While most of the boys ran outside to play during breaks from theater camp, Matthew Masten had other ideas.
The 9-year-old wanted to stick around to learn what a director does.
Kids that age just dont say that, said June Bayless, artistic director at Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts.
Masten did. It marked his start in the theater world, an adventure that has taken a turn toward the spotlight. At age 25, the Myers Park High graduate is up for a Tony Award Sunday as a co-producer of the political drama, Gore Vidals The Best Man.
In fact, the nomination best revival of a play is for his Broadway producing debut.
Growing up in south Charlotte, Masten frequently appeared in shows at the Matthews Playhouse and at Myers Park High. Even his Eagle Scout project involved the theater. He cleaned the Matthews set construction area, painted the stage and built a ticket box for the ticket office.
At Elon University in Burlington, Masten produced a concert his freshman year to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a New York nonprofit. He soon realized he enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work even more than performing.
Theater internships led to a move to New York two years ago, where he works as an assistant to Broadway producer Darren Bagert, whom Masten considers his mentor.
Masten and a friend from Elon, Steven Baker, launched their own company last year, Bennu Productions. The name refers to an ancient Egyptian phoenix.
Through Bagert, Bennu was involved in raising money for the out-of-town tryout of The Gershwins Porgy and Bess, which is up for best revival of a musical.
The Best Man debuted in 1960. It depicts the back-stabbing and backroom deals of two men seeking their partys nomination for the presidency. The revival includes Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen and John Larroquette.
Bagert is one of the lead producers and gave Bennu the opportunity to act as a co-producer. Its not as if Masten is running around giving suggestions to Lansbury and Jones.
The lead producer chooses the cast, deals with budgets and handles other activities. Mastens role was raising money to support the play. He compared it to seeking investors for a start-up company.
Their money is under our name, Masten said, and he and Baker raised enough, in the six figures, to be eligible for a producing credit.
It takes millions to produce a Broadway show. The Tony Awards listed 25 names as producers of The Best Man.
Those economic factors make it more likely that shows require groups of producers for funding, said Douglas Young, a Tony voter and vice president of programming at Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte. Still, he said, its unusual for someone as young as Masten to be listed as a producer and be up for a Tony.
Well be pulling for Matthew Sunday night, Young said.
At The Best Mans first preview, Masten opened the Playbill and saw his biography in the credits. He got chills.
It was almost bigger than the Tony.
The shows run has been extended to Sept. 9, and in addition to the best play revival nomination, Jones was nominated for best actor in a play.
Masten and Baker plan to hold a Tony viewing party; tickets are too expensive for them to go.
They also are continuing to produce shows, hoping to possibly do so as lead producers one day, and may even try TV work as well.
Im not nervous, Masten said. Im full steam ahead.
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