The family at Shear Madness bid an emotional farewell to one of their longtime members on Sunday night. Matt Sawyer, who has been involved in various productions of the Madness for well over a decade, left the company to continue his military training as an officer in the National Guard. Matt has been a buddy of mine for many years, and while we can't claim to be particularly close friends, we are surely good friends. I know he would step up to help me anytime, and the reverse is true as well.
Matt began his Shear career playing the young detective, Mikey. When I met him, he was graduating to the role of Eddie, the sleazy antiques dealer. I was in the midst of my first gig in the salon, and about half-way through my contract, several of my costars were rearranged. Matt came in as Eddie, and I immediately took a liking to this self-effacing young man with impeccable comic timing. He soon graduated to the role of the lead detective, Rosetti, a role which is complicated and difficult, but Matt handled it with aplomb. I was thrilled when I rejoined the show last year, in the spring company, and I found that "my Rosetti" would be Matt. He and I have a strong chemistry together, and he made me look very, very good.
As so often happens in this business, our paths crossed more than once. As our first Shear contract together was ending, we were both offered roles in the Second National Tour of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Matt had appeared in the First National Tour and had been asked to return. This was my first experience with touring, a process which was educational, exhilarating, and exasperating. After rehearsing at the Kennedy Center (but not performing there), our tour began with a long 6 day drive to our first site, in North Dakota. Hard to keep the excitement up when there are 6 days between your final dress rehearsal and your first performance. The cast took turns driving the passenger van across country, that is, everyone except me. I had broken my foot during rehearsals, and I was wearing one of those removable boot casts. Nobody thought it was safe to drive while wearing one of those things, so my first week on the road was quite the boring one. Matt kept my spirits up with his positive attitude and wry humor. He was always the first actor to volunteer to help out the crew traveling with us, and even occasionally drove the huge moving van which housed our sets and costumes.
Here's a typical pose, representing Matt's brand of "what the f*ck?" attitude:
Another typical pose of Matt's happened in dressing rooms across the country, and just about every night of Shear Madness. Whenever Matt wanted to sit down, he'd pull down his pants. No one quite knows the reason for this ritual. He didn't remove his pants, he just dropped them down around his ankles and sat.
Matt's ability as "Rosetti" was undeniable. His skill with the audience was matched only by his desire to insure that every single moment of the show shined. With him at the helm, everybody onstage looked good.
Matt is headed down south to Georgia for several weeks before shipping out to Oklahoma for a period of several months. During that time, he will be completing officer's training, after which there are strong indications that he will be transferred to the war zone. I can't even imagine what life has in store for him in the next few years.
During our season together last year, I asked him about food rations while out in the field. Matt surprised me a few days later with a large brown packet marked:
U.S. Government Property
"Ready-to-Eat, Individual Meal.
Menu No. 6: Chicken Fajita."
That ugly brown packet of processed food has been sitting on my refrigerator for a full year. I imagine it now tastes roughly the same as it would have then. I imagine it lasts pretty much forever. It's likely to be a long while before I see Matt again, but I'll be keeping that packet, unopened, until his return from his journeys.
Be safe, my friend.