In the corporate world, employees leaving a job are asked to sit through an "exit interview" with HR about their time at the company. Although that concept doesn't exist for Broadway performers, we think it's fun to check in with stars as they finish up a successful run. Matthew James Thomas will say farewell to his corner of the sky on March 30, when he departs the Tony-winning, circus-inspired revival of Pippin. As he leaves the big top behind, Thomas reflects on his “transformative, isolating and inspiring” year on Broadway.
Matthew James Thomas
Job You’re Leaving:
Pippin in Pippin
How did you feel when you first got the job?
Thrilled, nervous and ready.
How do you feel now that you’re leaving?
Excited, sad (of course) and like I’ve grown a few extra backbones.
What are three words you would use to describe your experience at the job?
Transformative. Isolating. Inspiring.
What was the easiest thing about the job?
Listening to it and working with some truly incredible people. I’d start naming names but I’d be here forever. Falling into the show in ways I would have never predicted. Every day was a new challenge.
What was the hardest thing?
The physical and mental exhaustion—and always being the guy saying, “Sorry, I can’t come out tonight.”
What was the highlight of your time at this job?
Those moments in live theater when everything comes into alignment and when every element (including the audience) comes into an effortless being with each other.
What skills do you think are required for future job applicants?
One of the hardest things I've encountered whilst working on Pippin is the consistent irony, as a reflection from the core material of the show, within my own life. However, I learned a lot along the way, so I would say whatever you have to offer, whoever you are... Yeah, do that.
What advice would you give to future employees in your job position?
Eat lots of protein… Love and listen as hard as you can.
How do you think you’ve grown during your time at this job?
Like a beanstalk—well at least it feels that way. I’m grateful most of all for the experience, the everyday and the accumulation of it all. To me it feels like the greatest gift of living.
Why are you leaving?
It's just time. I need to regroup with my family and I sure would like to see my girlfriend [fellow Spider-Man alum Jennifer Damiano] some more. Also, I can't live with the idea of the experience or my performance getting stale. I feel like I have given everything I had, to every single show, and I wouldn't want it to be any other way. So I try to trust my instincts—I always find myself wanting to take risks and make myself available for new challenges and to give everything I have to the work that I'm doing, when I'm doing it.
What will you miss most about the job?
This life, so far, has left me with rather severe nostalgia. That feeling of the deep bone grind, that impossible last performance of the week when you already gave everything you had at the matinee performance and somehow you know you will find it again, from absolutely nowhere, because you have to...it’s the rules…your rules. I will deeply miss the audience as I have never really felt such a deep and intuitive connection with them. I’m the luckiest guy alive to share in the responsibility of a production. It is what I live for. I hope to “find it” again someday, and of course have no certainty. Pippin is an incredibly smart piece of work, and this version of the show, in particular, truly serves to carve out the most important statements that it makes. It will hurt to be away from such a profound piece of theater made up of such an inspirational, superhuman cast and crew.