For our second profile in our View from the ArtsBridge series (click here if you missed our first interview with Jordan Plutzer), we caught up with Matthew Liotine, one of our former ArtsBridge Summer students–from all the way back in 2010. We wanted to ask him how his senior year at Montclair State is going, and to see if he had any sage words for those going through the college application process now, since he’s had a few years of experience under his belt.
When we spoke, Matthew was feeling bittersweet, because he had just finished up his last final of his senior fall semester in his BFA program in Musical Theater. But he also must be ready for a break! This semester, Matthew had ballet four days a week, jazz and tap on Fridays, and he’s also taking an audition technique class, a course on musical theater styles, voice lessons, and American Sign Language. He’s also been auditioning in New York City for a few summer stocks and some musicals on cruises.
Matthew lives in a dorm room with his boyfriend, Brandon, who he has been dating for two and a half years. In one corner of the room, Matthew has some birthday cards propped up; he recently turned twenty-one. He also has a stack of books, titles ranging from “Dancing Through It” by Jennifer Ringer to “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler. We love those books at ArtsBridge too!
Read on for more of our talk with Matthew, and what he’s learned in the four years since the college application process:
What has been the most wonderful thing about being a student at Montclair State?
The self-discovery. I have found my true self here. I have learned that I am passionate about many things, and I have the capacity to do anything I put my mind to.
If you do it right, college teaches you that you are a beautiful, intelligent human being. I am aware of how hippy-dippy this sounds, but it is definitely the truth. I’ve been able to ask myself serious questions like: What’s my purpose? Why am I doing theater? What makes me truly happy? This kind of journey is what makes college a unique time in your life, and what helps keep an artist open.
What has been your favorite class in college thus far?
This is a very hard question to answer, but if I had to pick one, I would say acting in my junior year with Mark Hardy. We did a variety of material—from Oscar Wilde to Shakespeare—and we did a lot of centering, voice, and speech work. In that class, I learned how important it is to carry yourself with confidence and walk with your chest held high, literally.
We know you had other options, so tell us how you came to choose to attend Montclair State.
Halley (Shefler, President of ArtsBridge) taught me that I had to treat applying to college like a business, and for someone like me who needed all the financial aid possible, playing the game of college auditions worked in my favor. Thanks to ArtsBridge, I had great audition material and I knew exactly how to sell myself. Somewhere between ten to fifteen schools wanted me and two or three of them actually fought over me!
Halley really helped me make the best decision for me personally. She helped me assess what my needs were and where I would flourish, and that’s how I ended up at Montclair.
Was the college application process stressful?
The college application process is extremely stressful, in theory. But thanks to ArtsBridge, applying to college was an amazing experience. Without ArtsBridge, I might not have been able to make musical theater my career.
How did your parents feel about you working with ArtsBridge? Did they find ArtsBridge helpful in navigating the college application process as well?
My mother could not get over how ahead of the game she felt. Both of my parents felt that going to college was important, and thought that being an artist with a degree was rare. They were happy to find out that many artists go to college and become very successful after.
They were also happy that ArtsBridge Summer emulates real world experiences and relationships. At ArtsBridge Summer, you do workshops and have talkbacks with many professional casting directors and other artists working in the professional world. That happens in college as well, so I have prepared for it. My parents thought this was the most helpful part of ArtsBridge Summer.
What was one of your most memorable experiences at ArtsBridge Summer?
In the middle of the intensive, Jay Binder came to teach a workshop. Everyone was very excited to sign up, but I thought I would be too exhausted at the end of a long day of acting, dancing and singing, so I didn’t sign up. But at the end of the workshop, there was room for one more person to sing, and Jay Binder pointed to me. I sang “With So Little to Be Sure Of,” from Anyone Can Whistle.
When I finished, Jay Binder said: “That’s how it’s done. Can I have his headshot and resume?” It was one of the craziest moments of my life.
Would you recommend working with ArtsBridge?
I would recommend ArtsBridge to anyone! It is really special and anyone involved knows just how vital and unique it is.
ArtsBridge Summer really shaped my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’d like to thank Halley and the creative team, but more importantly, I’d like to express the importance of this program for future actors. ArtsBridge is helping to create a future for educated artists.
Thanks Matthew! When you land a summer stock or dancing aboard a cruise ship, send us a postcard!
More about Montclair State’s BFA in Musical Theater: This highly selective, four-year program combines a conservatory-like experience in acting, theater, and dance, alongside a traditional liberal arts education. Montclair State prides themselves on providing students with “close, individualized attention” from their terrific faculty. Montclair State is also only a half hour from Manhattan, making it a great location for students looking to check out on and off-Broadway productions and internships.