100 Dallas Creatives: No. 100 Theater Mastermind Matt Posey
Can you imagine Dallas without creativity? What would this city be like without its artists, thinkers, poets, dreamers, creators? Let's hope we never find out. These cultural entrepreneurs are making life in this city worth living, vivifying the scene with art, dance, music, events, and so much more. We thought we'd take time on the arts blog to highlight these movers and shakers, so we've come up with a list of the Dallas creative class we'll be profiling over the next few months. If 100 Creatives seems like a lofty goal, be assured there were many more we could've included.
We're not here to rank creativity and this isn't some kind of "best of" list, so they're presented in no particular order. If you've got someone you think deserves a bit of recognition, send us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org). But don't nominate yourself, this isn't homecoming court.
Matthew Posey, Artistic Director of Ochre House Theater
Ochre House Theater's Dreams of Slaughtered Sheep
When I pull into a parking space behind Exposition Park's neighborhood bar, The Meridian Room, I spy Matt Posey pulling the gate shut behind the Ochre House Theater and crossing the lot. He's got books under one arm and a cane under the other - he recently had hip surgery and claims he feels young again. He's leaving a meeting at his theater space, which doubles as his residence. He's happy to report he may have just found a music director for Christ Helmet, a show opening this July about a group of actors who gather at a bar and create their own cultish religion.
"I never hold auditions," Posey says. "I find people or people find me. It's less practiced. It's more genuine. And that's the most important thing in theater."
After making waves in the Dallas theater scene in the 1980's with his Deep Ellum Theatre Garage, Posey packed up his bags and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. His mug can be seen in numerous movies including No Country For Old Men and Mr. Brooks. But he moved back to Dallas in 2008 to be near his parents and fill a theatrical vacancy, as the city's only producing experimental theater. He aims to produce a show every other month in his small storefront space, which doubles as his house.
"I get my ideas from the Wooster Group and the successful underground theater that was happening in the lower east side in New York," Posey says. "That's where we got this wonderful thing called deconstructionism, basically trying to find the essence of performance. It's less about the content, as much as it is about the performance of the content. Certainly, we hope the content is also worthy."
At the heart of all of his shows, Posey aims for true theatricality and originality. He writes all of his shows for his cast of actors, all of whom become easily recognizable after you attend a few shows at the theater. He never holds auditions, but once an actor is in with the "Ochre House Boys," Posey uses them as a muse of sorts.
"It's so great to write a play for someone to perform," he says. "Although, when I bring new actors in to work with me, they get a little nervous when I don't finish the script until two or three days before the show."
While we had his brain within reach, we figured we'd pick it for more of his thoughts on creativity.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in the origins of things. I've always been interested in origins of things in theater and then, of course, the origin of theater is performance. At the core, I'm inspired by performance.
Are you ever able to create a show that fully realizes your original vision?
If it all happened like I want it to in my head, what a great show it would be but it never does. Theater is demanding of compromise. Any person trying to delegate a vision... I can't give you my vision but I can delegate and it certainly helps when I have the actors I have at the Ochre House.
How do you see your role in the Dallas landscape?
I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel needed. I'm not here to fuck around or find myself again. I think we verify with ourselves and in the process and the work. I think as a result the audience is the fifth element, the audience is the reason why we do it.
There's a mystery to the Ochre House.
If you worry about becoming known or trying to be the best and hit the papers, you find yourself ignoring the work and more concerned with your image. The best image in the world is having respect amongst other artists. I like knowing that people who see our shows are connected in the arts, whether they're there because they love literature or music or theater.
How do you see the theater scene in Dallas?
As long as we have the Dallas Theater Center, we have hope. We must have a large regional theater for any of the smaller theaters to survive, otherwise we fall off the map. It gets the dialogue going and allows us to form a community, instead of isolating all the smaller theaters. You definitely see more collaboration and more handshaking across theaters in Dallas now than you did in the 80's.