Cross Contamination: Mat & MJ (Beyond Little Women)




Mat Vansen (The King) & Mary Jane McCloskey (Marmee)

Beyond Little Women: Marmee and The King have a conversation

MJ: What got you started with acting and what makes you continue?

Mat: It all started when I was really young and we came down to visit my uncle in Utah. He was in two shows that we saw and in one of them there were child actors. I decided that I wanted to do that and I still want to do that.

Mat: Same question!

MJ: It all began when I was in a fourth grade play and I liked it. I continue because I received a lot of encouragement from my teachers in high school, and from the thespian society. I just like it; it’s always been a part of my life! Do you ever direct?

Mat: I actually just got done directing Angel’s Alley here at Brelby! When it comes to theatre I tend to try more of the different areas than in film, and Brelby has been a good place for allowing me to explore other aspects besides acting.

MJ: How did you get into film?

Mat: When I graduated high school I started taking film acting classes outside of college, and after about 6 months of training I started doing short films and student films, then after a year and a half of that I moved to L.A. to continue pursuing that.

MJ: How did you like L.A.?

Mat: I liked it a lot. I enjoy the city and the things it has to offer, but it just didn’t end up being the right time, so I decided to come back to Phoenix and try to get as much out of this market as I could before heading back out. So I came back and continued taking classes, got an agent, and booked more film roles before finding my way to Brelby. I’m glad now that I did come back otherwise I might not have found this place!

Mat: What about for you? Cause I know you do a lot of music. Did you start with music or with acting originally?

MJ: Well my family moved around a lot, and it ended up when I was in eighth grade we eneded up in a town in Illinois that was very art oriented. The people I found in Illinois were involved in choir and musical theatre and that inspired me get into musical theatre. I started studying voice in High School to get better roles, and that teacher was an opera singer so that is the route I went in college.

I ended up getting my masters in Opera I had a lot of potential in that area but my musicianship probably wasn’t high enough to really go that far, but I would’ve fit right in during the “Phantom of the Opera” time! I actually started my own opera company until we moved back down to Phoenix.

Mat: Do you still teach voice?

MJ: I do! I teach voice now. I used to teach general music at schools around the area because I have that degree too, I also direct but I enjoy teaching voice lessons and performing. So that’s how I got into theatre, and I continue to do it because that’s what I do, just like you.

Mat: If I had something else I’d rather be doing then I’d do it.

MJ: I also enjoy teaching because it’s close to performing.

Mat: I can see that. What about with Lydia? How long have you been performing together?

MJ: This is the third time we’ve performed together. I think our first one was “Phantom” out at Hale last summer. Otherwise she’s always been doing youth theatre herself.

MJ: If you had to do something besides theatre, what would you be doing?

Mat: Well that’s a tough one cause like I said if there’s something else I wanted to do I’d be doing it! Maybe… teaching or something along those lines. Probably because like you said it seems really close to performing.

MJ: Teaching theatre or something else?

Mat: I’d probably end up being a Theatre teacher, or maybe English. Those are what I feel I’d be strongest in actually teaching people.

MJ: What’s your favorite aspect of the tech side of theatre?

Mat: I really like the media and PR side. That’s what I do with my Company Member responsibilities; e-mails, Twitter, Projections, graphic design stuff. That’s where I mesh best, I feel.

Mat: You did say you direct, but have you done any other design aspects?

MJ:  I have taken an interest in costumes. When I was teaching at the school that’s what I did the most. I also like set designing.

Mat: What’s been your favorite moment or aspect of the rehearsal process?

MJ: I like that it’s so relaxed and pretty quick. Shelby’s been good about getting everything roughly staged then going back and fine tuning, I like that.

Mat: Relaxed, but we still get work done.

MJ: Exactly. I also like the professionalism. Even though the theatre is small, it’s still run professionally.

Mat: Well I know you’ve been in “Little Women” before, what did you expect coming into the process this time around?

MJ: I didn’t have any expectations on what it would be like because I know every theatre is different. I did expect high quality though, from reading reviews and look at what was going on at Brelby I had an expectation of concentration on acting.

Mat: So you knew about Brelby before you came to audition?

MJ: Yes because I know Brad Beamon and he posted on Facebook about auditions.

Mat: Very cool very cool.

MJ: So you’re in the Company, but I’m not sure exactly what that entails.

Mat: Essentially there are different levels of people involved at Brelby, there’s Brian and Shelby who are of course the owners and the Executive and Artistic Directors, then there’s the Collaborate Artists who are the people who work on shows and participate in productions and events, then there’s the Company Members who are sort of the in-between.

We all have different aspects that we take leadership of… like I work on marketing, David is in charge of improv, Luke handles our podcast, Megan and April work on the blog, Mia, Devon, and Melody K. are on staff for outreach, different things like that. Being a Company Member means more responsibility and leadership, in order to help Brian and Shelby.

MJ: So you’re the different cogs that help the machine run?

Mat: Exactly!

MJ: How many Company Members are there?

Mat: There are fifteen of us now.

MJ: Do you have any siblings?

Mat: I have one older brother, I’m the baby. You?

MJ: I’m the baby too! I have two sisters and three brothers, all older than me.

Mat: Do any of them perform?

MJ: Nope, I’m the only one! So Musketeers is an original work?

Mat: Yes! Brelby has a writing circle that has worked on it collaboratively. They based it on the classic story of “The Three Musketeers” and set it in a futuristic dystopian setting. So that’s going to be fun. They’ve deemed it the She Kills Monsters of this season, which I’m not sure if you saw that one, but it was full of combat and adventure, and I decided I wanted to act in that this year, which is what prompted me to audition for a show I’ve never read before.

MJ: Is there going to be a fight choreographer for it?

Mat: Brian is our resident fight choreographer. He does a lot of it, and he runs our Brelby Fight Club on Friday evenings, where people can sign up and learn the basics in a safe environment. Jaren (who plays Laurie in Little Women) and Fernando, the BTH Videographer for Little Women, are going to be assisting.

Then we started talking about fight choreography and film and wandered off into blissful backstage conversation until it was time to go perform again.

Mat and Mary Jane both perform in Brelby’s upcoming production of Little Women, opening May 1st

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