Matthew R. Wilson

Matthew R. Wilson head shot
Associate Professor, Theatre
Building XX #109 814 20th Street, NW Washington, DC 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.  

Dr. Wilson's work has been seen 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 Company, 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 for Constellation Theatre Company (Helen Hayes Award nomination); One Man, Two Guv'nors at 1st Stage; Twist Your Dickens at the Aurora Fox in Denver; and The Mandrake, A Commedia Christmas Carol (Helen Hayes Award nomination), Don Juan (Helen Hayes Award nomination), and Our Town for Faction of Fools. Dr. Wilson serves as Resident Director at the critically-acclaimed Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore and has been honored to play some of  Shakespeare’s most iconic roles, including Hamlet, Malvolio, Romeo, Benedick, Sir Andrew Aguecheeck, Autolycus, Touchstone, and Feste. 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, Dr. Wilson founded DC's Helen Hayes Award-winning Faction of Fools Theatre Company, serving as its first Artistic Director (2009-15) and a current member of its Board of Directors. 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.

He teaches performance in the undergraduate Theatre & Dance Program and serves as Director of Graduate Studies for GW's MFA Academy for Classical Acting, offered in partnership with the Tony Award-winning Shakespeare Theatre Company.

For more on Matt’s work, visit

Current Research

Freelance acting, directing, and combat/movement choreography:

  • Acting as Feste in Twelfth Night with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company 
  • Directing a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

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
Certificate in Environmental Resource Policy, GW's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration


  • Commedia dell’Arte in History & Performance: New Play from Old Work, Routledge Press, in progress (anticipated 2021).


  • A Commedia Christmas Carol, Playscripts, 2013
  • Switchback: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Hiking, 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 Lectures & Presentations:

  • "Climate and Community,” co-convener and panelist, Theatre & Policy Salon in cooperation with Arctic Cycle’s Climate Change Theater Action 2021, The George Washington University, 8 November 2021.
  • "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.

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:


  • As actor, Outstanding Ensemble for Swimming with Whales (1st Stage - 2019)
  • As fight director, Outstanding Choreography for The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Constellation Theatre - 2016)
  • As playwright, Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play for Don Juan (Faction of Fools - 2014)
  • As playwright, Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play for A Commedia Christmas Carol (Faction of Fools - 2013)
  • As playwright, Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play for Beertown (dog & pony - 2012)



  • Award for Excellence in Graduate Faculty Mentoring, The George Washington University, 2021
  • Columbian Prize for Undergraduate Teaching, The George Washington University, 2021
  • Humanities Facilitating Fund, The George Washington University, 2020-21
  • College of Liberal Arts New Scholars Award, University of Mississippi, 2017
  • James F. Harris Arts & Humanities Visionary Scholarship Award, University of Maryland, 2014