Diversionary Theatre gets a new ‘boss’
By David Dixon
Upon viewing Matt Morrow’s resume on his website, mattmmorrow.com, it is very clear that he is a multitalented artist. Morrow has directed many shows and taught numerous theatre classes in New York City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Just as importantly, Morrow has had a broad range of experience in artistic leadership and management. He was the associate artistic director of City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh and the literary and development director of Amas Musical Theatre in New York City.
A new chapter of Morrow’s career recently began when he was named the executive artistic director of Diversionary Theatre in San Diego in October.
Growing up in Central Florida, Morrow realized he had a passion for drama at a young age.
“Theater kind of saved my life there,” he said. “As an adolescent, I had very little direction … but I had this impulse towards theater. I went to a community theater production and saw the musical, ‘Tom Sawyer,’ and fell in love with the whole experience.”
He is a high school graduate of Lois Cowles Harrison School for the Arts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama at Carnegie Mellon University. Since then, he’s had an extensive career focusing behind the scenes in the world of theatre. “I worked for practically every major off-Broadway theater company in various capacities,” he said. “I assisted-directed, directed, worked as the company manager for ‘Forbidden Broadway’… I did pretty much everything you can do, besides be on the stage.”
Earlier this year, he applied to be the leader of Diversionary.
“It was a really organic process coming to know the Diversionary, the board of directors and the staff,” he said.
One of the main reasons that Morrow is excited for the future of the company, is because the board will be promoting world premieres of up-and-coming playwrights.
“Our focus will be developing and producing new plays and musicals,” Morrow said. “Immersive and site-specific theatrical experiences. That’s one movement happening in the theater that’s really exciting to me.”
A potentially difficult task for any executive artistic director might be attracting theatergoers to see original pieces.
“It’s always a challenge to develop and cultivate audiences to support new work, because it’s supporting the unknown,” he said. “I think that’s going to be somewhat of a [risk], but I look forward to surmounting that challenge.”
Although the thrust might be on original stagings, there will still be revivals of plays focused on the LGBT community in Diversionary’s future.
“There’s definitely space to revisit existing, popular works from the cannon with a new spin, take and perspective,” he said. “I’m not necessarily interested in doing a straightforward revival of a piece. That’s not to say I won’t ever do that, because I think there’s room for it all.”
Morrow has high hopes for the continuing growth of the theater.
“I do think Diversionary should become known as a nationally recognized home that develops and produces exciting LGBT works,” he said. “I want us to be known for being a very fertile ground where LGBT writers from around the world can come and work. Where they can come and find a creative home.”
When asked about increasing attendance at the Diversionary, he replied by saying “by doing more of the same.”
When it comes to increasing attendance at Diversionary, Morrow thinks the group should keep on doing what they are doing.
“I feel the staff has a wonderful attitude with the patrons,” he said. “The attitude is once you know us, you’re gonna come back. It’s just getting them in the door the first time. Once people experience our work, I think they fall in love. We produce quality work in a very loving atmosphere, which I believe is contagious.”
Morrow had even more to add about why he thinks people should give the Diversionary a try.
“Because it’s good and because it’s exciting,” he said. “That sort of sums up where we are with Diversionary right now. I can promise a great time that they will carry with them for the rest of the week, if not month, if not year.”
Currently being staged at Diversionary through Dec. 21 is “Tru,” the 1989 play based on Truman Capote’s words and works.
For more about Diversionary, visit diversionarytheatre.org.
—A fan of film and theatre from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications and is currently a student at San Diego State. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.