Nature & Purpose” is a play that enjoyed a successful run on America’s West Coast and is now coming to NYC in January of 2019. The play explores the concept of art through the eyes of two famed creators: abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and performance artist Chris Burden. The play features music and striking visuals and stars writer and director Matthew Marcum.

Matthew discussed this play, his career, theater, and more via an exclusive interview on December 21, 2018.

Writing, directing, acting and ideas

Meagan Meehan (Q): How did you get into acting, writing and directing and why did the theater in particular appeal to you so much?

Matthew Marcum (MM): I've been performing since I was a kid, so I don't really remember a point in my life where I wasn't on stage.

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I'm not what you would call a traditional actor - I do act and have had the privilege to be part of some amazing productions but my primary focus has always been on creating original work, so in that regard the theater for me has always been a place of endless possibilities whether it was writing, or directing, or performing myself. For me, it's always been a laboratory for the human condition, a place to personify reality and push past the ordinary. I prefer live performance to film and tv because that's where the magic happens.

It's the connection that is made, the energy that transpires, the effort that is projected - it really is a beautiful thing.

Q: Which talent came first and how did you come up with the idea to write, direct, and star in “Nature & Purpose”?

MM: I would consider myself a vocalist first then a writer, followed by the creative director. Nature and Purpose is actually the name of a double bill I'm sharing with another fantastic show called A Beast/A Burden. My show Pollock: A Frequency Parable is a vocal performance piece that combines experimental vocals, and monologued collages of Jackson Pollock quotes with abstract visual projections, rave lighting, and an eclectic musical soundtrack.

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The idea for Pollock came about when I was working on an experimental vocal project while researching Jackson Pollock for a more straight-forward bio piece that I was developing at the time. I discovered the techniques that Pollock used in his paintings were musical in nature and could be utilized vocally. So, in working with his ideas of improvisation, scale, tone, frequency, and abstraction, my goal was to free the voice from the confines of representation and definition, in the same way, that Pollock did in his paintings.

Allowing the audience to experience the performance as they would a piece of modern art.

Q: Are you a big fan of art and why did you select these two specific artists?

MM: I am. I prefer modern art and contemporary artists. I'm impressed by innovation and experimentation. I chose Jackson Pollock for that reason. I think both Pollock and Burden exemplify those qualities in their work. They were both radical risk takers, and complicated individuals, who really did stay true to an instinct that made them as infamous as they are iconic.

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Q: This play was successful on the west coast, so do you think east coast audiences will respond similarly?

MM: I hope so. We've had really great responses from audiences across the country. So, we're looking forward to the opportunity to introduce it to an Off-Broadway audience. The show has something for everyone, it's universal in its themes about looking deeper to find meaning and that art like life should be appreciated and enjoyed - that's a paraphrase of a Pollock quote from the show - but it holds true for what we want to give the audience.

Abstract art, performance art, and theatrical projects

Q: This play discusses the abstract nature of art—do you think that goes double for theatrical performance art?

MM: I think so. I always say that performance art is to theatre what Rock and Roll is to the Symphony. One appreciates virtuosity, and one appreciates audacity. There's room for both; I don't view it as mutually exclusive. I consider myself a performance artist that can be a theatre maker, a musician, or a visual artist if the work calls for that. For me it's about what is the best vehicle to present a concept or an idea, and how can I make that happen.

Q: What do you hope audiences get from “Nature & Purpose”?

MM: I hope they walk away feeling like they've seen something new and exciting. Maybe it's an introduction for them to explore the work of Pollock and Burden or other performance artists who made some kind of fascinating work. Hopefully, they're inspired to make fascinating work themselves.

Q: What are your favorite kinds of characters to play and what other theatrical projects are you working on that you might like to mention?

MM: I always look for the heart in any kind of material I am working with. What's the pulse, what makes it beat, how does it fuel the action taking place, how does it make us feel? We have so much in store for 2019 on multiple fronts! Check out “The Unconventional Vampire” website to see what we've been up to.