By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Anna Dvorak
Name: Matthew Wells, playwright
Show: Scarlet Woman
Website (can either be a personal one or one for the show, or nothing, if you'd prefer): Sunset Gun Productions and my Personal Blog
How did you first get involved in theatre?
I was acting in plays in high school. My senior year, we did a watered-down two-hour version of Tom Jones, and by ad-libbing all the sex and innuendo back into it, we turned it into a three-hour romp. During the show, I found myself suggesting ad-libs to the other actors, and when they got laughs, I said to myself, “How hard can it be to write a play, really?” I found out almost immediately that the answer was “Pretty damn hard, actually. But fun.”
Who are your biggest influences?
Shakespeare. Shaw. WH Auden. Henry Fielding. Howard Hawks. Buster Keaton. And (not surprisingly, given the style of Scarlet Woman) Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
Scarlet Woman was conceived as an homage to actresses like Marie Windsor and Anne Savage, and movies like "Out Of The Past" and "Murder My Sweet" -- a film noir fun ride with flashbacks and flashy patter where the femmes fatales take center stage. It’s a stylish embrace of all the conventions of the genre, and while it may comment on them now and then, it takes them very seriously.
What inspired you to write it?
Candy Simmons of SunsetGun contacted me with an idea she had about a two-actress noir piece. After talking about it and mapping out a proposal, I went away and wrote a first draft which wound up having nothing to do with our original idea. But Candy liked it, so we’ve been reworking it and finessing it ever since.
Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
I’ve known Candy Simmons (the producer and co-star) for 10 years and Rob O’Neill (the director) for 20. I met Rob when he was hired to direct my play The Mildred Piece, and Candy is a fabulous actress who has been in a couple of my shows, notably Donna Paradise in 2005. This is my first time working with Megan Hill, but she’s right up there with Candy as far as talent goes. And our stage manager, Jenn Tash, has been an anchor and a godsend all through the rehearsal period.
What's next for you after FRIGID?
My play Countrie Matters is being rewritten for a reading in LA this spring; I’m working on a novel that will be finished in March; and sometime in August, when I get back from a trip to Australia, I’ll be doing readings of two plays about corporate America, Business As Usual and Not For Hire.
And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?
Film noir is ultimately about what a man really wants in a woman. There’s always something to be said for settling down with a dutiful, faithful, loving sweetheart; but there’s nothing like a double-crossing, faithless, self-serving predator to make a guy feel like life is worth dying for.
Written by Matthew Wells & Directed by Rob O’Neil
Presented by SunsetGun Productions, Minneapolis, MN
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street)
Wed 2/23 @ 10:30pm, Sat 2/26 @ 1pm, Sun 2/27 @ 5:30pm, Tue 3/1 @ 7:30pm, Wed 3/2 @ 6pm, & Sat 3/5 @ 2:30pm