Matthew Gardiner is the Associate Artistic Director of Signature Theatre. Over the past few years, he has established himself as a major director in the area. Recently, Matthew directed the new musical The Hollow. Aside from his work at Signature, he has directed Greenwood Tree (Page to Stage) and Snow White, Rose Red and Fred at The Kennedy Center. I might be dating myself, but Matthew might just be the next Irving Thalberg. A wunderkind with great ideas and great talent.
Were you an actor before turning to directing?
I did a lot of acting when I was younger. I was in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Merry Wives of Windsor, Ford’s A Christmas Carol, and several operas at Washington Opera. When I was in high school, I was pretty serious about becoming a professional ballet dancer, which led to a love for choreography and then directing.
How did you land up working at Signature Theatre?
I did Signature’s summer musical theatre intensive, Overtures, when I was a freshman in college. This is where I met Eric Schaeffer. I started by assisting Eric on Allegro and spent almost all of my college breaks assisting him on various projects. My last year at Carnegie Mellon, Eric offered me a full-time position as the Resident Assistant Director at Signature Theatre, and 5 years later I’m still here.
What are some of your favorite projects so far, either from Signature or elsewhere?
Wow… there have been so many. As an assistant at Signature, The Visit was an unbelievable experience. Being in a room with Frank Galati, Anne Reinking, Chita Rivera, and George Hearn… well it was remarkable. Glory Days was certainly a hard experience when it made its move to NY, but the experience at Signature was thrilling and filled with so much love. Everyone in that rehearsal room was really committed to the work and each other in a way that I have yet to experience since. Co-directing and choreographing Jerry Springer: The Opera at Studio Theatre was a blast. Directing See What I Wanna See, [title of show], and Art at Signature.
Do you find directing musicals more of a challenge than directing a straight play?
Well I think it would be a hyperbole to say that every musical is more challenging to direct than a straight play. But musicals usually have several components, and it’s the director’s job to guide them to a cohesive whole. Now what I KNOW is that nothing is harder than directing a new musical. NOTHING. How’s that for hyperbole?
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Being able to make a living as a director and choreographer.