Friday, March 29, 2002

The Cyber Scene in Los Angeles ~ by Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Celebrity interview of Matt Wilder

Matt Wilder is one of America's young genius directors of theater, television and movies. He first showed flashes of brilliance in the media at the age of 13, when his letter to The New Yorker was published. After directing a production of "Mozart and Salieri" while still in his teens, he earned his B.A. cum laude in literature from Yale, and his M.F.A. from the University of California.

His theater credits include Naomi Iizuka's SKIN and Samuel Beckett's KRAPP'S LAST TAPE at Dallas Theatre Center; Eugene O'Neill's THE HAIRY APE at La Jolla Playhouse; Ariel Dorfman's DEATH AND THE MAIDEN at Actors Theatre of Louisville; THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE at En Garde Arts in New York; Karl Gajdusek's MALIBU and Michael McClung's NATURAL CHILD at Soho Rep in New York; the world premiere of Charles L. Mee, Jr.'s THE WAR TO END WAR at Sledgehammer Theatre; Jon Robin Baitz's THE END OF THE DAY at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco; and Mee's THE TROJAN WOMEN: A LOVE STORY at Cal Arts. He has received the Princess Grace/Theatreworks USA Award for Emerging Theatre Artists, and two DramaLogue Awards for Best Director. He is an associate artist of Dallas Theatre Center. He has also written insightful reviews for Green magazine, The City Pages and many other papers.

Critics have been fanatical about his work: Backstage West "...a macabre, weird, and wonderful evening..."; San Diego Reader "Would someone right now, please, give Matthew Wilder a local building, where he can fulfill his artistic destiny?"; OC Weekly "Did my brain hurt? Did I think, contemplate self, try to organize my belief system, question it, and ultimately weep a bit for humanity? Oh, yes."; Clive Barker "History of the Devil as a movie is being worked on right now. A brilliant screenplay from the play has just been turned in by a man by the name of Matt Wilder."

Lately, Wilder has been doing a lot of thinking about his work in the media, issues of privacy, modernism and consequences. He is currently doing a production of Don DeLillo's VALPARAISO that uses both live and recorded video. DeLillo's play, prescient as is his custom, concerns a man who gets on a plane thinking he's going to Valparaiso, Indiana, and winds up in Valparaiso, Chile instead. For this mistake, he becomes the world's most famous person for a day. VALPARAISO explores the topics of airports, commercial-airline procedure, home life, and the penetration of all our intimacies by TV. The fame for a day ends up destroying this guy's life. Wilder is fascinated by the juxtaposition of every intimate moment being in the media, while all real life intimate experiences cease, hitting us all where we live after 9-11. He notes that DeLillo was writing about Monica and JonBenet as early as 1999.

Wilder is anxious over what he terms "the internetization of TV news, with its ADD-inducing streams of printed information over screaming heads and inside reenactments."

He laments people suffering with Information Overload Stress Disorder and "the sense that nothing. . . is or should be private. The connection between the nullification of public space in cities to the absolutism of commercial media's invasion of all of us, via inter linked 'synergistic' tie-ins. The notion that someone or something out there is reading how many times you visited today, and is planning a marketing blitz on you accordingly. And the perhaps not unrelated Rumsfeldian notion of erecting thousands of tiny cameras on city street corners."

Wilder notes that the only thing that seems to shock us still in the media age are shame and embarrassment: "watching some old lady misread the cue cards for an awards show still makes us squirm, while pedophilia doesn't. We somehow have this feeling of entitlement."

While Wilder is not exactly sure where the Internet may be headed, he points out that what is novel is "that we're over deluged. After 9-11, we've been image and word saturated. In the 80's and early 90's, it was all about the pictures, MTV. Now, there's an insane proliferation of words. On TV, there's so much punditry. The guy who wrote Black Hawk Down was appalled when he was asked to appear on MSNBC, next to the Joint Chief of Staff. He was like, 'Hey, I'm just a guy who wrote a book,'". Wilder feels that the O.J. Simpson trials really started the 'talking head' phenomenon, with Grodin and Geraldo. He admits that he is fascinated with the rantings of Ann Coulter: "She's the slutty sorority chick. She has to defend the most right-wing position, even those that have been discredited. I found myself oddly nodding in agreement with her. We have a need to talk about things all the time, having a Siskel and Ebert for things like history. We also have staged, Springer-style combat."

When contemplating Michael Saylor's (CEO of Microstrategies) ideas of implanting an organizer microchip with advertising capabilities, Wilder laments the total encroachment of commerce into our lives. He compares the almost complete lack of open public space in L.A., as found in New York. "But, is there a difference between a billboard outside your window in the morning and in your head? We have commercials in the 1st grade classroom now, in exchange for PCs." Would he ever agree to have a micro chip implanted? "NO! God, no!" He's even disturbed by the tracking that's done online, with purchases.

A typical day for Wilder: " I get up, I write. I'm putting together a showcase for Cal Arts. I try to balance movie stuff and writing. I try to get paid writing gigs. I direct classic theater, too. I see a lot of writers consumed by making 50 phone calls a day."

Wilder has had a good piece of luck from posting on the 'net. He posted a review of "American Pastoral" by Philip Roth. Someone saw it and passed along a script to a famous young blonde actress. When asked about his opinions of a professional writer posting things for free, he says, "I feel you have to shake 9 apple trees and then, 3 oranges fall on your head. It seems to work that way." While he claims not to be "gadget o'centric", as he puts it, he does admit to being addicted to his Palm Pilot, as well as his laptop with DVD player. "I like to watch 2001 in an airport, to have movies as accessible as a paperback, that's very important." He was watching satellite TV, with 499 channels: "It was a narcotic effect, overload. This feeling of all this good stuff to watch and you can never get to the end. It's opium."

To contact Matt Wilder, email him at . For more celebrity interviews, check out