This fall, Professor of Theater Matthew Wright directed Everything Is Okay (And Other Helpful Lies), a new “hot mess musical,” written and composed by Melissa Crum and Caitlin Lewins.
Everything Is Okay (And Other Helpful Lies) was written and composed by Melissa Crum andCaitlin Lewins, both Cleveland-based theater artists. The show follows a group of close friends as they discuss their experiences navigating the pressures of adult life.
The plot focuses on many different social issues, including sexuality, gender, race, and—as Wright puts it—“what it means to be grappling with a culture that’s constantly trying to define itself.” To explore these themes, the production integrates a wide variety of musical styles including rock and roll, folk rock, and other contemporary forms.
After three weeks of packed houses at Cleveland Public Theater, members of the cast recorded an original cast album in Cleveland, and Wright came home to Oberlin for a break from professional theater.
At Oberlin, Wright teaches courses including Acting Fundamentals, Voice for the Actor, Advanced Scene Study, and Musical Theater. He explains, “I came to Oberlin, met the students, and decided this was where I wanted to be because of their passionate sense of engagement and because they’re so smart and creative.
‘‘It was really important to me to be teaching students who were really interested in making the world a better place. I’ve now been here for 17 years.”
Wright believes his work in professional theater enhances his teaching at Oberlin. “It’s a definite supplement to me as an individual and artist. I think that I’m able to bring that enthusiasm and that sense of current engagement into my classroom,” he says.
Wright is not Oberlin’s only professor involved in professional theater. In fact, every member of the theater department’s faculty and staff is engaged in professional work in some capacity. For example, Chair of Theater and Professor of Theater and Africana Studies Caroline Jackson Smith directed Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone at Karamu House last year. Associate Professor of Theater and Africana Studies Justin Emeka ’95 recently directed Sweat at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Professor of Theater Paul Moser has been producing the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival for almost a decade.
First-year Katie Kunka attended the production with her parents during this year’s Parents and Family Weekend. “It was a super fun show,” she says. “It was a small ensemble singing about big issues like alcoholism and sexual liberation and loss. It’s pretty cool to see your professor, especially an acting professor, doing real work outside of the classroom.”
Going forward, Wright plans to continue doing professional work in collaboration with his teaching and opening new doors for Oberlin students.