Exit Interview: APT’s Matt Schwader Exits, Stage West

Exit Interview: APT’s Matt Schwader Exits, Stage West
Don't be surprised to see Schwader, seen here playing Tristan Tzara in 'Travesties,' sititng in the audience for future APT seasons.

Stage Write normally reserves its Exit Interviews for the artistic directors of local theater companies who’ve just completed their seasons, giving them a chance to talk about what went well and what could have used a timely re-do. But when the area’s biggest company—that’d be American Players Theatre—says goodbye to one of its biggest core-company stars—that’d be Matt Schwader—we’re going to make an exception.

APT Schwader’s departure this week alongside its unveiling of the company’s 2015 season. The parting’s not even remotely acrimonious: Schwader and his wife, actress Hillary Clemens, will head from their current home in Chicago to Seattle to start a family and pursue artistic opportunities tied to friend and A Contemporary Theatre associate artistic director John Langs, who’s been a regular on APT’s go-to director’s list the past few years. Before the curtain closes on Schwader’s first act in Wisconsin, we caught up with him and asked him to reflect a little on his seven years spent in Spring Green.

What Worked Well
Maybe it’s because he was caught off-guard by the question, but Schwader declined to name a favorite onstage APT role, despite the fact that he has a ton of possibilities from which to choose: Hamlet, Prince Hal, King Henry V, Jack Worthing. Instead, he picked a different role altogether: Anonymous audience spectator.

“One thing I really love about APT is you get to walk down the hill with the audience after the show, and they don’t always know who you are,” says Schwader. “I love to listen to people, especially young children, talking about what they liked about the show which roles they were drawn to. It reminds me of what I was like when I was a kid and doing that same thing.”

Gimme a Do-Over
Most audiences thought Schwader nailed it when he played the young and wayward Prince Hal in APT’s Henry IV: The Making of A King cycle in 2008.

Not Schwader.

“When I played Hal in the Henry IVs, it was my first year as an official core company member,” he recalls. “I was so paranoid and scared that they thought they’d made a mistake in hiring me. I regret that I didn’t enjoy myself more in that role. He was supposed to be a more playful and happy character.”

A year, as it turns out, made all the difference.

“When I played Henry V, I threw caution to the wind and just went after it,” he says. “I was much more comfortable at that point.”  

And finally, we have to ask the million-dollar question: Does Schwader think he’ll return to Spring Green again? Definitely, he says. Just maybe not as an actor.

“I am first and foremost an audience member of APT, and I have been since I was fourteen years old,” he says. “So you’ll definitely find me back in the seats at some point.”

You may also find him in the classroom. This fall, Schwader’s been teaching classes as a visiting artist at –UWParkside, and it looks like something he may try to continue in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’ve really found a passion for teaching, and I want to see where that leads me,” he says.