Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 693: Matthew LaBanca

Matthew LaBanca

Hometown: New Fairfield, CT

Current Town: Woodside, NY

Q:  Tell me about Good Enough.

A:  Good Enough is about the anxiety that surfaces when we care too much what other people think. It's something that I've personally struggled with, and when I realized that I wasn't alone in my need for approval from others, I thought it would be a good subject for a show. Showbiz folk or not, people have told me they relate to this problem. They might be getting married to the wrong person out of expectation, or going into credit card debt because they want their wardrobe to turn heads. Or they might buckle under the pressure in an audition room. I think worrying what people think of you affects many of us without even realizing it, and my personal twist on it was a bit of a paradox. I was being so good, so nice, and so ambitious in so many areas of my life, which people tout as a social virtue. But I was still losing. I was trying to avoid judgment and condemnation from others, and giving up my full authenticity in the process. And I finally said to myself, "That's too big a price to pay. I have to be ME!!" I love that this piece allows me to be so truthful. I hope that people might see themselves in me, and realize that embracing your whole self, including your flaws, can create a sense of healing and wholeness.

There are so many firsts for me associated with this project: I'm performing my own writing. In a solo performance. At Theatre Row. In a festival that picked me!! Kira Simring from the cell is my director, and she's so smart and so dedicated to the piece. I'm also working with David Palmer, a lighting/projection designer who is adding a lot of panache to the storytelling.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  This has been a year of creating my own work, and my own opportunities. I started to become a little disillusioned with the business (maybe we all go through phases like that), and thought, "I can't just be about kick-ball-change anymore. I want my work to really say something, to really mean something, and hopefully shift people's thinking, not simply entertain." I wrote a cabaret that I performed in earlier this year, which touches on themes of bullying. It was really well received, and I'd like to do it again. And I'm working to give Good Enough more life beyond United Solo.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I started performing as a little kid. 5 years old. I grew up with a family that had a professional magic act. My Dad is a member of the Society of American Magicians, and everyone in my family was recruited: my mom, my older brother, and me. I think about it now, and it's all just crazy to me!! The grand illusion we did was called the Metamorphosis Trunk, which appeared to be completely empty, but in the blink of an eye, I would appear inside and get hoisted out of the trunk for the show's grand finale, while I waved an American Flag. 5 years old. Talk about applause!! I still have memories of red, white, and blue footlights.

I've had dreams of performing my whole life - but only gave myself permission to call myself an actor after my family saw me perform in a national tour of the King and I, where I went on for the lead. Part of that story is in Good Enough, but I remember being on the bus the next day, looking out the window, and saying to myself, "I am an ACTOR." Almost like I was coming out to myself. I had been performing for almost a year, getting paid for it, but I needed my family's approval to seal the deal so badly. I actually used to be really embarrassed about it, a la, "Why couldn't I make this decision on my own?!!" Good Enough shares the journey I took to detangle my need for approval away from my pure love of the work.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  The pricing. It's outrageous, and makes theatre elitist. Theatre should be, in general, much more accessible to all. One of the things I love about my festival, United Solo, is that tickets are very affordable, around $20.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Good Enough runs for three performances at United Solo: September 22 @ 9pm, October 5 @7:30pm, and October 7 @ 9pm. A few of these shows are almost sold out, so get your tickets ASAP via Telecharge at 212-239-6200. Also, my website is, if you want to read my blog or follow me on social media. Thanks for reading!
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