When STC needed a new play in a hurry, local actor and playwright Matt K. Miller reached for his pen
Sacramento, CA 95814
Actor and author Matt K. Miller didn’t have much time to reflect when he was asked to write his one-man show Fits and Parts: My Life in Stages.
Miller had been scheduled for a role in the Sacramento Theater Company’s April and May production of the farce Noises Off. But that show requires a cast of eight as well as a two-story, rotating set, and by late March STC was running out of financial resources. So artistic director Peggy Shannon turned to Miller—STC’s reliable leading man in both comedies and dramas over the last 10 years—and asked him to “put something together.”
“The way she presented it, it was to be an evening of stories and anecdotes,” drawing on Miller’s career. “I said I’d do it.”
The piece begins in Miller’s high-school days, when he was an avid gymnast and drama student, and then moves on to college, where he began as an astronomy major before the acting bug won out. He discusses his first paid acting job—in dinner theater—followed by professional shows in Chicago and then Los Angeles, where he also did English voice-overs for Japanese anime. Miller ultimately left the Hollywood meat grinder and came north to Sacramento, where he settled into a happy marriage and became a father. His entire biography percolates into the show.
“Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard to write,” Miller said. “I started on a Wednesday night, and by the following Monday, I was done with the first draft—30 pages. I brought it in to show to STC. They really liked it and gave me some notes. So I wrote another draft and showed it to them again. They gave me some more notes, and I did a third draft. That’s pretty much what you see now.”
Miller presents his life in four “stages,” a gentle reference to Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man,” foreshortened because Miller hasn’t aged into the last three stages in the Bard’s sequence. Each performance is followed by a “talkback” session with the audience.
Autobiographical solo shows, leavened with jokes, are popular in Sacramento. Jack Gallagher’s done three pieces in that vein at the B Street Theatre.
“I sort of had Jack’s voice in my head—the easy cadence, the self-deprecating approach,” Miller admitted, though as a working actor, he’s only managed to see one of Gallagher’s shows. Miller confirmed that he did work briefly as a stand-up comic in L.A., though he never did the Johnny Carson show, as Gallagher did.
For most reviewers, perhaps the most pleasant surprise in Miller’s show was that it was so well-written. The man possesses natural storytelling skills and has a way with words, especially when you consider that the show was written on deadline, without time for workshop performances and polishing.
But should we be surprised? Miller is, after all, part Irish (on his mother’s side), so the fondness for wordplay may be hereditary. And he accepts the compliments graciously. “I guess I’ve been writing for about 10 or 15 years, and sold a little bit down in L.A.,” he said. “But until now, nothing had been formally produced.”
He’s also written a play, Beat Aside Apollo’s Arrow, that was read at STC in January. Perhaps we’ll see it staged soon.