From regional theaters to Broadway, Matt August has devoted more than 27 years to his craft. Now he brings magic to the Arizona Theatre Company as its new artistic director.
He replaces Sean Daniels, who announced his departure in fall 2022.
“It really became an opportunity that was too good,” August says. “It was something that I was hoping was going to happen and it really is, for me, a culmination of a 25-year journey.”
August has directed more than 90 plays, productions and events including on Broadway, in regional theaters and on national and international tours. He’s directed plays, musicals, contemporary classics, holiday spectacles, new works, youth theater, opera and Shakespeare.
He broke Broadway box office records when he directed “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” in 2006 and 2007 and then took in on tour from 2010-19 and in 2021 and 2022.
“We ended up on Broadway, and that’s just a very high-production environment,” August says. “You’re dealing with huge budgets, and you’ll sink or swim on your ability to deliver the show. Fortunately, we hit. And we’re still going. Eighteen years later, we’re still sending out tours and doing sit-downs all over the country. We even have a U.K. tour.”
However, he was working as a freelancer when the ATC job became available. He had twice directed at ATC: in the 2015-16 season with “Discord” and 2016-17 season with “King Charles III.”
“We’re delighted to have Matt on board as we continue our legacy and forge ATC’s next chapter,” ATC Executive Director Geri Wright says. “Matt brings a wealth of theater experience, connections, creativity and innovative and thoughtful work to ATC.”
August got his start in regional theaters, the place where he says young directors can cut their teeth and find their voice. He earned a BFA from the University of Colorado and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He went directly from the latter to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
“I literally graduated in the morning and that afternoon, Gordon Davidson hired me to be his assistant,” August says. “I graduated in the morning, and that afternoon I’m in production meetings with one of the country’s most important producers. That was super exciting.”
It gave him, he says, the opportunity to see firsthand the mission and purpose of regional theaters — giving audiences high-quality theater where they live.
“They are the vanguard of culture in the communities they are serving. They’re producing art on a really high level, so you don’t have to go to the Louvre, you don’t have to go to the Met, you don’t have to go to Broadway and you don’t have to go to opera houses. You can go to regional theaters.”
From there he went to the Old Globe in San Diego, where they were actively programming three spaces, a small stage, a main stage for out-of-town shows, and a large outdoor Shakespeare Festival.
“I’m seeing this regional theater pumping on three cylinders,” August says. “The people you were working with were talented and confident and courageous. The art that was being done was exciting and visceral and fun. The audiences loved it.”
In regional theaters, he learned to entertain audiences with work that was emotional, visual, had a degree of spectacle and contained deep meaning. August then spent 10 years working as a freelance director, making theater at regional theaters around the country. He says the artistic directors he worked with helped him to take his abilities to the next level.
Then he responded to the siren call of New York, acting as associate director for Broadway shows before taking the helm as the “Grinch” director. Wanting to focus on his growing family, he wanted to become ATC’s artistic director.
“I’m glad that life circumstances have worked out so that I’m now able to be here,” August says.
“First of all, I want ATC to become an alternative for audiences to having to travel to New York,” August says. “I want them to come into the Arizona Theatre Company and see the best plays that are being written or the best plays that have been written. I want them to feel like it’s a place where they can bring their kids and their folks. I want it to be a place where we are a vibrant — not only contributor but — leader in the artistic landscape of Tucson, Phoenix and, frankly, all of Arizona.”
Arizona Theatre Company