Damien J. Matherson, a local trans man, has big plans for Measure for Measure Theatre, a new company making its debut next week.
Matherson and his partner, choreographer Kelly Johnson, will present Ryan Scott Oliver’s rock song cycle, “35mm: A Musical Exhibition” at the Abyss Theatre in Wilton Manors.
“I’ve always been really ambitious,” he said. “If I was going to do theater, I was going to start my own company.”
Matherson, who started his transition three years ago, is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University, where he worked in the theater department with nine-time Carbonell Award-nominated director Margaret Ledford. He is currently the expressive arts director for the Drug Abuse Foundation, using his performing skills to help people in recovery.
For their inaugural production, Matherson and Johnson selected Oliver’s song cycle, illustrated with projected images by photographer Matthew Murphy.
While the work does not explicitly address LGBTQ themes, Matherson feels the connection to the local community is key to both the company’s success and his own:
“This has been an amazing community to be a part of during transition. Not many people have that opportunity. I’m definitely a lucky guy,” he said.
Taking advantage of the wide variety of musical styles in Oliver’s songs, Johnson created expressive ballets to convey the emotions of each song and Matherson shaped the production, creating storylines for each of the singers on stage. The show now features a gay male couple, a co-dependent couple who lose themselves in their relationship and a woman who is so desperate to be loved, she looks in all the wrong places.
Matherson underwent a four-month search for his cast of nine actors, singers and dancers. More than 40 performers submitted videos or auditioned in person.
“I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to plan way in advance,” he explained. “We had a great group of people to pick from and I couldn’t be happier.”
After this production, Matherson has an ambitious full season planned at the Wilton Manors theater, including “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” Oct. 6 - 21; “Nine (A Play by Jane Shepard),” Nov. 10 – 18; “The Collector,” March 1 – 24; and the Broadway hit, “Next to Normal,” May 10 – June 3.
“Fear is definitely there,” he said, “but, if it’s not making your heart pump, why do it? As every producer knows, it’s about making sure people get there to see it, but my biggest concern is that everybody who comes in gets a new experience, something unique. I want to make people think.”
Measure for Measure Theatre presents Ryan Scott Oliver’s “35mm: A Musical Exhibition,” with photography by Matthew Murphy, Sept. 15 – 23 at the Abyss Theatre, 2304 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 ($25 students) at MeasureForMeasureTheatre.com.