A mad scientist who tweaks and reworks traditional narrative structure, Matt Cosper is the Charlie Kaufman of the Charlotte theater scene. Cosper is artistic director of The Machine, the best experimental theater company in the city. Currently, he’s working on a show that will incorporate games. By working in chance as a part of the show, every night will be new.
“I think it’s important to get that sense of danger and excitement back into experimental theater,” he says. “We’ve gotten so used to what to expect from story structure that it has become boring.”
Most recently he worked with Paperhouse Theatre, another local fringe company, to create Bohemian Grove, a Twin Peaks-style soap opera in which the theater was divided into four sections. A different element of the story played out in each section, and between scenes actors milled about among the crowd in character.
Cosper realizes that Charlotte isn’t exactly fertile ground for experimental theater. That’s what keeps him here. “Portland doesn’t need another experimental theater,” he says. “Charlotte does. We can build something here. Help create the scene from the ground up.”
Cosper supplements his income by freelance directing. He’ll helm Actor’s Theatre’s production of The Divine Sister in June. But he prefers to write his own plays. He enjoys playing around with the material and wouldn’t want to upset the intent of anyone else’s work.
This summer, Cosper will retreat with The Machine to cultivate new, mind-blowing ideas for next season. “I just want to throw some freak into the audience’s face,” he says with a laugh. “I want to give them something unique, something that might upset their perspectives.” —J. L.