Matthew R. Wilson

Matthew R. Wilson head shot
Associate Professor of Theatre
Building XX 109
[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 Helen Hayes Award recipient and seven-time nominee, and he has taught at theatres, festivals, and universities around the world.

Matt has 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, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Nashville 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 appeared in the Netflix original series House of Cards.  As a director, Matt has helmed world premieres and established classics, including The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Constellation Theatre Company); One Man, Two Guvnors (1stStage); Twist Your Dickens (Aurora Fox); Much Ado about Nothing (Chesapeake Shakespeare Company); and Our Town (Faction of Fools).  An avid Shakespeare enthusiast, Matt has been honored to play some of the Bard’s most iconic roles, including Hamlet, Malvolio, Romeo, Benedick, Sir Andrew Aguecheeck, Autolycus, and Touchstone.  He has also directed versions of HamletRomeo & JulietTroilus & CressidaPericles, Titus AndronicusMuch Ado about NothingA 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, 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 MacbethWomen Beware Women, ‘Tis Pity She's a WhoreThe 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 in Washington, DC 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 his PhD dissertation focuses on historiography and reconstruction of Commedia dell’Arte performance.

Current Research

Freelance acting, directing, and combat/movement choreography including:

  • Directing Second City’s "Twist Your Dickens" at the Aurora Fox Playhouse (Nov-Dec 2018).

Publications include research on:

  • Slapstick comic theory for The Fight Master, The Journal of the Society of American Fight Directors;
  • Devised theatre and performance pedagogy for the book Shakespeare’s Ensemble: The Creative Ownership Project (Creatively Independent, forthcoming); and
  • Commedia dell’Arte in History and Performance (forthcoming book).


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



  • A Commedia Christmas Carol, Playscripts, 2013. 

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& 19thCenturies,” 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:

  • “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:

  • “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 and "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

Association of Theatre Movement Educators (ATME)

SAT-Incommedia, International Coordinator, Worldwide Commedia dell’Arte Day

Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), Chair, Movement & Physical Theatre Interest Group


Helen Hayes Awards:

  • Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for 1st Stage's Swimming with Whales (2019)
  • John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company as Founding Artistic Director of Faction of Fools Theatre Company (2012)

Helen Hayes Award nominations: 

  • Dual nominee both for the Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor and for Outstanding Ensemble in a Play for 1st Stage's "Swimming with Whales" (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