Matt Lutz finds his way to Broadway and back to the Valley

Shelly Frome
Special to Black Mountain News
Matt Lutz graduated from Owen High School before majoring in theater at UNC Wilmington. He's performed on televisions, in film and on Broadway and is now the artistic director for the Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

Many have dreamed of possessing a talent at an early age that inevitably leads to “tripping the light fantastic” on Broadway and beyond.

As it happens, Matt Lutz, the artistic director at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts lists this Hollywood scenario among his credits. At the same time, he realizes it’s not the be-all and end-all of what life has to offer.

“In Central Indiana as the baby of the family,” said Lutz, “I got a lot of attention and had a lot of personality. I started singing in Church activities when I was five and on Christian children’s albums. When we moved to Phoenix when I was seven, I gravitated to the stage. Performing was duck to water. I was totally in my element.”

Finding himself in the chorus of a production of the musical Oliver, Lutz felt he should be playing the lead. Not long after, between the ages of eleven to thirteen this aspiration was fully realized.  

“I don’t think you could have stopped me,” Lutz continued. “It would have found its way out in some capacity. I loved the attention and the fact that I was talented. I went on to play Oliver in a major professional production in the year nineteen-ninety at the age of twelve, was paid fifteen-hundred dollars and performed with the noted actor John Shuck as Fagan at various other large venues throughout Arizona.”

Eventually, he did make it to Broadway at the age of 33, performing in the original cast of Bonnie and Clyde. But he discovered that “at the end of the day, it was just the same process.

Artistic director for Black Mountain Center for the Arts Matt Lutz talks about how he went from Broadway back to his hometown.

Except, that is, for “a lot more money, greater competition and higher stakes. Though the facades are impressive, as soon as you walk backstage, the ambiance is all the same along with the rehearsals and the director’s notes.”

It should be mentioned that prior to the time he decided to walk away from his career in 2015, he’d also graduated from our local high school and majored in theater at UNC Wilmington, where he studied Stanislavsky’s internal method.

Moreover, he did a stint on TV and film in L.A. where he applied the method of responding in the moment along with auditioning and looking for work.

However, it was only upon returning to the mountains free of employment pressures that he had  the pleasure of playing C.S. Lewis in the two-hander Freud’s Last Session and began to feel fully present on the stage.

At the same time, after the Center’s director Gale Jackson asked him to head the theater program, he realized how much he had gleaned as a trooper: on the inside of shows that came alive and putting up with directors who were just going through the motions; coping with inept producers while forced to keep this accumulation of insights and knowledge to himself.

“I’ve been so impressed at the level of talent we’ve been able to draw from," Lutz said, looking back at his tenure at the arts centers. "I can call on people from Asheville as well as local folks, and I’m not afraid to employ people I know who can kill a certain role and help make it worth their while. All in all, given the resources we have, I’m interested in producing the finest material in order to challenge the audience, make them think, and entertain them.”

In this light, his next production, which opens Friday, May 10, for nine performances, is entitled "As it is in Heaven."

It centers on nine women living in a Shaker commune in 1830s Kentucky. The storyline has Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” qualities as a young convert engages in supernatural experiences completely foreign to the older members and causes a great upheaval.

Lutz first saw a production in L.A, got to know the playwright Arlene Hutton, and feels it serves as a prime example of the range of his sources as his newfound mission continues to evolve.