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At SMU Theatre’s Conference Hour, Alums Chris Mathews and Jake Minton Talk Careers

Chicago’s House Theatre founders visit with students about their lives before and after SMU Meadows

By Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism ’15)

Chicago’s House Theatre founders, Chris Mathews and Jake Minton (B.F.A. Theatre ‘02) and Jake Minton (B.F.A. Theatre ‘02), visit with students about their lives before and after Meadows

Upon their graduation from SMU’s Division of Theatre in 2002, Chris Mathews and Jake Minton moved to Chicago and helped fellow classmate Nathan Allen (B.F.A. Theatre ’00) start The House Theatre. Mathews, Minton and Allen are three of 11 SMU graduates in the company today. On September 5, Mathews and Minton visited SMU for a conference hour with theatre students to share insights about launching careers in the field.

The House Theatre is a nonprofit ensemble theatre company with the mission of exploring the ideas of storytelling in order to create a unique and interactive theatrical experience. In 2007, The House became the first recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theater Award and the theatre has been gifted and nominated for several other awards in the area.

“We just wanted to keep playing and we wanted to find a place to do that for cheap,” Mathews said. “We were interested in doing our own stuff, and Chicago has a warm theatre community for supporting young startups.”

Minton explained that they had ideas of what they wanted to create as well as the beginnings of a mission. “We were not interested in the fourth wall,” Minton said. “We wanted to talk to the audience.”

Minton said The House’s second venue, called The Viaduct, was such a tiny space that during intermission he would use the same restroom the audience did. At the beginning, the team believed that would be an issue, but soon realized it was one of the best things about what they were doing at the time as part of the theatre scene in Chicago.

“We though, if we are going to talk to the audience on stage, why don’t we talk to them offstage too?” he asked.

Both Mathews and Minton expressed their gratitude that, while they continue to audition for other companies and pursue other artistic ventures in the Chicago area, The House Theatre serves as their artistic home.

“We count ourselves so lucky to have a base tribe and a place to play and to fail and a place to do our own thing,” Mathews said. “It is a place to act in a show that you want; a place to create and share ideas.”

Mathews and Minton are two of the three creators of The Sparrow, which SMU’s Division of Theatre will produce as part of the mainstage season in spring 2015.

The two met while at SMU, and it was through their networking that they are able to write and work together today. They became friends and realized they complemented each other very well, so they knew they would work well together as writer-collaborators.

“Your biggest assets are the relationships you make right now, because it’s a business built on relationships,” Mathews told students at the conference hour. “Nathan knew where the artists were that he wanted to work with. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. You’re going to need their connections.”

The pair explained that when they were at SMU, they connected with the Division of Dance to produce and direct shows such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Faustus and Macbeth, all shows that took place at the fountain outside the Greer Garson Theatre. These interdisciplinary relationships helped them network with artists that they would work with in the future.

“At SMU, the faculty gave me tools for my toolbox,” Mathews said. “They weren’t giving me the one way to do things. They allowed me to explore. The harmony was in the arguments.”

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