Actors are challenged to bring their instrument to the highest level of availability—their voice, their movement, their psyche, their understanding, their emotional life—so that if they are doing a great play that deals with great issues and great emotions, they can fill that greatness with their instrument. — Dakin Matthews
I’m thrilled to welcome Dakin to the show as the first season finale! Thank you so much for joining us, whether this is your first episode, or you’ve been along for the season—it’s been a fantastic journey and I’m thrilled to close it out with Dakin.
Not only is this a great conversation, we also get a mini-Shakespeare master class from one of the best people in the country! He’s made quite an impact on my life and education, especially with Shakespeare. I feel deeply honored to have studied and worked with him, and I’m so excited to share his story and wisdom.
Just a bit of what we cover:
- Where he feels confident, and when he gets intimidated
- His path from studying to be a priest to teaching high school Algebra to acting
- How he developed his acting skills, despite never taking classes
- Why doing the classics and being in a repertory company can be so important for actors
- Landing a starring role at Center Theatre Group in The History Boys and the critical reception the production received
- What qualities distinguish him from other actors, and why he stands out
- What being a professional actor means to him
- and much, much more!
About the guest
He’s got a bio that can stagger you, so buckle in!
Dakin Matthews is an actor, playwright, dramaturg, director, teacher, and Shakespeare scholar. He is an Emeritus Professor of English at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, California and attended graduate school at NYU.
Dakin began his stage career in the San Francisco Bay Area, appearing in both the Marin and California Shakespeare Festivals. He acted and taught at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and at the Juilliard School in New York
Former Artistic Director of the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, the California Actors Theatre, The Antaeus Company (which he co-founded), and the Andak Stage Company; he is an Associate Artist of the Old Globe Theatre; and a founding acting member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company and Sam Mendes’ Bridge Project.
He has written verse translations of six seventeenth-century Spanish comedies, and his play Capulets and Montagues won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Adaptation. He’s been a regular at Center Theater Group in LA and South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, and has acted and directed at many other regional theatres. Stage work includes numerous productions of Shakespeare and Shaw, and he appeared in Romeo and Juliet directed by Sir Peter Hall.
He has 150 credits on IMDb, with a 30+ year career on screen, and film work includes Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, and the Coen Brother’s True Grit. He was a series regular on Soul Man with Dan Aykroyd, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, and The Office. He’s also been a recurring character on Gilmore Girls, Desperate Housewives, The Mentalist, and King of Queens.
He has appeared on Broadway in Henry IV with Kevin Kline and Ethan Hawke, A Man for All Seasons with Frank Langella, Rocky the Musical as Mickey the trainer, with Helen Mirren in The Audience as Winston Churchill, in Waitress the musical, and is scheduled to appear in two more Broadway shows this year: The Iceman Cometh with Denzel Washington, and in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird with Jeff Daniels.
He has been a dramaturg on Broadway for the aforementioned Henry IV, for Macbeth with Ethan Hawke (both directed by Jack O’Brien), and for Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Dakin won a special Drama Desk Award for his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, which combined both parts into one play, and a Bayfield Award for his performance in that show.
His handbook on verse-speaking, Shakespeare Spoken Here, has been used in universities and training programs throughout California; and he has given master classes in Shakespearean acting around the world.
Please enjoy my chat with Dakin Matthews!
Total Running Time: 1:43:43
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Want to hear more from another Shakespeare teacher and actor? Check out my talk with Armin Shimerman, famous for playing “Quark” on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let us know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
This episode is brought to you Audible.
As a listener of The Working Actor’s Journey podcast, Audible is offering you a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to check them out. You can get a book that’s one hour long or 15 hours long—doesn’t matter. Whatever you pick, it’s free.
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Ray is one of the greats, and has been named Audible’s Narrator of the Year. Don’t get thrown by the cover, it’s not a typical zombie book, which is not my kind of genre—the reviews sold me: people really enjoyed the story, but thought Ray was the true hero of this one. They loved him so much, they wished they could give him more than 5 stars. I honestly had to remind myself several times that it’s just him reading the books, and not a dozen different actors. I’ve also been lucky to work with Ray onstage and know what a great talent he is.
Here’s a clip from this book:
So you can choose the above book—which clocks in at 14+ hrs, and for me, flew by—or choose any of the endless options they offer. That could be a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a class. It’s that easy.
To download your free audiobook today go to workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Dakin Matthews around the web
- Dakin’s father as an indentured servant
- How acting in a Shakespeare play gave him a more intimate knowledge of it
- The situations when he feels in awe of people
- How he approaches working with or teaching younger actors
- The production of Shakespeare he saw that really changed his view of what theatre could be
- How he ended up teaching at Juilliard and eventually performing in The Acting Company
- Why he feels acting is his primary skill, above being a teacher or scholar
- Why there aren’t great Shakespeare acting classes online
- How he approaches playing real people, and the roles that he couldn’t quite figure out
- The out-of-left-field offer to get involved with Rocky the Musical
- How Dakin has had time to be involved in so much
- Working on the “Come vial” speech from Romeo and Juliet
- Why many actors either shy away from or miss the mark with emotional moments
- Why it’s so important to find a group of like-minded creative people
- Quotes that matter to him
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- Antaeus Theatre
- Portuguese immigration to Hawaii
- ACT, San Francisco
- The Juilliard School
- USD San Diego MFA (Old Globe Program)
- Cal State East Bay, Hayward, CA
- David Ogden Stiers, actor
- Kurtwood Smith, actor
- Liz Huddle, actress
- PCPA Theatre
- John Houseman, actor, director, and teacher
- Stephen McKinley Henderson, actor
- Group 1 at Julliard: Patti Lupone, Kevin Kline, David Ogden Stiers, Mary Jo Negro, Mary Lou Risotti, Sam Tsoutsouvas, David Schramm, Tony Azito, Jim Moody, Gerald Gutierrez, Norman Snow, Benjamin Hendrickson
- US bombing of Cambodia
- Jack O’Brien, director
- Sherlock’s Last Case (play)
- Remington Steele, TV show
- Henderson Hogan Agency
- The History Boys (play)
- Frank Langella as Nixon
- Rocky the Musical
- Waitress musical
The Acting Company, 1972 with Dakin
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, Scene 3
+ click to view/close the monologue
Other monologues mentioned:
- Juliet, R&J, Act 3, Scene 2: “Gallop apace”
- Lady Percy, Henry IV, Part 2: Act 2, Scene 3: “O yet for God’s sake, go not to these wars!”
Copy and share: bit.ly/waj-dakin
Photo credit (Dakin’s headshot): Walter McBride / Broadway.com