As an award winning producer on Broadway responsible for a number of huge hits such as Urinetown: The Musical, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune which starred Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci and the blockbuster musical Wicked, Matthew Rego had much to say. Other of Matthew’s recent Broadway productions include The Wedding Singer, ‘night, Mother, The Good Body, Mtach, Nine to Five, Thirteen, Lend me a Tenor, View From the Bridge, Behanding in Spokane and many others. Recent Off-Broadway credits include The Vagina Monologues, The Laramie Project, and Debbie Does Dallas.
This man is an obvious example of how hard work and dedication will get you far. Raised in an entrepreneurial environment thanks to his dad, and receiving a top notch education at the University of Michigan and later and MBA at Fordham University, this individual pushes the limits on everything he is involved in. From humble beginnings and now the proud owner of The Araca Group, along with his brother Michael Rego and friend Hank Unger, a production and merchandising company which hasa hand in a large portion of plays and shows throughout the past and present.
Matthew attributes his success to several factors, including a solid work ethic learned from his father from a very early age. His motto and advice to all is “always move forward…” and chase your dream no matter what stands in your way. Regarding education, Matthew recommends following a well rounded curriculum, which includes your passion along with some practical business classes which will allow you to not fall behind the industry and understand the ins and outs of surviving in the real world.
En.joy: Can you give us a timeline starting with when you first got into theater up to where you are today?
Matthew Rego: Growing up from the time I was young through high school I was into two things, sports and theater. I was never an all star athlete but I loved sports and played sports, but I was never at the top of the food chain so to speak when it comes to athletics. Then I did theater, and in theater I was always getting cast into leading parts. I was always a natural leader in that environment, so it made sense to continue to put time and energy into it.
I think everyone in high school is looking for something that they can find success at. Something they can find that not only are they passionate about but can excel at, because high school is so challenging. High school is tough; with social challenges, lots of clicks, and lots of navigating uncharted waters, especially your first couple of years. And so I found a lot of success in theater.
So when I was thinking about where I would go for college and what I would want to study, it seemed natural to me to want to go to a school that had a great theater program. There was a friend of mine who graduated a year before me who went to the University of Michigan and they had a great musical theater program and so I applied there. It was part of my passion and part of what I wanted to do, which led me to go to college there.
En.joy: Was Michigan your first choice school or did you apply anywhere else?
Matthew: I applied to Duke, and didn’t get in. It was Duke and Michigan, and a couple of others for backup, but those were my first two choices.
It is pretty difficult to look back from 40 as to what I would do in college compared to when I was 18. If I had a chance to go back would I do anything different, I don’t know. When I was in college at the University of Michigan I never thought I was going to be an actor, even though I got an acting degree. I got a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Musical Theater, but I was always doing other things. I was always involved in directing shows or producing shows, I started a theater company, and I was always involved with putting on the production as well as being in productions. So those years in college I was already a producer, just didn’t know what it was called.
En.joy: So you were always more about organizing everyone for the show?
Matthew: I was always about that, always figuring how I was going to get money from the school to help put on our shows. Yeah I acted in plays, I did a bunch of stuff, that’s why I understood the process of being an actor and I understood that aspects of the arts, but I spent so many hours and so much time either directing or working with the student theater company to put on the shows, and so it was already teaching me the behind the scenes process.
So when I graduated and I came to NY I spent a year just kicking around and acting, but I kept pursuing this directing idea. I always felt like being on the production side was what I really wanted to do. I didn’t even really want to be directing, I wanted to put the shows on. So that’s when I spent three years doing ten different internships for casting directors, and talent agents, three for non profit theater companies. Just tons and tons of internships and assistantships getting paid very little money. I was waiting tables and I had a day job. I kept directing plays here and there but I finally realized that one of the things I was lacking was a real foundation in business. I may have still gotten my MBA but I wish in some ways that my undergraduate degree would have been more of a balanced degree. Meaning, I wish I would have taken either more business classes or more English or communication, or just something more well rounded.
En.joy: Do you think the fact that you studied acting, spent all this time around other actors, and gained an understanding of the other side helped you become a better producer?
Matthew: A hundred percent, but I don’t know if I necessarily had to be a musical theater major to do that. When I went to business school I had to work twice as hard as a lot of other guys because most people have already taken accounting, finance, economics, and all these marketing classes. At least one or two of them in undergrad. I have never taken a single one, so I was starting from ground zero. I had not even taken a real math class since junior year in high school, so that was almost ten years earlier.
I ended up getting great grades in business school. First semester to last semester was a market improvement but it was a struggle. It was also the best thing I ever did, in terms of rounding out my education and giving myself a platform from which I could have had a lot of different options for my career. By having that MBA and having it specialized in Finance and Marketing, I found myself being able to go out there and apply for jobs and people thought, well this guy at least had some understanding of what we do. If he’s going to work real hard, dedicate himself and be driven, he can figure out what this job is.
Were as before I had a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater, there just is not a lot to do, you’re just an actor. And if you want to be an actor and that’s what you want to dedicate your life to that’s great. Some of my friends have gone on to be big broadways stars, and some have gone on to struggle to earn a living as an actor. So nothing is wrong with that, some of them are real happy artists. A lot of them moved on to second careers, one now has a photography studio, another a web business, and others have gone on to do other things.