Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

When You Realize You Know Nothing About Money: Matt Kemple Pt. 4

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Only few years after sending head shots out across the country looking for work as an actor, Matt Kemple has founded Milwaukee Sketch and Improv Festival, become a producer for Pink Banana Theatre and the PR/Marketing Manager for Next Act Theatre. In the final part of the interview, he talks about his move to administrative work.
 
Me:
Your career progression seems to be moving toward the theatre office, is that correct?
 
Matt Kemple: Well, that was a choice. That was a decision. I wanted to actually take a hiatus from working on the stage and focus solely on the administrative, because I got really good at putting a show on and event planning and things like that, especially at Bucketworks. We did everything from wedding receptions to business meetings to theatre to dance—everything. And I got involved . . . if you need chairs set-up in a certain way, I’m your man. Knowing how to handle a large group of people in a small setting and the people flow happens-those are skills that can be really useful, not just in the heater, so I applied all of that to getting married and having my reception. It all goes hand in hand. So I just try to build on everything that I’ve done before. I woke-up and I realized one day that I didn’t really know anything about the money.

Me: [laugh]

Matt Kemple:
And I don’t . . . that really scares me ‘cause I’m really bad with my own money. I don’t want to screw it up for a theatre company. So I really needed to understand how a business works as opposed to just how an event works, because there’s the production side and then there’s the administrative side. And they’re not the same thing. Not even close. So I have the production side down now, that I can do. And if I don’t know how to do something I know who to call to get it done. And working with Next Act has brought that all to such a great level as well. Understanding a truly professional lighting set-up versus using power strips and extension cords. So I really wanted to focus on the administrative side and learn as much as I can about the gears and the oil that make the machine run, not just what the machine looks like in the end. So that was a choice. And I really like it. I didn’t think I would, but you know . . . [in administration] you still have that effect on those audience members, To see somebody walk out of a show and say, “wow, that was amazing! Great job!” As an actor, I always took that so close to heart. And then when somebody said “that was a really cool effect,” I’d think, “wow, I built that 26’ turntable,” or whatever it happened to be. That gave mea sense of pride. So now, having to wear a tie once in a while, having to be on that side of things has opened up a whole different world for me that I didn’t know existed, so to me, it’s just continuing the education. It’s getting better at things I’m not as good at. And making me better at things I already am good at. And I have so much fun while I do that.

Me: How do you split things up between the Sketch Fest and Pink Banana and Next Act?

Matt Kemple: When I’m here I pretty much just have to focus on Next Act as much as possible and they appreciate it.

Me: [laugh]

Matt Kemple: And the Sketchfest I really just have to NOT thin about. I have to condition myself not to think about it, because if I do it takes over. Becauseit’s such  bgi thing. And Pink Banana I pretty much focus on the couple of months before a show and during a show, I really try to put everything I can into it. And then I have to really pull back when it’s kind of a slower season. And that’s why we have Juanita and Rose and all those other people. They really do the bulk of the work and I’m just happy to be a part of their vision.

Me: But at your peak of activity you were doing 16 or 17 shows per year?

Matt Kemple: Yeah, I think it was 16 productions per year, most of which ran multiple weekends. Which is the only reason I think it wasn’t higher. There was a period of time where I had only three days where I wasn’t doing anything the whole year. And that’s when I met Dawn was in that whole period. And that really opened my eyes. Wow. She likes me so much that she will put up with me. That says somethin’.

Tomorrow: Long and ramblin impressionsof the new mainsage show at The Rep

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