Mastering the Magic: Matt Pfeiffer Directs & Teaches Shakespeare

February 17, 2017

Matt Pfeiffer in rehearsal.

Philadelphia director Matt Pfeiffer brings the Bard to the Arden Theatre this spring. Not only is Pfeiffer directing a unique and vibrant production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but he is also teaching a masterclass in Shakespearean acting.

His master class for Arden Drama School will be held on Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The class is offered for students in grades 9-12. Each student enrolled will get an opportunity to work on their own portion of Shakespeare’s text. This series is a great opportunity for young artists to gain insight into the exciting process of creating work at a regional theatre.  Students will examine how Shakespeare’s text works and Shakespeare’s cannon in order to discuss themes and ideas and examine why they still matter.

For students considering attending the master class, Pfeiffer said that having a general familiarity with Shakespeare’s plays would be most helpful. If there is a particular scene that you are interested in, please bring it with you.

If you think Shakespeare is daunting, Pfeiffer has this tip: “Because it is poetic language Shakespeare’s text often feels like it’s beyond our grasp. We tend to deify Shakespeare as a playwright and treat his text as something other than human speech. When in fact, getting to the truth of the character’s intent, like all basic acting, is still what matters most. Hamlet instructs the players; ‘Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.’ So when you think of Shakespeare, think about the action. What does the character want? Why do they have to do it now? These are actually the same root questions we ask in all of acting, but with Shakespeare, because the language is daunting, we tend to skip over these core questions.”

Matt Pfeiffer enjoys the costume presentation.

On directing Shakespeare, Pfeiffer says, “My main interests lie in getting these plays back in the hands and spirits of actors. I’m more deeply interested in being in conversation with the history of these plays and how Shakespeare’s company would’ve worked on them. No designers, no director, no rehearsal really. This is the environment Shakespeare wrote for. So while we’re not repeating it, I remain committed to working in spiritual conversation with that craft. That’s a long way of saying, I try to strip these plays down to something essential. To show the audience our company and our process.”

Alex Bechtel in rehearsal.

Thus, his production of Midsummer will feature exposed costume racks, prop tables, dressing space, furniture, and musical instruments and original compositions by Alex Bechtel. Utilizing other Shakespeare texts, he and the actors will collaborate to create the soundscape of this magical world.  Pfeiffer says, “I’d like to try it with ingenuity and openness. There’s no flying by Foy or magic by Teller. But there is us. And the text. The hope is to find the magic in that text and in our souls.”

About Pfeiffer

Pfieffer, who directed Bruce Graham’s Funnyman with us last season, has also directed for Theatre Exile, The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Brat Productions, Walnut Street Theatre, Delaware Theatre Company, Bristol Riverside, The Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Lantern Theatre, and 1812 Productions. He has been nominated for 11 Barrymore Awards, of which he won 2.  He attended DeSales University, the home of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. He has worked there for 18 seasons and has professionally directed and acted in over 20 productions of Shakespeare’s plays.


Director Master Class Series – Matt Pfeiffer: Acting Shakespeare

Saturday, February 18, 2017

10:00 AM- 1:00 PM


A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

March 2- April 9


Photo of the “Midsummer” cast by Ashley LaBonde.

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