Deep Dive into Theater with Matt Benton
Asia Society at Home
Discover your newest binge and get to know our staff a little better with the Asia Society Texas Center team's favorite ways to stay entertained indoors! With our Deep Dives we take you on a journey into the obsessions of individual staff members for an in-depth look at a specific art form or cultural production.
Matt Benton is the Manager of Special Events and Stewardship at Asia Society Texas Center. He graduated from Baylor University (BFA) and UCLA (MFA) with concentrations in Theatre Performance and is currently working towards completing his MBA at the University of St. Thomas. Matt is a doting husband to his wife, Emily and a father to the "most-handsome-little-boy-in-the-whole-wide-world" (his words) and thoroughly enjoys all the things that come along with being a new dad!
A note on new explorations of my long-time love of theater
I’ve always loved studying the human condition through theater and performance. It’s very much a part of my identity and what helps me to contextualize the world around me. My time at Asia Society Texas Center has provided new points of exposure and afforded me an opportunity to dig deeper into Asian American stories through theater. I hope these explorations of mine inspire and excite you as much as they do me!
What I am currently enjoying
For years, I have been a massive fan of David Henry Hwang and his work as a playwright. So, it came as no surprise to me when his new play-within-a-musical Soft Power opened to rave reviews at the off-Broadway Public Theater, this past fall. The play starts off as a comedy taking place in Los Angeles directly after the 2016 presidential election and flips the script on the popular musical The King and I. It challenges its audience to examine the constructs of cultural appropriation and racial identity, as well as our commitment to democracy. This large/hilarious/ambitious show is fascinating — the composition, book, and performances are top-tier and a true joy to listen to!
Find it on: Spotify (Original Cast Recording)
The work that I find myself returning to again and again
When I entered the world of performance poetry at the tender age of 14, I found out about Beau Sia. From that point on I started following, reading, watching, and listening to the vast majority of everything he performed. Beau is a wonderful poet, actor, and comedian — and while this isn't centered on the theater specifically, I'd be remiss not to mention his talents. He is biting, eloquent, fast, and funny. the second you try to catch your breath, he's already moved on to the next punchline. Don't blink, he's that good. For instance, how about his ode to what we think is just a month of Asian Pacific American Heritage celebration?
If you have a moment to sneak away and want to discover some of Beau's saltier pieces, then enjoy YouTubing his performances on Def Poetry Jam from the early 2000s (please note this video involves adult language and jokes). Or, if you want to know what happens when vulnerable writing meets heartbreaking performance, watch Memory Sucks and thank me later.
Projects that I am looking forward to
While I can't always go out to see shows live, particularly these days, I adapt by reading the plays, virtually attending livestreams, and following the life of productions through critic reviews.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the universe of live theater on hold for the time being, and companies all over the world are feeling it. In New York, the upcoming spring season was to feature many wonderful Asian-focused productions that are now on a temporary hiatus. Some of the productions included a look into the messy family dynamics that ensue during cross-cultural adoption in SOHO Rep's Wolf Play by Hansol Jung. Another promising play in the works was Lincoln Center Theater (LCT3)'s production of The Headlands by Christopher Chen. This play takes on a mixed-media look and a contemporary noir theme as it follows the main character through a maze of childhood memories that help to unlock questions and root out the truth of his past. These exciting productions will most definitely see the audiences once again — I'm sure of it!
An artist that excites me is
I have just recently become a huge cheerleader for Ma-Yi Theater Company. This award-winning professional organization has been around since 1989 with a mission to develop and produce new and innovative plays by Asian American writers. They have become one of the leading incubators of new works that help to shape local and national conversations about what it means to be Asian American today. During the age of social-distancing, they have been making pathways towards remaining viable by producing livestreams of new plays and readings. Their work is exciting, and I am an avid champion of what they're doing in this space to increase cross-cultural dialogue and telling the important stories that need to be told.
Find it on: Ma-Yi Theater Company's website
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and United Airlines, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor of Education & Outreach; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.
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