A Walk On The “Wild” Side With Matthew Maguire


Published February 4, 2010

Since 1992, Matthew Maguire, director of the theatre program at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), has established a respectable and charismatic presence among the theatre student population. For Maguire, his drive and persistence spans over three decades of playwriting, directing, and acting experience both on campus and throughout the New York theatre scene. However, under Maguire’s clean-cut-suit-and-tie appearance lays a rich life of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” style stories and experiences.

Two-time Obie award-winner and director of the theatre program, Matthew Maguire speaks about his recent one-man play, “Wild Man.” (Joe Marvilli/The Observer)

At the end of January, Maguire, a two-time Obie (Off Broadway Theatre Award) winner, took the thrills of his life and honed them into an hour-and-a-quarter extravaganza: his one-man autobiographical show, “Wild Man.” The Observer  spoke with Maguire about his experience.

Finding Inspiration:

“I think that all plays come from questions and there’s a line in [Wild Man]: ‘I got this question gnawing at me—something fierce. It keeps me up at night. What the hell is wildness, and how do I get me some more of it?’ Getting it out there allows the next question behind it to come out and the next question behind it, so I think of playwriting like chain-smoking. You light the next one off the last one.”

A wardrobe sans ape suit:

“The hairy suit’s underneath! Here I am representing the Fordham theatre program, and so I’ve put on my coat and tie. I have a very responsible position, and I attempt to the best of my ability to lead a responsible and ethical life. There’s an irony to the costume which hopefully would signal to the audience that they should also be asking the question, ‘How can we all get more wild?’ We might look completely staid, ordinary and conservative, and yet inside there might be this wild man who wants to get out. Also, can you reach that wildness without being self-destructive?”

His worst job:

“The worst job I ever had was working in this tree nursery, and the owner brought me out into the back lot where there was a mountain of horse manure. He gave me hundreds of plastic bags and some twine and a shovel and said, ‘Bag It.’ All I did was shovel horse shit all day. That was a rough job.”

Meeting celebrities:

“I was a waiter a very long time. It can be kind of glorious. You meet a lot of great people. [Andy] Warhol. I waited on Mick Jagger, Louise Nevelson, Margaret Hamilton… the wicked witch of the west, [Isamu] Noguchi, Miles Davis, Jackie Kennedy. I mean the people I was in contact with were phenomenal as a waiter.”

Waiting on crazy stockbrokers:

“When Wall Street blew the lid off [in the ’80’s], the brokers were like animals. They’d come in and for dinner, they’d have 16 bottles of Dom Perignon and 3 grams of coke and 27 appetizers and by the time they were done with dinner they were screaming ‘Pussy!’ at the top of their lungs, driving everyone else out of the restaurant. There’s a certain type of person who doesn’t think they are getting their money’s worth unless they’ve made you their slave. You understand a great deal about power dynamics as a waiter. You understand a lot about class structure. You learn a lot about revolution. It’s a political lesson on a deep level.”

Performing in front of his students:

“There’s nothing more frightening than performing for one’s students. Students are the most frightening because you feel most vulnerable in front of students. [It isn’t] because of the confessional aspect. I see this piece as my objective as a writer and an actor, and even as a teacher to celebrate stripping my masks. The greatest thing [my students] could possibly do to empower themselves as emerging artists is to strip their masks. Once you’ve done that—once you’ve truly come out in every sense of the word—then you get even more interesting because there is an infinite number of layers.”

His own “Wild” form of drug education:

“As for the drugs in my past, I do say at the end, “and those lights have nothing to do with the nasty things I ingested.” In other words, getting to the place of epiphany or getting to a wild place actually has little to do with drugs. You can and should get there without drugs. Depending on people’s personalities, drugs can be lethal. When [my daughter’s] teacher had assigned her the task of coming home and talking to her parents about drugs, I don’t remember this but apparently my answer was, “don’t buy drugs in the park.” I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and say don’t do drugs. It’s very very difficult line to cross. I know that students are experimenting with drugs and there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s difficult to say don’t do drugs…do drugs responsibly. Get high responsibly. It’s a strange phrase.”

Is This “Wild Man’s” first appearance?:

“The paradox is that most of [my students] do say ‘Oh, I never knew that about you! Oh my God! Who Knew?’ and my response to them is, ‘How could you not know. [Of] all the small interactions we’ve had in the past several years, who did you think you were talking to?’ I mean they see it in glimpses all the time in acting and playwriting class-not only in stories, but in the way I ask them to make choices and take risks. There’s nothing more important for them in places like this to take risks. Be Bold. So when they say to me, ‘I had no idea,’ that means they haven’t really been translating what I’ve been saying to them.”

The Wild Man’s Predator:


The Wild Man’s Prey:

“The unsuspecting.”

The Wild Man’s Drink of Choice:

“It’s a brand of Bushmills Irish whiskey called Black Bush, and if the bar doesn’t have that, Jameson.”

The Wild Man’s Drug of choice: