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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Actor Matt Wallace
Louisville, KY

Matt Wallace

Who Matt Wallace grew up in Bowling Green in southcentral Kentucky. He started acting and working backstage with Fountain Square Theater, a community theater group, when he was just 8 years old. As a high school student, he attended the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, which led to an academic scholarship to Webster University in St. Louis, where he majored in theater. Wallace has been artistic director of Dolphin Back Theater Company in Chicago and has worked at Horse Cave Theatre (now the Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave). He is a member of the resident acting company at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and teaches acting and creative dramatics to young people as part of the festival’s educational outreach program. Matt also performs with Derby Dinner Playhouse in Jeffersonville, IN and acts in television commercials and films. He is proud to have appeared in the hit movie Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks.

What “An actor’s job is to bring the playwright’s words to life. An actor is the link between the playwright, the director, and the audience—to tell the story.”

When “It depends on where I’m working. At Derby Dinner Playhouse, we do eight to ten shows a week for several weeks. We rehearse during the day, then work nights and matinees once we’re open. On my days off, I’m teaching and auditioning for future work.”

Where “I’m usually in the theater or in the classroom.”

How “One challenge is dealing with the unpredictability of being an actor—not knowing what comes next in terms of work. The other big challenge is always making sure you’re trying to grow as an artist—making sure that you’re always improving what you do in terms of your professionalism and your artistic choices, rising to the part and discovering new things about yourself, not letting your own physical and emotional habits get in the way.”

Why “I love the process of discovery—learning how to get your point across to an audience, getting inside what makes a character tick. You have to have good skills of observation, to know how other people behave. In Hamlet’s advice to the players, Shakespeare says, ‘Hold the mirror up to nature.’”

Getting There “Start getting experience as soon as possible. There are so many opportunities: Do a school play, or propose one yourself. Definitely work in community theater, because you get to be with older people who are doing it. For me, to get to go to the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts was wonderful—to see that there were other people my age who were doing this, because being in theater wasn’t the cool thing to do. You should also experience life in ways that have nothing to do with theater. It makes you a more well-rounded individual and gives you experiences to draw on. And college training is important—you get the discipline, the awareness, the skills, and you learn how to be a professional—no matter how much talent you have.”

About the photos: A professionally done “headshot” is a critical component of an actor’s portfolio, which is sent to casting directors. Wallace is also pictured at work, as Guildenstern in a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and during his appearance in Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks. He had just one line in the film—but that’s how Hanks started, too!

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