ACTOR: STAGE SCREEN VOICEOVER
Manager: Tony Cloer
Blue Ridge Entertainment
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Brooklyn, New York and Paris, France
"I've never seen a more attentive "Hamlet" audience—or heard a quieter one. Mr. Amendt is already more than good enough to make you wonder what he'll be doing, and where he'll be doing it, five years down the road. He looks more than a bit like Matt Dillon, and he brings to the part a bitingly sarcastic tone that is as contemporary as his physical appearance. Yet there is nothing flip about Mr. Amendt's Hamlet, or about the smoldering rage that drives him, which is as believable as the superbly well-managed swordplay of the final scene."
Terry Teachout Wall Street Journal
Classical Cool Contemporary Heat
Born and raised in the coal mining country of Western Pennsylvania, Matthew cut his teeth training and performing, in the US and abroad, with the famed Guthrie Theater out of Minneapolis. Making his NY debut in 2009 as the title role in HENRY V, the NY Times described him as "a charismatic, skillful actor with a clarion baritone who gives the production a magnetic focus. Handsome in a Tom Cruise kind of way, the square-jawed and youthful Mr. Amendt is a distinctly cool King Henry." He hasn't looked back since, with appearances in a number of film, television, and theatre productions, playing many of the great roles in the classical canon, and working with some incredible names in the industry, including: Mark Rylance, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Hunter Foster, Maggie Siff, Jonathan Cake, John Douglas Thompson, Chukwudi Iwuji, Stephen Spinella, Patrick Page, Harriet Harris, and many more. In 2014 Matthew won the prestigious Emery Battis Award for the role of Prince Hal opposite Stacy Keach in HENRY IV PARTS 1 AND 2, and in 2018 his work as HAMLET was lauded by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Recently, he's pivoted to contemporary work, developing new plays at the La Jolla Playhouse, bringing DRACULA back to life in the title role Off-Broadway, appearing in the acclaimed world premiere production of BORN WITH TEETH traveling the US, and pursuing Independent Film. Contact Tony Cloer at Blue Ridge Entertainment to find out more information and how to start working together today.
Matthew has been blessed to share his work and passion with audiences across the US and abroad. Take a look at the articles below for a taste of where he's been, and what might be ahead.
WASHINGTON POST FEATURE ON PRINCE HAL
By Celia Wren
Matthew Amendt has a banged-up finger and other talismans of recent melees. “I took a broadsword to the knuckle the other day,” the actor says with relish, holding up his right hand, with its swollen digit. “You can’t really see it, but I’m covered in bruises.”
Such battle scars may go with the territory for a performer who embodies the wastrel-turned-royal-prodigy Prince Hal, as Amendt does in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s staging of the two parts of “Henry IV,” directed by Michael Kahn and running in repertory through June 8. The black-and-blue marks are probably all the more welcome for Amendt, who is making his Shakespeare Theatre debut, because he and Prince Hal go way back.
As the New York-based actor explained in an interview before a tech rehearsal at Sidney Harman Hall, the rapscallion Prince of Wales — drinking buddy to Falstaff, tear-your-hair-out parenting problem to King Henry IV, eventual heroic monarch — has been a friend since Amendt was a child growing up in Indiana, Pa.
One day when he was 7, he recalls, he woke up to find that half of his face was paralyzed. “I’d look in the mirror, and one half of my face was bright and hopeful, and the other half was sloughed off and dead,” he says.
In subsequent months and years, he spent considerable time at a Pittsburgh children’s hospital as doctors tried to diagnose the problem. Needless to say, “I was very scared, as any little boy would be,” he says.
During the ordeal, his mother — who was an English teacher and had noticed that her son was a remarkably advanced reader — gave him copies of the two parts of “Henry IV,” as well as “Henry V,” in which the reformed Prince Hal, having ascended to the throne, leads England to military victory in France.
His mother, who has since died, told him that the plays related “a story of a prince with two faces,” Amendt remembers. “And I was very, very taken with that idea,” which “really carried me through those troublesome days of getting spinal taps and MRIs.” Prince Hal became “almost an imaginary friend” who was so vivid that he would occasionally lecture the mopey young Matt.
“It was very comforting to hear somebody say, ‘We don’t need any more self pity today: I won the battle of Agincourt, you can deal with a paralyzed face,’ ” the actor recalls.
Low-key in demeanor and quick to laugh, Amendt — who now has a clean bill of health — says his early love for the Bard was not “any mark of my intelligence” but rather an instance of how accessible Shakespeare can be when presented in a non-value-loaded context. He speaks with intensity about his early bond with Hal, but he can joke about it, too. “Thank God she didn’t give me ‘Richard III,’ ” he says of his mother.
Never fully explained, Amendt’s facial paralysis disappeared and recurred regularly over the course of a decade, he says, finally vanishing for good when he was in his late teens. (He declines to give his current age on the grounds that age discrimination can make the precarious profession of acting even dicier.) After high school, he relocated to Minneapolis, where he earned his BFA from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, graduating in 2004. He has acted in many productions at the Guthrie: Among other turns, he created the role of Nick Carraway in a stage adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” that had its world premiere in Minneapolis and has been widely produced.
His other credits nationwide included shouldering the title role in a touring edition of “Henry V” directed by Davis McCallum and co-produced by the Guthrie and the Acting Company. When the production arrived in the Big Apple in 2009, the New York Times review — comparing Amendt’s looks, in passing, to those of Tom Cruise — praised the “magnetic focus” he gave the production and his ability to peel off “the steel-clad surface of the king to reveal the layers of doubt and anxiety that assail him.”
But Amendt was an unknown quantity to Shakespeare Theatre artistic director Kahn before the auditions for Prince Hal. Kahn says he initially hesitated to cast an unfamiliar face in such a central role, but he eventually decided Amendt was a shoe-in.
“He’s so alive on stage,” Kahn says, particularly praising Amendt’s ability to make the Bard’s words his own. “His ability to use the language like it’s real talking and still know how to use the verse — it’s just wonderful in a young actor. And he’s so inventive about his behavior onstage — smart, but so inventive.”
Amendt “brings a very strong intellectual quality to the work, as well as great emotional quality,” says Joe Dowling, head of the Guthrie. Dowling adds that, without jeopardizing “a very real quality onstage,” Amendt “really does think about the bigger picture of the play.”
Indeed, Amendt is not lacking in the smarts department. During the recent interview, the Converse-sneaker-wearing actor made casual references to postmodernism, Joseph Campbell and Plato; suggested parallels between Shakespeare’s history tetralogies and the works of August Wilson; and confessed to having written a play about Aristophanes. (The play, “The Comedian’s Tragedy” was staged at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. “It’s about art,” so “it’s never going to be produced again,” he said with a laugh.)
But when it comes to playing Prince Hal in “Henry IV,” Amendt believes, “the biggest challenge is the danger of thinking too much.” That’s the case, in part, because the arc Shakespeare has written for the character is so epic. “That journey is just too big, really, to think about,” Amendt says.
And besides, he says, “these plays are all so pre-Freudian, and there’s such a mythic component to them — so when we try to apply our notions of ‘Why is a character behaving this way?’ you can get really lost in that. There’s an ambiguity in life, I think, that Shakespeare is very interested in, in these plays.”
All in all, having played the title role in “Henry V” is virtually no help in his current acting gig, he says. He doesn’t get much inspiration from thinking about political dynamics in the “Henry IV” saga, either. Rather — perhaps in keeping with his childhood allegiance to the prince with two faces — he is drawn to deeper, archetypal patterns in the plays.
“I think we [humans] have some really profound obsession with princes and princesses and crowns,” he says. “I think they symbolize, kind of, our best selves, in some small way that is completely removed from the geopolitics of monarchy.” In fact, “in a mythic way, we all are king of our own kingdom, in a certain sense.”
Not that he doesn’t warm to various worldly, boisterous aspects of Prince Hal’s story. “Some of the conversations I have with Falstaff, it feels as if [Shakespeare] overheard them in a bar and just walked into rehearsal and transcribed them,” Amendt says.
HOMETOWN HAMLET AT THE PITTSBURGH PUBLIC: PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
As Hamlet says, “the play’s the thing” — especially when it’s “Hamlet,” the world’s most famous play. Move over, “Oedipus.”
But oddly, although this “Hamlet” is admirably done and very entertaining, it is not the sole thing. It has to share billing with its occasion, the final directorial grand gesture of the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s longtime producing artistic director, Ted Pappas.
Or just Ted, as an awful lot of people called him, greeting him affectionately as he played the doorman in front of the O’Reilly Theater for last week’s early performances.
It’s not an accident that “Hamlet” is Ted’s last show, of course, allowing him to go out with a bang, directing the big one and opening wide the purse strings to do it in style, with a cast of 21. The result is one of his best productions in his 25 years of directing at the Public. It’s certainly his best Shakespeare.
The excellence begins where excellence is most essential, in casting Matthew Amendt as Hamlet: clear, intelligent, lithe and intensely likable. Although a couple of the larger supporting roles are unimpressive, I was bowled over by some of the smaller roles, which are so important in Shakespeare, where an inferior actor can bring the rest of the scene clattering down around him.
This excellence continues in the speaking, which is clear and easily understandable throughout. And as always Ted is a master of movement, creating vivid scenes with one actor or 20, telling the story visually and never letting unnecessary movement clutter the unfolding story.
He knows it’s the story that is truly the thing. From the start we are gripped with a murder mystery, which, quickly solved with testimony from the grave, becomes a dangerous dilemma for the prince, beset on every side by malice and misunderstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “Hamlet” more simply entertaining, as you are swept forward in the story, eager to see (even if you already know) what will happen next.
You don’t get that clarity without careful, extensive pruning of the text. (But what happens to Ophelia during “To be or not to be”?) Gone mainly is much of the political story, the better to focus on the family and individual drama at the center. Although Shakespeare’s longest play, this “Hamlet” comes in at just about 2 3/4 hours, intermission included.
It goes without saying that Ted enriches the play with a palatial stage design by James Noone and varied dramatic lighting by Kirk Bookman. Gabriel Berry’s costumes set the play in the early 20th century, which works out fine, since the change from Renaissance to modern is never bothersome and gradually fades away, leaving the stage to words and story. Yes, the sentries carry rifles and Hamlet’s sword is reduced to a dagger, but they actually do fence in the climactic fight scene — wonderfully choreographed by Randy Kovitz and thrillingly played by Mr. Amendt and Paul Terzenbach’s Laertes.
My chief complaint is Zach Moore’s cheesy atmospheric music. The ceremonial fanfares are fitting for an insecure king such as Claudius, but I don’t understand the music that wells up here and there, as though Shakespeare’s words weren’t enough.
As I say, Mr. Amendt is a Hamlet to treasure — a young man (well, 30ish, as the text specifies) trying to surmount problems familial, amatory and dynastic. He brings the famous soliloquies into the story, rather than framing them as Famous Words.
In fact, he and Ted make the audience part of the play by aiming the admirably sculptured soliloquies directly at us, as though we were Hamlet’s intimates or court of public opinion, more trustworthy than the mainly false friends in the Danish court. This connection is emphasized when the theater lights brighten on the audience, bringing us further into the action.
David Whalen is a fitting antagonist as the usurper king, with the bluster of weakness, a phony caught in another man’s tragedy. Caris Vujcec makes little impression as Hamlet’s uncomprehending mother. Mr. Terzenbach’s Laertes is a lightweight, a whiny snob — there’s nothing to like about this Laertes until that great fight and his dying confession.
Jenny Leona’s Ophelia is generally fine, never more than in a heart-touching moment when she and Hamlet kneel in bewildered, impossible love. But she overdoes her one soliloquy. Matt Sullivan’s Polonius is a plausible compromise between the old comic fool you used to see and the canny plotter who can heighten Hamlet’s paranoia.
I loved the affectionate backstage humor in the scenes with the actors, led by Darren Eliker’s slightly pompous Player King. The humor is appropriately broader in the gravedigger scene, led by Tony Bingham’s in-your-face wit-cracking. Allan Snyder and Luke Halferty are just dislikable enough as the suck-ups, the Rosenstern-Guildencrantz twins.
Which brings me to those small parts, little gems to savor: Patrick Cannon’s Marcellus, richly spoken at a time when we need to know just what’s going on; Monteze Freeland’s commanding Lucianus and Priest; Jonathan Visser’s restrained, precise Osric, not the usual buffoon; and Drew Ledbetter’s calm, determined Fortinbras.
It’s no surprise to see that the latter also understudies Hamlet and will get to play him at two student matinees.
For those who still treasure Mark Rylance’s scruffy, heartbreaking Hamlet at the Public Theater on the North Side in 1991, this is a contrasting “Hamlet” well worth seeing. It compares well with the two dozen other “Hamlets” I’ve seen over many years.
Best of all, it will prove surprisingly entertaining for those who have been intimidated by the play’s reputation and haven’t yet seen “Hamlet” at all.
Senior theater critic Christopher Rawson: 412-216-1944.
'Tis Pity She's a Whore: "As the transgressive young lovers, Mr. Amendt and Ms. Pedlow give superb performances of such transparent feeling and grace that -- Egad! --you may find yourself rooting for them against your instincts." -Charles Isherwood, Critic's Pick
Henry V: "Fortunately, Matthew Amendt, who plays the role here, is a charismatic, skillful actor with a clarion baritone who gives the production a magnetic focus. Handsome in a Tom Cruise kind of way, the square-jawed and youthful Mr. Amendt is a distinctly cool King Henry in whom a few traces of the former rebel — Prince Hal, the boon companion of Falstaff in the “Henry IV” plays — can be discerned.” -Charles Isherwood
Troilus and Cressida: "Mr. Amendt's Troilus is a handsome, credibly confused fellow, graceful in battle, awkward in lovemaking and blindsided by pain when Cressida proves faithless." -Ben Brantley
Tamburlaine: "The standouts in the large, multipurpose ensemble include...Matthew Amendt (noble vengeance incarnate in several forms)" -Ben Brantley, Critic's Pick
New York Times
"That long intimate relationship with Hal might explain, in part, how Amendt manages such mastery of the role. Every thought or feeling Hal might have, every possibility or obligation, every gesture he might make, and every mistake, seems to be alive inside of Amendt. 'I know how trapped he feels, how much he loathes and fears the crown that waits to devour him,' Amendt writes. 'At the same time, he certainly cares deeply for the people he is tasked to care for. He would die for them; I think perhaps he hopes to." -DC Theatre Scene
"For more magnetic rapscallion presences, you have to turn to the tale’s two young Henry's — whose idiosyncratic personalities simmer and smoke so energetically... persuasively and grippingly played by Amendt as a young man who has allowed himself to stay boyish too long." -Washington Post