Robert Dorfman, standing, “Groupthink” director (also New-Play Reading Festival director), Pedro Juan Fonseca and Damian Leverett in Mathew Goldstein’s “Groupthink.” (Photo by Sarah Whiting)
PUBLISHED: February 26, 2022 at 10:27 a.m. | UPDATED: February 28, 2022 at 11:38 a.m.
Mathew Goldstein spent plenty of time in the theater while he was growing up – taking
tickets, ushering people to their seats, all sorts of behind-the-scenes tasks.
After all, his mother, Barbara Brooks, had started St. Paul’s Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company (now Six Points Theater) in 1994 – about the same time Mat was born.
Goldstein was well-acquainted with sets and seats and scripts. But, he says, if you had told him when he was a student at Central High School that he would one day write a play, “I would have laughed in your face,” Goldstein says.
His once-improbable project will get its first on-stage readings as part of Six
Points Theater’s New-Play Reading Festival from March 2-20. It’s the theater’s first foray into a series of new-play readings in its 27-year history. New works by playwrights Barbara Field and Jessica Fechtor will be featured with Goldstein’s work.
Though his mom was his introduction to theater, it was his dad, Tom Goldstein, who suggested Mat write a play. Mat would regale his father with tales from the world of public relations and politics, and his father eventually suggested he should write a play about it.
“Sure, Dad,” Mat says he replied.
But he had some time during the pandemic shutdown and started writing.
Goldstein’s play, “Groupthink,” is, indeed, inspired by his work experience, which also includes a stint at a public relations firm in New York City and work on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign at her headquarters in Brooklyn.
In “Groupthink,” a group of young people working at a PR firm have to work with some “nefarious clients,” Goldstein says. There’s a fast-food company that doesn’t pay fair wages to its employees, then a slumlord, then … “it gets worse and worse,” he says.
Goldstein says, as a writer, he’s always thinking of things to write about, making notes when he gets ideas. When he attended University of Southern California in Los Angeles, he had lots of friends who wanted to be actors and screenwriters, but “I had no interest at the time.”
He considered a movie script or TV screenplay for “Groupthink,” but decided it was best to “go with what you know.”
When he was growing up in Minnesota, Goldstein says his mother took him to theater productions at the Ordway and other venues. She’s from New York, so there were always trips there for theater. And Goldstein tried to go to the theater often when he lived in New York, he says.
“I guess I have a bigger appreciation (for theater) than I thought,” he says.
When Goldstein finally did show his mother the first act of his play, he says she was encouraging. After the first full version, he sent it to her “and she had a very insightful edit … but I didn’t think anything of it.”
Then another person read Goldstein’s play and offered the same suggestion. He made the changes and says it improved his play.
But wait? Is this just a mother’s ploy to get her only child to come to Minnesota for a visit? Goldstein laughs. He says his mother is passionate about theater, and he was “really, really hesitant to even submit this,” but there’s no nepotism involved.
And, besides, the play readings are virtual, so he won’t be coming home to see it anyway, he says.
About the New-Play Reading Festival
Veteran Twin Cities actor/director Robert Dorfman is directing the festival. The plays will be filmed as they’re read by an on-stage cast and then shown virtually.
The festival was going to be in-person at Six Points’ home at Highland Park Community Center, but was shifted to pay-per-view when the omicron variant was spreading quickly.
Tickets are $30 for all three plays, $12 each. For info: sixpointstheater.org or 651-647-4315.
The three plays in the festival are:
March 2-6: “The Book of Vashti” by Barbara Field, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen. Minneapolis-based playwright Field, who died a year ago, re-tells the Old Testament’s Book of Esther through the lens of the banished Queen. Field’s work has been seen at regional theaters across the United States and Canada, and in Europe. She was co-founder and core member of The Playwrights’ Center and playwright-in-residence at the Guthrie Theater from 1974 to 1981.
March 9-13: “Book of Hours” by Jessica Fechtor, directed by Lily Tung Crystal. Author Fechtor’s play is about two couples revealing themselves to one another at a mountain cabin retreat.
March 16-20: “Groupthink” by Mathew Goldstein, directed by Robert Dorfman. (See above.)