Matthew R. Wilson

Matthew R. Wilson head shot
Associate Professor of Theatre, Faculty Advisor of Theatre,
Theatre & Dance Program
Rm. 109
Building XX
814 20th Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]


Matthew R. Wilson is a union actor, director, and movement/combat choreographer, as well as a published playwright and theatre scholar. He is a two-time Helen Hayes Award recipient and seven-time nominee, and he has performed and taught at theatres, festivals, and universities around the world.  

Matt began his professional acting career in 1997 with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and has since performed across Europe and North America including in New York City at 45 Bleecker (Hecuba with Kristin Linklater), Tribeca Playhouse, Cherry Lane Theatre, La MaMa ETC, John Houseman Theatre, New York Comedy Club, and others and regionally at the Kennedy Center, Folger Theatre, Mosaic Theatre Company, Chesapeake Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, New England Shakespeare Festival, Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, Clarence Brown Theatre, and more. He made his television debut on As the World Turns and has appeared in the Netflix original series House of Cards as well as in numerous independent films.

As a director, Matt has helmed world premieres and established classics. Favorite directing projects include The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Constellation Theatre Company); One Man, Two Guv'nors (1st Stage); Twist Your Dickens (Aurora Fox); Much Ado about Nothing (Chesapeake Shakespeare Company); and Our Town (Faction of Fools). Matt has been honored to play some of the Shakespeare’s most iconic roles, including Hamlet, Malvolio, Romeo, Benedick, Sir Andrew Aguecheeck, Autolycus, and Touchstone. He has also directed versions of HamletRomeo and Juliet, Pericles, Titus Andronicus, Much Ado about Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Comedy of Errors and has choreographed fights for many more. A Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors and member of the International Order of the Sword and Pen, Matt has killed people on stage with swords, knives, pikes, guns, ropes, clubs, bathtubs, and shovels. He has also died many times himself. Favorite fight direction credits include Macbeth, Women Beware Women, ‘Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Fifth Musketeer, and Life is a Dream. He has taught at SAFD national and regional workshops and at the Paddy Crean International Art of the Sword Conference.

One of America’s leading experts in Commedia dell’Arte, Matt founded the award-winning Faction of Fools Theatre Company and served as its Artistic Director from 2009 to 2015. Prior to that, he taught for six years at Antonio Fava’s Stage Internazionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio-Emilia, Italy.  He tours the world with his own The Great One-Man Commedia Epic and is currently writing the book Commedia dell’Arte in History and Performance: New Play from Old Work for Routledge Press.

For more on Matt’s work, visit

Current Research

Freelance acting, directing, and combat/movement choreography:

  • Directing Second City’s Twist Your Dickens at the Aurora Fox Arts Center (Nov-Dec 2019)
  • Acting & Fight Direction for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (Feb-Mar 2020)
  • Acting in That Summer in Sumner at Mosaic Theatre Company (Mar-June 2020)
  • Acting in Benevolence at Mosaic Theatre Company (Apr-June 2020)

Publications in progress include:

  • The book Commedia dell’Arte in History & Performance: New Play from Old Work for Routledge Press
  • Article on slapstick comic theory for The Fight Master, the journal of the Society of American Fight Directors
  • The original play: Switchback, a tale of life, loss, and hiking


BA in Philosophy, Columbia University
MFA in Classical Acting, The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University
PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies, The University of Maryland, College Park

Commedia dell’Arte in History & Performance: New Play from Old Work, Routledge Press, in progress (anticipated 2020). 
A Commedia Christmas Carol, Playscripts, 2013.
Switchback, in progress.
Book Chapters:
“Stage Combat: A Paradox of Fixed Technique and Free Expression,” Movement for Actors, 2nd rev & expanded ed., Allworth Press, 2016.
“Speechless Spectacles: Commedia Pantomime in the 18th & 19th Centuries,” The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte, 2015.
“Stages and Staging Practices in Early Commedia dell’Arte,” co-authored with Franklin J. Hildy, The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte, 2015.
Selected Articles:
“Running the Room: Classroom Management for Unwieldy Workshops,” The Fight Master (accepted, Fall 2019).
“A Place at the Table,” The Fight Master 40 no. 2 (Fall 2017).
“A Fight Master’s Journey,” Southern Theatre 58 no. 3 (Sum 2017).
“Adventures in Stage Combat Pedagogy,” The Cutting Edge 22 no. 1 (Jan-Feb 2012).
“A Well-Made Comedy: The Legacy of Commedia dell’Arte & Carlo Goldoni,” Asides: A Publication of the Shakespeare Theatre Company 5 (2011-12).
Selected Lectures & Presentations:
“Action A Parte: Survival/Subversion in Early Commedia dell'Arte Practice,” a paper presented at the American Society for Theatre Research, Alexandria, VA, 2019.
“Make ‘Em Laugh: Common Ground in Comic Characters,” In Plain Sight: TEDx Talk, University of Mississippi, 2015, available at

“Student Ownership in Arts Education: A Horizontal Process for Creation,” Conversations Series, Ole Miss Theatre & Film, 2017.
“From Commedia dell'Arte to Marivaux,” Prologue Series, TheatreWorks, Colorado Springs, 2016.
“Shakespeare & Swordplay,” Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio Festival, Ole Miss Theatre & Film, 2016.
“Fools Cash In: Classic Clichés and the Rise of Modern Comedy,” Adrian Webber Memorial Lecture, Montgomery College, 2015.
“Commedia for Modern Audiences: Purity vs. Innovation,” International Commedia dell’Arte Festival, Cyber-hub at Gallaudet University, 2011.
“Commedia dell’Arte and the Culture of ‘Culture’,” Honors Convocation Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Martin, 2010.
Moving from the Archive: Historiography & "Authenticity" in Commedia dell'Arte Performance, PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2018.

Professional Organizations
Actors' Equity Association (AEA)
Screen Actors' Guild - American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), Director/Choreographer
Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD), Certified Teacher
American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR)
Association of Theatre Movement Educators (ATME)
Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
SAT-Incommedia, International Coordinator, Worldwide Commedia dell’Arte Day (2010-17)

Helen Hayes Awards:

  • Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for Swimming with Whales at 1st Stage (2019)

  • John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company as Founding Artistic Director of Faction of Fools Theatre Company (2012)

Helen Hayes Award nominations:

  • Nominee for Outstanding Ensemble for Swimming with Whales at 1 st Stage (2019)

  • Nominee for Outstanding Choreography for fight direction (with Casey Kaleba) of Constellation Theatre Company’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2016)

  • Three-time nominee for Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play for Faction of Fools Theatre Company’s Don Juan (2014) and A Commedia Christmas Carol (2013) and for dog & pony dc’s Beertown (2012)


  • College of Liberal Arts New Scholars Award, University of Mississippi, 2017
  • James F. Harris Arts & Humanities Visionary Scholarship Award, University of Maryland, 2014