The biggest challenge … is simply trying to get your name out there and to get butts in seats. There are so many different theatre companies and festivals out there, it’s really easy to get lost in the whirlwind.

In anticipation of Bygone Theatre’s production of Dial M for Murder this month (August 15-17), we are pleased to present our Q & A with the play’s producer Matt McGrath. Matt founded the theatre company alongside Emily Dix, whom we interviewed back in January, 2013. Read about how their shared love of classic Hollywood films formed the basis of Bygone. And be sure to check back for a ticket giveaway contest for this exciting new production!

Can you tell us a bit about the role(s) you have played in the performing arts? Is it what you set out to achieve when you started your career, or did it change along the way?

I am primarily an actor, mostly theatre. I’ve done shows at the Fringe, InspiraTO, Monkeyman Productions, and Hart House. I really love the independent theatre community in Toronto.

I went to an arts high school for drama, but by the end of my time there I had lost interest in acting, and was more passionate about film and directing. During university I tried to write and direct my own movies, but after a while I realized I wasn’t very good at it, and I kind of hated it. Since then I’ve returned to acting, and now I find myself somehow producing theatre as well.

Profile picture of Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath, producer and co-founder of Bygone Theatre

ow did you come to work with Bygone Theatre? What drew you to collaborate with them?

I’m one of the founding members of Bygone. Emily and I have collaborated on shows in the past. We really like working with each other, and we have the same tastes in plays, so starting our own company just seemed like a natural progression of our professional relationship.

Emily and I are both huge film buffs, especially classical Hollywood era films. I was surprised at how many of the films I love were originally plays, so one of our mandates at Bygone is to focus on plays that were later made into popular films.

Tell us more about Bygone Theatre’s upcoming show, Dial M for Murder. How has the show been coming together so far from your perspective?

Like I just mentioned, part of Bygone’s mandate is to focus on plays that were made into films, and Dial M is a great example of this. Many people know Dial M for Murder because of the Alfred Hitchcock production. What a lot of people don’t know is that it was originally a play. It’s a good ol’ fashioned murder mystery. It’s not a “whodunnit” but a “how caught him,” as coined by our lead, Leete Stetson. We see his character, Tony Wendice, pull off the perfect murder. The fun of the show is to see how he slips up and gets caught. It’s good. I like it. You should come see it!

Cast of Dial M for Murder in rehearsal

What do you see as the main challenges for theatre today? Could you share some examples of the kinds of challenges that you have faced yourself as a performing artist?

The biggest challenge I have found since starting Bygone is simply trying to get your name out there and to get butts in seats. There are so many different theatre companies and festivals out there, it’s really easy to get lost in the whirlwind. That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time and money on promotions and advertising for Dial M. We have an ad in St. George station. We’ve also paid for Facebook ads; been included in various newsletters; put our postcards in various Fringe shows and other friends’ shows; and, of course, done the typical postering of downtown Toronto. Right now our reach is in the thousands. If just two percent of those people pay to come see our show, I would be a happy boy.

What words of advice would you give to emerging performing artists who are interested in theatre?

I’m really bad at giving advice and could use some good advice myself, since I’m still trying to navigate the world of theatre in Toronto. That said, the best advice I could give is to be persistent. Make sure to constantly look for the next project, the next audition, and try to get an agent if you don’t have one. Just make sure you are acting every day in some capacity, whether it’s in rehearsals, auditions, classes, or just on your own rehearsing a monologue. Practice makes perfect!