Actor and writer Matthew Osceola Webster, 23, who grew up in Martins Ferry, has received a prestigious award from a theater festival in New York City, where he now lives and works.
Webster's musical, "Kingdom Come," won "best play" honors at the Downtown Urban Theater Festival. It was one of 10 full-length productions accepted for the festival's 10th-anniversary season and was performed once, on March 23, at HERE in the SoHo section of Manhattan.
Webster is the son of Linda and the Rev. William O. Webster Jr. of Martins Ferry. Matt's father is the minister of Grace Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry.
Matt, who was home visiting this past week, is a 2007 graduate of Martins Ferry High School and a 2011 graduate of West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting.
"I consider myself extremely lucky in terms of my career," he commented. "I feel extremely blessed to have amazing opportunities and amazing learning opportunities this quickly."
He is quick to point out that "my success is so very, very small." But, he is grateful for all of the enthusiasm from friends and family back home. "To have this amount of support with this amount of success makes me more excited to keep growing," he remarked.
The Downtown Urban Theater Festival featured performances of five one-act plays and 10 full-length plays. "There were over 100 submissions to the festival, and only 10 full-length plays got to be performed," he said.
By winning "best play," Webster said, "It gives me a small monetary award and that's to be used for future productions, and also gives my show some critical praises. Now producers and other theater groups can see that a certain festival think that it's good enough to be produced."
Asked about other projects, the playwright said, "I am currently working on a new musical with one of my associates. I'm working on another musical, more of a song cycle, by myself. I have two projects in the works."
As to the future of "Kingdom Come," he said, "I'm collecting my thoughts about it and hopefully will move forward with it since it's much further along than my other projects."
In addition, Webster continues to pursue acting roles. "I did one show in the fall, 'Electric Eden.' I go out on auditions every week for commercials and pilots for new shows." He also had an audition for the Broadway production of "Warhorse."
He observed, "I have good opportunities, but I'm still very young. I have to be built up so I can get better opportunities."
Webster finds life in New York to be wonderful. "There is always something to do. I'm never bored," he said.
He started writing "Kingdom Come" as a playwriting assignment for a WVU class in 2008. In the musical, characters reveal their thoughts and feelings about their personal experience on Sept. 11, 2001.
Originally, "Kingdom Come" was a monologue play with five characters. Webster's professor, Frank Gagliano, suggested that he add a song to the last monologue. Webster took the advice and wrote about six songs, but later he rewrote the show with a new concept.
The show was performed in the 2010 spring semester at WVU and had a second performance at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Chasdan Ross Mike, who is also a Martins Ferry High School alumnus and a fellow 2011 BFA acting graduate from WVU, has been with Webster from the start of "Kingdom Come." Mike performed as an original cast member at WVU and he performed at the festival in New York.
In an interview with WVU Today, Mike said, "Matt had to really play all the parts in putting the show together. Casting the right actors, finding the adequate rehearsal spaces, a piano player, musical director and lighting designer, all of whom he found on his own. He was responsible for keeping everything together which he did excellently."
Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net