ALIENS Artist Profile: Matt Wall

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What’s your favorite (or extraordinary) skill that you had to learn for a show? A few years ago, I was in a play called Parhelion. It’s by a fantastic MN playwright named Abby Swafford. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I’m in no way athletically inclined. The character I played was not a particularly friendly guy, and at one point I had to pick up a park bench and throw it. There was also some choking involved. Zac Delventhal was our fight choreographer, and he’s great. But it was throwing that bench - at people, in a particularly small theater - and having to make it look wild, but throwing it so it’d land in precisely the same spot every time; that still leaves me with a sense of accomplishment that audiences bought it and no one was maimed.

Why should people come see “Aliens with Extraordinary Skills”? Immigration is a polarizing issue in our country. Playwrights can and should address polarizing issues. Saviana Stanescu has created a lovely story which, at every turn, focuses on the human aspects of immigration. What do we all want in life? What part do I play in helping other people achieve their dreams? She seems to be asking a very different set of questions than many other “ripped from the headlines” plays about the immigrant experience in the United States. This story has such heart, but without ever becoming overly sentimental. It’s (hopefully) very funny, but without ever sacrificing the profound issues this subject matter brings up. These are just a couple of the reasons I wanted to act in this play, and they’re some of the reasons I suspect audiences will find it to be a meaningful and enjoyable evening at the theater.

“Aliens” is the story of Nadia, who immigrates to the US from Moldova. How has immigration shaped your story, or your family’s story? I was in senior high when my paternal grandmother gave me the book of our family’s history. My love of theater had already taken root, and so I couldn’t help but view it as a sort of skeleton key that would unlock my understanding of my place on the arc of our family’s story. Of course, it brought up more questions than it answered. Since then, and since the conversation that led my grandmother to entrust the book to me, I’ve become acutely aware that there’s no such thing as a benign immigration story. All too many immigration stories involve a harrowing, death-defying flight from danger. But all of them, every one, involves the dream of a better life for the immigrant and their family, the risk that those dreams won’t come true, and the hope that their adoptive country will embrace and shelter them. This perspective is a gift my grandmother gave me, and it’s the perspective I try to keep in mind as our country strives to understand what, from now on, it means to be an immigrant.

Matt Wall (Bob) has a degree in theater from St. Olaf College, and he has studied extensively with Atlantic Theater Company (co-founded by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy) in New York and Los Angeles. Recent Twin Cities acting credits include: Flora and Ulysses (George Buckman) with Stages Theatre Company; A Gone Fishin’ Christmas (Anders Svenson) and Death of a Salesman (Howard/Stanley) with Yellow Tree Theatre; True West (Lee) with Maggie’s Farm Theatre; and The Seagull (Medvedenko) with Theatre Novi Most.

Aliens with Extraordinary Skills runs September 9-24 at Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul. Buy tickets here.

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