Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 222 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. In this episode I will be talking to actor, composer Mateo Lewis.

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As I mentioned, my guest is actor composer writer Mateo Lewis. I spoke to Mateo this past summer just after his musical Boys Don’t Cry closed, its run at the Toronto fringe.

Mateo Lewis
It’s been it’s been a really awesome summer.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, you had a show in the Toronto fringe so that’s gonna be that’s gonna be that’s a decent start to a summer crazy.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. And that wasn’t even the start of it. Because before that I was I did a like writers intensive for for for a couple weeks with a group of bunch of young people just kind of want to write musicals and Wow just got together in the basement and like spent a week just like writing and sharing our stuff with each other and, and then after that I was in a production of the secret garden at the factory theatre. And then I had friends. And then the day after fringe closed, I flew to Timmins, Ontario of all places to music director production of bye, bye, birdie

Phil Rickaby
oh fuck Yeah. That’s quite the summer

Mateo Lewis
And then, so August, August has just been kind of chilling.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I guess. Yeah. Well earned. It sounds like

Mateo Lewis
yeah, it’s so but it’s been all the best things ever.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, I mean, when it’s, you know, it’s good to be super busy, especially if you enjoy that thing that you’re doing.

That’s that things I sort of made to do you know,

Mateo Lewis
Exactly.

Phil Rickaby
So you were at the fringe you’re doing boys don’t cry.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Which is not based on the movie.

Mateo Lewis
No, it’s not.

Phil Rickaby
So I mean, I so I had that thing during fringe where you start out really strong, not just performing your show, but Seeing as many shows as possible. Yeah, I hit 17 shows and said, I’m done. I can’t do it because my brain was gone. So I didn’t get to see your show. So can you tell me a little bit about about Boys Don’t Cry?

Mateo Lewis
Sure. So it’s a, it’s a musical about this family. So there’s, there’s the, the main character kind of is this 17 year old kid, his name is Jaden. And his older brother went to the same school, graduated a few years before, was like a big soccer star at the school. Their father was a professional soccer player before he died. So now he’s in this high school soccer team, right? And kind of just following the same path as his dad and his brother in terms of like, get the scholarship, go to the school, study, whatever, who cares. Get a professional soccer gig play for two years, and then be set for life.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
That’s his kind of trajectory, and he’s good at it, but he doesn’t. He’s not as good as his dad and his brother were and everyone kind of gives him more opportunities than he’s kind of earned because of who he is and not because of what he can actually do. So he feels a little bit kind of out of place and a little bit like he’s just faking his way through. And, and the other thing that’s happening is that their dad died three years ago. And so they’re all kind of struggling to deal with the kind of leftovers of their dad’s attitude towards thing, okay. Because their dad was always kind of very, like, boys don’t cry and man up and be tougher and I don’t want to see you wearing pink like that kind of dad like, Oh, you scraped your knee like boohoo, suck it up, rub the dirt in and keep going right kind of dad.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And he was like in the army. So, then, so that’s kind of the setup. And then it all takes off when there’s this new girl at school who’s like this badass feminist who kind of takes an interest in Jaden because she sees that he’s kind of like, keeps to himself and doesn’t really fit in with his like jock culture that he that he kind of is thrown into. So, she finds this book of poems that he’s written, that he’s never told anyone that he’s written this book of poems. And so she basically convinces him to submit it to a poetry contest. And, and he and gives them the confidence basically to quit the team. And then that like, pisses his family off.

Phil Rickaby
Okay,

Mateo Lewis
basically, and it’s them kind of dealing with not living up to the expectations set by the men who came before us. And maybe those expectations aren’t necessarily. Really the expectations that we need to be needing?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. So where did where where did all of this come from? Where did you Where was the inspiration for, for writing this?

Mateo Lewis
Well, okay, so I’ve always toxic masculinity has always been, like, my go to party topic, you know, I it’s my favourite thing to talk about because it’s obviously it’s very like for myself and for the kind of person that I am like, I’m not a six foot five jock you know, I’m very what what some might refer to as effeminate and a lot of ways and, and I’ve always been that way and I’ve always liked that about myself and, and I’ve seen a lot of people you know, get hurt by these expectations of, of how you’re supposed to behave as a as a man, you know, and I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt, because they have those expectations of the men in their lives that that men are going to hurt you, that then when the men in their lives do hurt them. They’re like, well, what can I do?

you know, this is just the way it is. And, and they, they accept that. So, so that has always been something that I am very, very passionate about and is very, very personal to who I am and what makes me different from most people. Sure. And so I knew that’s what I wanted to write about. Okay, yeah. And, and the story kind of evolved out of it originally was going to be like kind of a song cycle format with like four guys who, who are who each come out and have solo songs, right? And it’s actually the same person in four different kind of stages of life.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Okay.

Mateo Lewis
And then slowly I started expanding each one of the stories then one of the stories disappeared. And the other three I started expanding. So I had like him as a kid, and then him and as a teenager, right and then him as a as an adult. And then I decided to stop caring about him as an adult and focus on the teenager. And then, and then that’s kind of what you see, because you have still the remnants of that younger version of the story because there’s this, the younger version of him comes out and through like diary entries, we see kind of his relationship, what his relationship was with his father, when his father was alive. So those two stories have stayed.

Phil Rickaby
And did you did you write the music in the book in the lyrics and the

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. Oh, the whole the whole shebang!

Phil Rickaby
How long did it How long? How long? What was the writing process? Like how long did it take?

Mateo Lewis
I wrote most of the songs for the for when it was going to be a quote unquote, song cycle. And then as I started writing the script, you know, the songs evolved and fit kind of slotted into to were in the story I thought they were coming from as they started writing the actual story around them and not just the song snapshot moment?

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
Because it was originally going to be a very last five years kind of thing. You know, like these, these are snapshots from the story. So then as I started writing the story around it I also have written writing songs forever but I’ve never written a script for anything before. So that was the that was the hard part.

Phil Rickaby
Where did Where did you turn for that? What did you What did you do for that? Did you just just writ or

Mateo Lewis
like yeah, I I drew a lot from kind of my own life in my own relationships with my parents in high school. And I got I had I could never have done it if I didn’t have so many amazing intelligent people right to bounce ideas off of you know, we had a table read last year. So not – like June 2018.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
Because we were workshopping it in August of 2018.

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Mateo Lewis
And so we had a table read in June. And it was like just a disaster. And I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what exactly I was trying to do. And everyone was like, the songs are great. You need to figure out what the hell you’re trying to say. You know, and –

Phil Rickaby
so when you say was a disaster wasn’t that the read like the situation of the read? It was like this early draft that was like, not going well.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, yeah, this The script was just and I knew it to going into it. I just kind of like I was trying to say too many different things where I was trying to, I was trying to take too many different tones. I was just kind of throwing crap at the wall and seeing what sticks, which is a good way to start writing and, and, but but from there, I had this shell that was terrible and made no sense. But then from that shell I could slowly start to so that Shell has written remained pretty much entirely intact. But just evolved.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. I mean, the… it’s important. They get to be that messy early on, right?

Mateo Lewis
Like, yeah, it’s I didn’t invite like the industry professionals.

Phil Rickaby
Oh my god. One of the earliest writing lessons that I learned was that that, like your first draft is probably gonna suck. And in fact, it’s supposed to, because that’s where you like vomit all of your unformed ideas, and then you have to try to fix them, right. You have to try to give them shape. But the first drop –

Mateo Lewis
Matt Murray once said to me, yeah, he said, the first draft is, is telling yourself the story. Nobody else.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And then Neil Gaiman said, the second draft is the art of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah. Stephen King said write the first draft for the door closed. And your second draft with the door open.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
So that you you know, you don’t share that first draft. But the second draft is like something that people can read. And they like they can look at

Mateo Lewis
And I think I think I made the mistake of sharing the first draft, but I’m kind of glad that I did. Because even though it was a flop, and everyone was confused and angry, at the end of it, everyone was like, why did I spend two hours reading this? You know, the songs are great, but oh, my God, which which is true. I mean, I think any reading of a first draft will have that reaction. But an even though that was the reaction, I got. That wasn’t necessarily discouraging, because I knew that I was kind of taking a risk by sharing such an early draft, but I also didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in for the next draft. So I needed that feedback. And –

Phil Rickaby
Sometimes you do sometimes and sometimes you need to number one to hear it. And also just to get feedback from people you trust. Right?

Mateo Lewis
Exactly, exactly. And I’m so and I’m so glad that I had like the people in that room that I that I had, you know, people who I’m very close with and who I knew wouldn’t like judge me, but I also knew would be honest with me and like if, because if I had put up that draft and then everyone had been like, wow, great job, then I would never have gotten to where I am now.

Phil Rickaby
Yes, yeah.

Mateo Lewis
So yeah, so I’m, I’m very I’m very grateful for the honesty.

Phil Rickaby
Did you always know that you want to get it in the fringe or was that just like a way of getting –

Mateo Lewis
No, yeah, that was a it was at the end of the workshop. I didn’t really – I was kind of doing the workshop last summer as a as a kind of test for myself just as a as an experience to write a thing and put it up somewhere. and Because before that anything I’d ever written was was a very like small scale like either I just like recorded the songs, or I like I put on a, like mini production of it in my basement with my friends. I

Phil Rickaby
yeah.

Mateo Lewis
But so so it was just for the experience of it that I that I kind of wanted to do that last summer. And then it kind of went really well last summer because what we did was we had the Red Sandcastle Theatre. Yeah. And we had it for all of August. We did shows on the weekends, and then rewrites during the week.

Phil Rickaby
Oh, wow. Okay.

Mateo Lewis
Which was, I mean, that’s just the way it worked out because the theatre was available in the weekends. Yeah, but that was the best thing that’s ever happened to that show like, and it’s like anyone anyone out there who’s like recording – who’s who’s writing a show. Like that’s what you gotta do. You gotta put it on its feet. Rewrite, put it on its feet rewrite and that process because you learn so much from see having the audience in front of it. Yeah. But you don’t – you can’t apply that knowledge. If you don’t then have another audience in front of it then, you know, so yeah, that development was so good. And and because it was so – it felt so – like it felt like I knew of track I was seeing what audiences were responding to what they weren’t and we were adding songs and changing songs and I had a cast of brilliant people just kind of took it and ran with it, which is also what you need to have your own process like that, you know, shout out to Cailan Bodnar, Aiden Bushey, Peter Mundell, Ryan Hooper and Grace Rocket.

Phil Rickaby
Nice

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
What and so when it did get it did you get in o the lottery or were you a waiting list or –

Mateo Lewis
So, yeah, we got in the lottery for the for the teen. The teen quote/unquote category. Yeah, so when that came out, That was that was a weird thing that because I, I didn’t really plan for it but people that said like, Oh, you know, you should submit to this lottery with the show and then if you get picked then you can workshop it more and and if not, then you move on to the next project and whatever. So I was like oh yeah, all right, well, I’m sure. So, you know, I put my little little submission in and then I kind of forgot about it. And I was in school and I- so, so I was in my first semester of second year. And second year, you know, I’m at Sheridan right now and in the music theatre programme there, and they really they really turn the crank up on you and second year like yeah, it was such a hard year like academically to get through. And then on top of that, that was when the whole Dear E van Hansen auditions, were going on.

Phil Rickaby
Okay. Okay.

Mateo Lewis
So I was in that process for like three months as well. And it was on the day, I found out that they had cast the show was the day that I found out that my, that my show is in the Fringe. That is like, thing. Like it’s like if that’s not proof that things are meant to be or nothing is Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
So what was how did you react to finding out that you were going to be doing this at the fringe?

Mateo Lewis
Um, I honestly had like, no reaction. I was just sitting there and I was I looked at it and I was like, Oh, you just didn’t it didn’t process to me in any way, shape or form. still kind of hasn’t.

Phil Rickaby
I was gonna ask if I really were you suddenly realised Oh, yeah my show is in the fringe.

Mateo Lewis
When we it was when we had audition. Yeah. And there were people who came into audition, who I’ve seen on professional stages, like, and they were in my audition room, you know, and singing my songs. Yeah. Like, it was, like, that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen. Like these people who I worship, you know, are like, learning my material.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
You know, that’s so it was such a it was also such a, like, affirming experience to be on the other side of another on of an audition table as someone who’s a performer usually right to see people come in and, and you really you know, you don’t realise when you’re the one auditioning, but you walk out of that audition and you’re like, Oh my god, I was so nervous. I bet they could tell that I was so nervous. And it’s like, yeah, they can. But yeah, every single person who comes in that room is super nervous.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, it’s you learn so much when you’re like, on that on that side of the table, things that you never knew.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
I remember the first time that I was on that side of the table during auditions and watching people going in going on and realising how quickly I was like, “No”.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Like somebody walks in. You’re like, “no”.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And and and describing and the people who But that’s not fair. You’re like, Yeah, but you just know, you know

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, I know. Yeah, hundred percent. And the thing is the other thing is that there were so many I wishes, you know, when people walked in, and they blew my mind. Yeah. And I was just like, I want this to work so bad. This person is just like, so amazing and enchanting. But I just just not for this part. Yeah. And there were so many people like that, who came to the auditions, who I was like, You are amazing. I would kill to work with you. In another role.

Phil Rickaby
It’s so – it’s so hard though. Right? That’s really –

Mateo Lewis
That’s so hard to have to say no.

Phil Rickaby
Yes.

Mateo Lewis
To those people.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. It’s like, that was that was something I wasn’t- I wasn’t expecting.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
I didn’t realise how much that happens.

Phil Rickaby
The other thing that I didn’t realise was, how hard it is to keep track of people who are good.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
right there, the you’ll you’ll find there’s like the people who blow your mind. You’re like those. There’s very few of those. Yeah, the people who are terrible. And you unfortunately remember them with absolute clarity. Yeah. And everybody who’s good that you could cast you sitting around after a day of auditions. So I was like, what about this person? Like, I don’t even know – where they here? I don’t know who this person is, like, just so just so many people become a blur and so hard and it’s not. It’s not them. It’s like just so many people coming through. It’s so hard.

Mateo Lewis
When and the other thing that I feel anything that made it so difficult was how, like, how different everyone, because it’s a new show too, like people, like unless they saw the workshop at the Red Sandcastle, which 99.9% of the people auditioning hadn’t

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
You know, they’ve never seen the material before. They’ve never seen anyone do it before. They never heard the songs before. So they’re coming in completely fresh bringing their own take to it. And, and someone once said to me, like 90% of directing is casting.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And I was like that doesn’t – like, Who cares? Like, as long as you have the right people like then you have to direct them. Right is what I thought.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
But then I didn’t realise how much casting is an artistic decision, as opposed to a screening process. Yeah, you know, it’s not who’s the best. It’s really what kind of person do I want? You know, because there were some people who came in for Roseanne Yeah, who’s the the main girl in the show, kind of sets the whole thing into motion, and she needs to be – She’s the only character in this show who knows what the hell’s going on. She’s got a head on her shoulders when everyone else is going crazy. And she basically she doesn’t sing much until the end of like this quote/unquote. second act, ’cause its a one act, but the second part of the show, and then she has these two big songs back to back where she like affirms Jaden. And like tears down his, like super macho, asshole older brother. Yeah. And so these two songs are both huge moments and need to be so strong because both of these guys need to completely, like change their mindsets based on what this one person is saying to them, that opens their eyes.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
And it needs to happen that quickly because we’re in a 60 minute show.

Phil Rickaby
Yes.

Mateo Lewis
So, so, like seeing people sing those songs, like it was so it was so hard to be like, what version of this song is going to be the most effective? Yeah, you know, it was really tough.

Phil Rickaby
It’s interesting because you know, during a brand new show when people come in to audition for have not been infected by a Broadway soundtrack.

Mateo Lewis
Exactly, exactly

Phil Rickaby
They they are completely fresh. They have not heard it before. And so they’re not trying to sound like somebody else.

Mateo Lewis
And so you get so many different versions that are so different from each other. And if people singing completely different styles of vocal production, like yeah, like you have people coming in and singing it classically or full belting the entire thing. Yeah, like, whereas if there’s a Broadway cast recording, you’re like, Okay, well Idina Menzel belt with the high F in Defying Gravity so I should call the belt the high F in Deyfing Gravity and you’re not gonna head voice it you know you have people come in and head voice the stuff if you’re like, Oh, I kind of like it head voice.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Does that work? It was it wasn’t written to be had voice does that work? like that kind of thing? There’s so many different options. Everyone brings something completely different because there’s no template to work from.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Um, what was your Fringe experience like? Did you like –

Mateo Lewis
Oh my god, it was the coolest thing that ever happened to me. It was so amazing. I so we rehearsed for basically two weeks, full time, right leading up to it. The cast – five people in the cast. Then we had our stage manager, Maxine, who I go to school with. And Chris Wilson who directed so it was these seven people basically in a room for two weeks leading up to it, and it was the most amazing group of people. Like I most of these people had never been in a room with each other before the first table read like, like one of them – We had cast someone to play Brock, the older brother, who then booked a gig at the stevensville Festival over the summer, so we had to last minute find a new Brock

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
I had seen Carson play Gabe in Next to Normal at Scarborough Music Theatre, which was a fantastic production by the way, shout out Scarborough Music Theatre, they always kill it. And so I’d seen him do that. And like he had never met me. He had no idea who I was. So I just sent him an email and I was like, Hey, would you be interested in reading for this part?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And he was like, Yeah, why not? Yeah. And so, so he came to the table read and he had never seen the material before. Like, he had never, he he had sung, like 32 bars for the audition, and then done one scene and I watched the videos and I was like, Oh, my God, he’s perfect. Yeah, the like the, the scene at the end where Brock kind of apologises to his brother and but it’s, he’s a he’s a macho dude. So it’s not like

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
gushy gushy, I’m so sorry. Will you ever forgive me? It’s like, yeah, like, what I said she was like,not cool, I guess you know. And the way that he the way that he kind of did that So, like it was so hard for him to say but yes, but he he did mean it.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
That is a balance that was so hard to find. And he got it right away. So as soon as I saw him do those, like 30 seconds of the scene, and I’d seen his sing in Next to Normal, so it’s like, Okay, this guy’s got a fantastic instrument. I don’t even watch the video of him singing the song like, he’s, he’s our guy.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And so he came to the table read without having like, seen any of the material, sang one of the songs once from some random 20 year old kid he had never met before,

Right.

So he was like, I have no idea what I’m getting myself into. Right? Because, because because you never know. Yeah, like, so he walks in and he and he does this table read, and he’s like on fire and he’s just clicking with the cast like so well, and everyone who like like Sarah and Aveleigh, who played the mom and then Roseanne respectively, like they hadn’t met each other very briefly once to like sign the agreement. For the like, the festival waiver and whatever with the equity. And so like, but like that table read just crackled.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Because these people’s personalities were just so on board and then exactly the moments that I wasn’t sure about, you know, either got, like, particularly singled out as as being noticeably working by the cast and they like, like the moment where Roseanne asks Jayen out. I was like, I don’t know how much I buy her actually, like, wanting to engage in a romantic relationship like this, but so I was worried about that. But then everyone in the table read was like, oh, wow, you set that up so well. And I’m like, Oh, okay. You know , those moments? Yeah. And then the moments that I wasn’t sure about that. Other people said. This is confusing to me, I think this.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
I was like, Oh my God, that’s a problem that I’ve been having that I didn’t know how to fix.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And now you notice the same problem I did. We’re on the same wave. Yeah. And then you brought a solution forward that from your unique perspective, like I obviously am not a mother of teenagers, but Sarah Stahmer –

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
Who played the mother of teenagers is a mother is the mother of teenagers. She had so much perspective on what it means to be a mom that I obviously only know from observing my mom, sure, you know, and have never lived.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And so she was able to bring a lot to that character, because that was obviously the character that was the furthest outside of like the realm of what I have experienced. Because the other characters were high school kids and then a little boy whose diary entries, right, almost word for word, my diary.

Phil Rickaby
So you mentioned that you always – You were always writing music.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
When did that when do you When did that start for you? And also like we always writing music for musicals?

Mateo Lewis
Well, okay, so on, on October 4 2003, my grandparents took me to see the Lion King. At the Princess of Wales,

Phil Rickaby
How old were you?

Mateo Lewis
I was four.

And I so, and they were like a little bit nervous about a four year old sitting through a, like a three hour show. Yeah. But I sat there, but they knew I like the movie. So they brought me and I sat there for four hours. And in Act Two, so at the end of Act One, I was like, I’m doing this for the rest of my life. Like, no ifs, ands, or buts, this is what I’m doing forever. And they were like, okay, like you’re four That’s cute.

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Sure.

Mateo Lewis
And then Act Two happen. It started and the guy playing Simba had to call out halfway through the show, and I remember it so clearly. I was four years old, but he had to call out and then so there was a 15 minute longer intermission than there was supposed to be. And then a new guy came out to cover Simba. And so my grandparents had to explain to me like, well, like, this is live theatre. This is what happens is you never know what’s gonna go wrong. Sometimes someone gets sick and then they have someone else who knows the part fill in at the last minute. I was like What? That’s awesome, oh, like, like I just just the way that it works

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
The way that it it. It’s live and you never know what’s gonna happen.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Like, that’s that was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me in four years of being alive.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
So I knew write that in there musical theatre was my thing,

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Mateo Lewis
And you know I always kind of been like singing songs as a kid that I would like make up like, as two year old I would like sing Little Mermaid songs then I would transition seamlessly into singing a song I wrote about a table. And my mom would be like, Oh, what’s that song called? And I’d be like, it’s called table and I meant table, you know, but that was like, yeah, that’s what always been I’ve always just been seeing songs and they’ve gradually grow more and more complex to including more than one word.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And so the first time I really like sat down to write musical or music for a musical and actually intentionally wrote something down. was um, I was in kids production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Mateo Lewis
When I was 10. Nope, I was 11.

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Mateo Lewis
And I played George, the best man. And the writers of the show, and the original like Robert Martin and Janet van der Graaf came to see the show. And they had to talk back after about the process of writing a musical and there’s there’s a line in the show about- There’s a line in the show where the the Man in Chair says, oh, dancers are are these these gangsters were dancers, which is not particularly intimidating unless you find dancers intimidating, which I do, but for reasons that would not be appropriate to the situation. And so they mentioned in what in their talk back that everything the Man in Chair says is something that they kind of believe or have thought about. And so I I put up my hand and I was like, so why do you find dancers intimidating? And, and they were like, “well, I could never do that. I could never do half the things they could do. And they’re stronger than me and faster than me.” And I just like I thought that was so cool how their own lives were put into this thing that that I had now spent months with and learned and put on stage and this was someone putting pieces of themselves into these words that I that I now knew so well, but I had never even met them.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Mateo Lewis
Like, I thought that there was something so cool about that. So I went home, I said to my same my same two grandparents. I said, I’m gonna write a musical. And they’re like, Okay, what do you want to write it about? And I was like, I don’t know. I think maybe I want to write a musical about a guy who invents a machine that lets him fly, and then pitches it to a fair, I’ll probably said it in the Middle Ages. I guess it was probably studying Leonardo da Vinci at school or something, and I was like, and and so he pitches to this like fair of inventions. And he wins this prize of gold. But then his idea gets stolen by the guy who runs the Fair. And then the guy who runs the fair gets like the patent for it, which I had no idea what that meant. But so so I started writing this show, which I called “Wings”. And I like and so my grandparents were like, okay, you should like, map it out like the storyline and where you want the songs to come in. And so I did that and I was like, okay, so he’s he grows up on this farm. He’s stuck on this farm so I’m gonna put a song called stuck here. And then gradually, like, I went through the outline of the story, and I’m off to these songs in and I still have somewhere on my computer, all the songs that are that are not good. But, but kind of as a as a 20 year old looking back at me writing things and I’m 10 the things that are My voice quote/unquote like that i habits that I still have as a songwriter. You can see in these like very primitive, interesting Kids Songs. It’s been really fascinating to go back and look at that and that material because I wrote all out all the sheet music for everything is. So that was that was my first musical when I was 10.

Phil Rickaby
Were you I mean, you sort of made the decision about what you were going to do when you were four.

Mateo Lewis
Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby
Did anybody ever try to talk you out of it? Because you know, this is –

Mateo Lewis
Did anyone ever just out of it?

Phil Rickaby

  • Not a not a not a particularly lucrative one.

Mateo Lewis
No, yeah. Not lucrative, not secure. Yeah, my parents have always been very supportive of a career in the arts, provided that I have the – I keep my options open is the thing they always say, you know, don’t close doors, they always say

Phil Rickaby
Sure.

Mateo Lewis
So like throughout high school, they were like they sent me to ESA – Etobicoke School of the Arts for for music theatre. So, so they knew they knew that I was serious about it.

Phil Rickaby
Right.

Right.

Mateo Lewis
And they’ve always, like, enrolled me in theatre programmes from when I was really, really little, and, you know, vocal lessons and music lessons and, and that kind of thing, because they saw that that was where I, like, you know, where I could thrive and where I was passionate. And they also enrolled me in soccer, and they saw that I did not thrive there, and I was not happy. And, and so, so they always, they always were very good about like, kind of, I’m going to force you to try everything. And then I’m going to get you to – I’m going to see what you gravitate towards what you love. And then I’m going to force you to work hard and the things that you do love

So they, they did always, always maintain a standard with me of like, if you want to do theatre, you can’t just do it like for fun.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Or – or you can do it for fun on the side. But then we’re not paying like, a billion trillion dollars a year for all these billion trillion lesson.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
So, if you, if you do want to do it just for fun, do it for fun.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
But then focus on your school stuff, right? And if, if you’re serious about it, you have to be serious. So they did- they supported me. But then they also they made me take, like all my sciences in high school and stuff. So just so that I didn’t, I didn’t close any doors. My dad is a math professor at UoIT and my mom is a research physicist at CAMH. She runs the MRI machine takes pictures of people’s brains. So they’re all like science, science, science, and like my dad whole family is made up of like math and geography professors and then I popped out and I was like, theatre. It was it was a surprise to them that that they had a son who was so you know, thespian, but it sounds like it’s somebody we dealt with it.

Phil Rickaby
Well, yeah. Because, you know, I’ve spoken a lot of people and some people have the stories of like, how, you know, my parents still ask me when I’m going to give this thing up.

Mateo Lewis
Oh my god. Yeah. And I’m so I’m so lucky to add the parents that I had, and, and have had the support from them that I did, because there’s so many people who kind of have to, you know, pave their own way. And if they really want to do this, they have to like, reject their family, their own, like my parents or even like paying for my tuition and everything like these, they really, they want me to, to, they want me to thrive in this world. If this is the world in which I want to thrive and that is that is such such so blessed to, to have that support because I really I really don’t know that I would be able to do without that.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. When you were in high school, though, when you’re in high school, there’s a guidance counsellor supposed to like help you along the way. supposed to like you need to do to get into the school and things like that. I remember when I was in high school and the guidance counsellor –

Mateo Lewis
This red light that says mute be on?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, it’s it’s recording.

Mateo Lewis
Oh, okay, cool

Phil Rickaby
It flashes if it’s actually muted so it’s all covered Believe me. I’m recording Believe me. I could see it.- I went to the guidance counsellor

Mateo Lewis
Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
You know that time when they’re supposed to be supposed to be like, all right now it’s time to apply to colleges. And the guidance counsellor is like all set and you sit down you’re like, so what is it that you want to do? And I said, I want to be an actor and the guidance counsellor went …. I don’t have anything for you. You know, did you ever have Anything like that, or

Mateo Lewis
Well, I went to school for the arts. So those guidance counsellors were used to hearing I want to be an actor.

Phil Rickaby
Yes.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, they were kind of like, all right. Do you know it’s gonna suck?

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm.

Mateo Lewis
And if the person said what do you mean being an actor is a dream you get to start in movies and make tonnes of money and then party all the time. Then the guidance counsellor would be like, maybe do anything else.

Phil Rickaby
Yes, yeah.

Mateo Lewis
But if you come in and you were like me, and you were like, Yeah, I know. What makes this industry hard. I have like watched every YouTube video of interviews with everyone who’s ever been on Broadway like I just like, and as I love -, and that’s the thing that that makes me a little bit cuckoo is that I love the industry as much as I love the art form. Like just the way it works. It is crap. It is so crappy sometimes. But I just something about the never knowing what else is going to happen and never knowing when your next opportunity is going to be in. And like the lows of like, not having any theatre to do for like a year and not having any gigs. And then the highs of all of a sudden in one year you have a billion and five gigs. Like, that’s so exciting and and to me that’s always seemed like such a rich and engaging way to live your life.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But I have always like really, really felt like that was the way that I wanted to live, you know, so. So people that was what the guidance counselor’s always, you know, said said to me is as long as you keep that attitude of like, it’s going to be tough and I’m going to have to work my butt off. Yes. isn’t just like a fun hobby, but this is like my life’s work.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Then you’ll be fine. And I really believe that I really believe that if you if you take, like, quote/unquote, having fun out of it, you know, and if you really just do do the work,

Phil Rickaby
yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Like, things will come to you.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
And, and they won’t always come to you ever.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm.

Mateo Lewis
And if you’re fine with that, then you know, that enjoy the things that do come to you and make the most out of them. And yeah. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
it’s interesting, because, you know, when I went into theatre school, I don’t think I had as much clarity about how, you know, I don’t know, I grew up as an Ajax small town. Yeah, you know, um, I mean, I knew was only I wanted to do. But I don’t think I had the clarity about how and I think a lot of people who go into theatre school don’t have the clarity about how difficult the industry actually is.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. Which I mean, in theatre school is good for kind of helping you wake up to that, like a lot of people graduate Theatre School, and were like, oh, that was a nightmare, I never want to do that again. I’m going into something completely different.

Phil Rickaby
Some people do.

Mateo Lewis
And that’s dope.

Some people do and some people last three to five years in the industry and then they’re like, Well, yeah, I’ve given it a go and yeah, I think it’s time to stop. Yeah. And that’s that’s also dope.

Yeah, dope. You know what it like? It’s, there’s no shame in that. No. Oh my god. You have a poster of Neil Gaiman’s Rules for writing I quoted. I quoted Neil Gaiman.

Phil Rickaby
He’s like that -.

Mateo Lewis
That’s amazing.

Phil Rickaby
That’s like, beside where I write. Yeah, that’s like, yeah, so

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. I love Neil Gaiman. Anyways, oh, my

Phil Rickaby
Did you see Good Omens

Did you see the series of Good Omens. Dude, we’ll talk about

Mateo Lewis
Pardon?

good omen?

Phil Rickaby
Good. All right. You haven’t read the book?

Mateo Lewis
No.

Phil Rickaby
Dude. Okay. Anyway, um, yeah. The I think, you know, so there’s no shame in it. But I think that for some people, there’s that I put all this time into this thing. And now I’ve given up on it, which I think there can be a bit of shame in that. Yeah. Which is which is it because you know what? You tried. You gave it

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And when you decided that it wasn’t for you anymore You left instead of like,

Mateo Lewis
but I think there’s more shame in like forcing yourself to do something that isn’t making you happy.

Phil Rickaby
Oh, sure.

Mateo Lewis
Than there is in you know, owning what you kind of owning where you want to be.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
Being where you want to be.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I think I think that the shame in that though, doesn’t come right away. like giving up on on the acting thing. People often feel Oh, I guess I’m a failure and it goes through that phase. Which going keep if you were to pursue it and keep going at it, you wouldn’t feel shame about it right away. We much later on when you were like I can’t believe I did that for so long.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
You know, yeah. It’s hard because like career decisions, you know, I still say, you know, what am I going to do when I grow up? Like, I think that that deciding… I think some people get stuck on – they’re like, this is my life now. And that’s a decision that was made. And that can never change.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
Whereas you know what, these things can change?

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, dude life is a constantly changing thing.

Phil Rickaby
Yes.

Mateo Lewis
Flexible.

Phil Rickaby
So what is- Like, do you have any? other shows that you’re writing? Is that something that like you? Do, you always have things on the go?

Mateo Lewis
I always I always try to when I generally, as a person, when I don’t have anything on the go, something pops up in my brain that just has to happen. I’m helpless. I just like, I have to do this thing. And it’s like, dumb and trivial. I like just got to do it because I just like want to do it right now. And then I know in a week I’ll be like, I don’t care about that anymore. But Things things like that are coming up. You know, I’ll get I’ll get really into like practising a certain, like classical piano piece. I’ll get really into like this last week it’s been Pokemon Go like I’ve just been really – me and my brother have just been spending a lot of time down at the beach like catching Pokemon, like a lot of that happened. big overarching projects are right now I’m in the processes of like writing a first draft, starting to outline a show with my longtime best friend and collaborator Daniel Goldman. Ah, what a gem what an incredible guy. He’s so smart. You should you should have a podcast at some point because he’s brilliant. And so we wrote a show together in high school called corporate innocence which is like a super over the top satirical version of Macbeth,

Phil Rickaby
Okay.

Mateo Lewis
Set in a modern day office. Like it’s like a shampoo sales company or something. And this guy kills his bosses in order to become in order to become the boss of the of the like. The like, in order to become like the, I don’t know, what we call the regional regional manager I’m thinking of for from from the TV show, but yeah, like the boss of the of the branch kind of okay. And he so he kills people and it’s like, it’s ridiculous and, and it’s like super melodramatic.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm.

Mateo Lewis
But, so, but like, we’ve always gotten along really, really well. Yeah. And, you know, we, our brains kind of, he’s the kind of person who you don’t find a lot of these people who every conversation you have with him. He’s always about what’s next. And what am I excited for? What what are we going to do and his motto that he always says is “the work continues”. You know he’s he’s really dedicated to putting in the work for the, for the things that he wants to do and and so talking to him is always so inspiring and always gets me going. So right now we’re working on this concept called right now the working title is Losing Ellie. And so it’s about a girl who’s going into her first year of high school. And she has this like stuffed teddy bear that she’s had all her life and she goes everywhere with this teddy bear Ellie, and then she loses it and she can’t find it anywhere. And so her and her brother, start like retracing her steps to and her brother is like, going into his last year of high school, kind of like, like bummed that he has to hang out with his little sister, but his parents are making him or they won’t pay for his car insurance, that kind of thing.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
So So, they go on this, like, adventure through the city through all these places that Claire has been where and looking for this for this bear. That is like a just a representation of like Claire’s entire childhood, right higher self.

You know, she identifies herself with this with this bear, and losing it is. And you know, it’s it’s about like, growing up because Me, me and me and Daniel we talk a lot about how, like as, as young adults we’ve, we’ve gone through, we’re just on the other side of of the biggest period of like growing up yeah, that either of us have ever experienced and it’s really remarkable to see the people from that we knew in high school, you know, to see those people again a few years later and see how different they are and how much they’ve grown up and how much they’ve matured and yeah, people who we thought were like super annoying and high school, who we now talk to, who are like, really lovely, genuine people, and we’re like, wow, what happened, you know, and, and then on the other, the flip side of that is the people who don’t grow up, there’s the people that were the exact same and refuse to look at themselves and try to, and try to be any better and trying to grow up. And so me and Daniel are always about trying to be better. Yeah, and, and trying to grow up. And even if that means, you know, leaving things behind, or losing things that you’re attached to, like a teddy bear, if it means growing up and moving forward, and then you can be grateful for the time you had with that. Yeah, whatever your teddy bear is, you know, but then you can move forward from it.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Yeah. It’s always interesting that that moment where you realise that Oh, these people that were terrible in high school, it was high school. It was terrible.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, and me like I look back, you know, and I and I think of all these, all these situations in which I thought I was such a victim and I’m like, Oh, you know, five years, five years ago, I was like, these people are terrible people. And now I’m like to just like suck it up and do it that way.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
I’ve always I’ve always gotten into disagreements with with teachers. Just Just because I I don’t like being told what to do.

Phil Rickaby
Ah, see that’s in school. Yeah. How was that? How was that? Do you find that that you’re still struggling with that in? in theatre school? Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah, for sure. I yeah, I always, I really, really comes from a place of like, just genuine enthusiasm. Like, I’m just really excited about all the things that we’re doing and I just want to talk about them and I just want to be involved in them but I understand how it’s you know, perceived is like an arrogance or, or an insubordination that I try to take on so much of a, like, not leadership role but I always I really like to be able to talk to, you know, the people who I’m learning from, on a personal level and I really like being able to learn from doing things and, and from and I really like being able to learn from, you know, doing my own thing as well I have a hard time with like writing this particular essay because this particular class, you have to do it and and so that and this past year was a really hard year for me because I I slipped a disc in my spine, okay. I’m those like pinching my sciatic nerve. So I couldn’t walk properly. And you know, share it in they make you dance five times a week, right? So it was really, it was really frustrating for me to like to be in that rigorous training environment and not feel like I was feeling myself, right. It wasn’t able to do 99.999% of the things. So I let that affect me really negatively.Yeah. Which, which again, it’s, I feel like, I, I in that moment, I thought that I was doing my best, you know, and everyone around me is telling me I need to do better, but I can’t because I hurt my back. So screw you guys. Yeah. And you know, I just I really have taken the summer to to think about that. And I’m looking forward. I start school again next week, right. So I’m really You know, everything Everything is about it’s about learning. The work continues. That’s, that’s so I’m really trying to I’m yeah, I’m trying not to make make myself into such a victim but –

Is it a three year-

Mateo Lewis
no four years

Phil Rickaby
Oh four year okay, so you’re like, right in the literally right in the middle right now.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. right smack dab

Phil Rickaby
which which like I know that you were talking about how difficult second year was which is the the ratchet things up in second year What’s the hardest year?

Mateo Lewis
Second year

Phil Rickaby
Second year Really?

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, just because in third year there’s a tonne of work to do, but it’s all really exciting things like you, you get to do a lot of creative projects and a lot of like hands on projects and right. That’s the kind of thing that I am really excited for. And that’s the kind of thing that I’ve always been really good at it. Second year. I kind of let myself get down because it’s much more academic and as much more write an essay You know, take class as opposed to, like, create a cabaret for yourself. Create a piece of devised theatre that you perform solo like that kind of thing. Yeah, that’s coming up in third year, which I really, so I’m really I’m really excited. I just I just get I just get sad when I’m not getting my hands dirty and just like creating stuff. Yeah. And then I just get just get sad and I just get discouraged. I get I get discouraged a little a little too easily i think that’s that’s something that I need to to figure out because that’s this industry is –

Phil Rickaby
It can really sort of discouraged you

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
But on the upside, you’re being finished second year, we’ve already produced a musical at the Toronto fringe. So how many people can say that?

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty crazy. I, I really don’t. I don’t I don’t feel like it was my lead Was it the show is very much my baby but that, that production of it I didn’t feel like it was me doing it you know, it was really it was really a team of, of people and I was it was I was just there to learn, you know, like the people that I got to work with, like, I learned so much from from getting directed by Chris like, so much as a performer.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah,

Mateo Lewis
And as a person too.

Phil Rickaby
it’s interesting because, you know, you talk about like, like working with a team and things like that. It doesn’t matter what this show is. There’s always it’s always a team –

Mateo Lewis
Well it has to be.

Phil Rickaby
I you know, that’s even like you know, I just did it my solo show it at the Fringe.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, The Commandment.

Phil Rickaby
Still a team. There was a team behind that.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And There’s always a team because no theatre exists in a vacuum. So…

Mateo Lewis
Yeah, that’s, that’s true.It’s a very, it’s a very collaborative thing, which which is, which is so rewarding, you know, and for, for someone like me who’s kind of, I’ve always been very particular about having my processes and very, you know, had my own vision that I’m following and and which, which puts people off and I get that.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Mateo Lewis
But to, to be able to have the team to a team of people who is really open to talking and working together, and there’s no hierarchy. It’s just a group of artists trying to make something awesome. Like that is, that is such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Awesome.

Mateo Lewis
Ah, man.

Phil Rickaby
Well, thank you so much. It’s been awesome.

Mateo Lewis
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I love this.