. It was a privilege and an honour to be in the room with such an influential Canadian playwright and powerhouse of an artist.

Humber gave me a sense of community that I never had before I got there. It also taught me what collaboration and ensemble work really means. I learned I actually had a voice as an artist. The program taught me that I have imagination and that I can use it to create anything I want. It taught me the importance of risk and failing. It wasn’t a place where I went to study “how to act” – I knew how to act when I arrived. What I studied was technique and discipline. I spent the time crafting what I had while I was there – chiselling away at bad habits and honing in on detail and specificity. Above all, I learned that I could express myself with a script by Anton Chekhov just as much as by wearing a clown nose and standing on a box in an empty studio. It all counts – it all has its own place.

Matthew Gouveia