Meet Matt and Emily, the darling duo in spring’s Ah, Wilderness!
By A Noise Within
January 18, 2017
This Spring’s production of Ah, Wilderness! will feature two ANW newcomers to the leading roles of Richard Miller and Muriel McComber. Read on and get to know Matt Gall (Richard) and Emily Goss (Muriel) through the questions below!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and where did you study?
Matt: I grew up in Nashua, NH, and I’ll always be an outdoor New Englander. You can usually find me out running, biking, or hiking a trail somewhere. The White Mountains in northern New Hampshire is my favorite place in the world, and I’ve celebrated both of my brothers’ weddings up there. I got my B.F.A. in Acting from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, another scenic town in the Northeast, and I’ve spent the last several years working in theatre in Chicago.
Emily: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I studied Theatre at the USC School of Dramatic Arts and then got my MA in Classical Acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
Who are you going to be playing in this show? Can you talk briefly about who your character is? Do you think you are similar in real life to your character?
M: I play Richard, a wide-eyed, young poetry and literature enthusiast. Richard is convinced that he understands life and love far more deeply than anyone else around him. He loves harder than anyone else in his world, and as a result, he makes some pretty grand/rash declarations and decisions. Richard yearns for all emotional extremes so that he can both experience their purity and then reflect on them long after. That’s definitely a trait I share with him; I am constantly mining my own experiences for meaning. And I can be a little wide-eyed and naive myself sometimes.
E: I’m playing Muriel McComber, Richard’s… well… he’s the love of my life and I’m the love of his. My father delivers a letter to Richard from me early in the play, which sets him off on a few adventures. There’s a part of Muriel in me – there’s a part of everybody in everybody I guess – but it’s not a part of myself I often wear. It’s a joy, it’s a vacation to be Muriel.
What intrigued you about Ah, Wilderness!? about O’Neill?
M: Eugene O’Neill had an innate understanding of cost and consequence, on personal and social levels. And in Ah, Wilderness! Richard is so deeply self-aware, that his actions in context are often funny or just plain ridiculous. The play is such a wonderful juxtaposition of real-life stakes and consequence with silly, often childish family comedy.
E: I actually played Muriel eleven years ago in a high school production of Ah, Wilderness!. It was the first play I ever did. She was my first role. It’s a very special opportunity to be playing her again, having lived so much life and performed so many other shows since then. And it’s an honor to do so at A Noise Within!
There’s a starkness and honesty to all of O’Neill. As with Shakespeare, everything you need to know about his characters is revealed in the way they speak, their precise words.
Do you think Ah, Wilderness! is still relevant today? Why?
M: Ah, Wilderness! is definitely still relevant today. The family dynamics are universal, and Richard’s struggle to find purpose and meaning amidst a flurry of forces (love, family, pressure to go to college, social norms) feels very familiar, even 111 years after the play is set. And most of the core conflicts remain at the center of American drama today: love and heartbreak; alcoholism; atonement and forgiveness; finding your voice and owning your role in the world.
E: I do think it’s relevant today. Ah, Wilderness! is both nostalgic and aspirational. It reminds me of the purity, beauty, and goodness of American families and small communities – and the fact that these things are not gone.
Ah, Wilderness! has a huge literary and musical component. How has literature influenced you in your life? How has music?
M: Like Richard, I get very caught up in what I read and attach myself to characters in fiction and take up their causes. I love modern fiction and I read poetry too. While theatre is most often a window into society and communities, literature can be a window into the life of the mind. It’s the most personal connection with the human condition. Music is very much the same, but in a different language. I played brass instruments when I was young, and I’ve always had very specific thoughts and feelings associated with music that I could never put into words. But I can still carry it with me and call upon it when I need to.
E: Reading is what got me into acting. I loved to read growing up and in high school, when we had a drama class, I discovered that acting was everything I loved about reading – stories, characters, imagination – but it was active and collaborative. Literature continues to be a very present and important part of my life. Music is much newer to me, and I’m excited to have this chance to take part in Steve [Robman, Director] is planning.
Have you worked with a repertory company before? What do you think will be the fun opportunities/challenges of repertory?
M: I love repertory theatre but I’ve actually never worked in rep before. I think it’s the most exciting and challenging way to make theatre because it forces you to develop craft and discipline, not just as an actor, but as a theatre artist. Time is always against you, and you have to discern when to compromise and when to be bullish. But when the reward is impassioned art that you can share with your crew and your audiences, it’s worth the struggle.
E: This is my first time working in rep and at A Noise Within. It’s been a dream of mine to work at ANW since the first production I saw there. I’m so happy to have this experience. I love the feeling of being part of a such a big team that you get in a rep company – it’s not just the cast and crew of your show, but you’re in it with everyone in the season. There’s camaraderie and support. It’ll be a challenge to stay sharp with longer breaks between performances, but I’m looking forward to developing my way to deal with this. Everything makes you stronger.
What is your dream role? (other than your character in AW of course)
E: Oh gosh… Nina in The Seagull, every sister in Three Sisters…every woman in Chekhov… There’s a play that follows Margaret of Anjou from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Parts 1 and 2, and Richard III. I got to play Margaret in grad school and would love to be able to play that role again someday too.
M: When I’m old enough, I hope to play Gary in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter. Coward is one of my favorite playwrights. His language is so challenging and specific, but when it’s performed well, it radiates with with wisdom, snark, assonance & alliteration, and secret human truths. I saw Alex Jennings perform it in London in 2008. It’s still one of my favorite performances.
Learn more about the show and buy tickets here!