Matthew Conwell, a junior musical theatre major, has been acting since he was 6 years old and this Thursday he will be performing as a professional in Summer Stock Stage ECLIPSE's production of “Spring Awakening.”
“My parents took me to see the annual production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in downtown Indianapolis and I vividly remember looking up at them and saying, ‘I want to do that,’” Conwell said.
Summer Stock Stage (SSS) offers high school age students a chance to gain experience in theater and is a group that Conwell was part of when he was eligible. As a college student, Conwell is too old to audition for a show with SSS, but this year the program started an initiative called ECLIPSE.
Artistic Director Emily Ristine Holloway realized that there weren’t many opportunities in Indiana for pre-professional actors like Conwell to pursue their dreams. ECLIPSE allows past SSS actors to audition for a show where they can work with a few professionals, continue to further their growth as performers and bridge what they learned at SSS to their current and future theatre experiences.
In high school, Conwell was cast in SSS productions of “Hair,” “The King and I” and “Mary Poppins.” Holloway had worked with Conwell as a director, so she immediately recognized him when she received his audition tape for “Spring Awakening.”
“Spring Awakening” will run from June 1 to June 18 at the IndyFringe Theatre and tickets are currently on sale.
“I knew that he would be a great asset to our cast and it's so fun to see how much he’s grown as a performer being at Ball State,” Holloway said.
Conwell is also familiar with the professional actors that are in “Spring Awakening.” When he was nine years old, Conwell was in a performance of “A Christmas Carol” with Chuck Goad and Constance Macy.
He is excited to be doing another production with Goad and Macy, and is looking forward to learning from them and their experiences.
“It’s like putting a cross country team with two elite runners,” Holloway said. “You know they’re going to keep up – they’re serious, they’re focused, they’re committed, they know the process and it’s just a great standard to set for the whole experience.”
Up to this production, Conwell has been pushed to give everything he has by Ball State staff, especially his voice teacher Johnna Tavianini. He also said his family has been a huge support throughout his career.
“Most parents wouldn’t be too excited when their child comes to them and tells them that they want to be a professional actor, but my parents have never tried to talk me out of it,” Conwell said. “They never encouraged me to 'have a backup plan' or to 'get a real job.' I don’t think I would’ve began seriously considering musical theatre as a career choice had it not been for their immense support.”
Conwell is thrilled to return to SSS through their new program and is always looking to be better than he was in his last performance.
“He has tons of stage presence and a lot of confidence,” Holloway said. “He also has a real passion for musical theatre, so he was one of those people who knew all their music, knew all their lines, knew the show [and had] done their research.”
With “Spring Awakening,” Conwell will be pursuing a musical that he has regarded as one of his favorite shows since he heard the original Broadway cast recording and is taking on a roll that will help him grow as an actor even more.
“Moritz is different from any character I’ve ever played,” Conwell said. “I’m usually more of a character actor, which means that I usually play the funny characters, so to take a role with so much more depth than I’m used to is an exciting challenge.”
“Spring Awakening” will run from June 1 to June 18 at the IndyFringe Theatre and tickets are currently on sale. Both Holloway and Conwell are looking forward to seeing the audience react to this show that Conwell says is “very important” and “very pertinent in our current political climate.”
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