Meet the Director: Matthew Campbell
Matt Campbell has been integral to Periwig’s success since he joined the Lawrenceville community in 2008.
Matt Campbell has been integral to Periwig’s success since he joined the Lawrenceville community in 2008. While he is well-known for his role as a teacher and set designer, his work as director of the annual II Form Shakespeare production should also be appreciated.
This year, in the 17th production of II Form Shakespeare, Campbell is directing Titus Andronicus, which is thought to be Shakespeare’s first tragedy. According to Campbell, Titus Andronicus is the perfect archetype of Shakespearean tragedy. “It’s all about anger. This is a gore play. If there was ever a horror story put into a play on stage, this would be it. There’s a lot of blood. There’s a lot of death,” he said.
However, the real reason for choosing Titus Andronicus went far beyond this violence. “In this day and age with the #MeToo movement [...] and difficult conversations around race, this play touches on all of it [...] It makes you realize how important it is to have some values,” said Campbell.
As a director, Campbell brings all those involved in the play together to evoke his ideas and bring them to life for the audience, but his favorite part of the II Form Shakespeare process is actually getting to let go of that role: “Once we get on stage, the students realize that it’s their own show. I bow out, and they realize that they’re in charge of this. At that point, [the show] takes on a different shape,” said Campbell.
Apart from directing, Campbell also designs the play’s set, thus tasking him with releasing the subtext of the play through visual elements. So far, Campbell has incorporated color—black, gray, purple, and red—into his set to reflect the play’s dark overtone. From a design standpoint, he hopes that “when people come in, from the seating, they should be [captivated],” Campbell said.
Overall, Campbell and his team are very excited for the school community to see Titus Andronicus and leave with a new experience. “There’s something about coming to a show that’s meant to say something and move you or shock you—to leave the theater with an experience,” said Campbell. “I’ve been telling all the [II Formers] this year that theater is not a safe space. It’s never a safe space. You should be challenged. The trick is, most people come in with the entertainment idea: ‘I’m coming here to be entertained.’ Theater should jostle you, just a little bit.”