Meagan Meehan (MM): What made you decide to create a play about your life and what was it like to get it produced?
Terri Mateer (TM): I started to audition in NYC and I needed a really good monologue so I worked with a coach who said, “You have to have something you really want to say. Do you write?” I did. I had many short, diary-like entries, some autobiographical and some not. “Spickets” is what I called them, and that’s what I developed into my first solo show, “Going Public.” But it wasn’t really what I wanted to say… so I Googled, “How do you write a solo show.” Seth Barrish at the Barrow Group popped up so I started working with him. At first, we refined “Going Public.” He’d ask me questions and I’d write the answers which sometimes evolved into more compelling stories. This process took about a year, and then I started developing it in front of live audiences. And then there was all this material that needed a thread. My husband said, “Why don’t you write a show about basketball?” I said, “OK!” and four years later I had something I really wanted to say.
My husband and I self-produce the show with the money we make from landscaping and carpentry. We also get financial family help which I am very grateful for. However, Mansfield College was the closest on that front. They paid us a flat rate fee and brought all their student-athletes, girls and boys teams, faculty and coaches to the show. It was the first time in the college’s history that they were in the same room together at the same time. Over 450 people! And, I rocked it, totally in the zone. I had rehearsed the show so much, had performed it so many times, in front of all types of people, in all types of wacky venues and under all kinds of circumstances, that not even the million nerves banging around inside me or all the excitement that comes before playing in a big game could curtail my mouth from opening up and delivering.
By the way, “A Kind Shot” is extremely timely, entertaining and simple to produce. It’s got one light cue, some house music, me and a ball. I use my pro basketball experience as a metaphor to share my life story which addresses sexual harassment and what anyone can do about it, what it’s like to model, strip, design Micheal Jordan’s headboard and take lots of shot’s at life.
MM: How did you discover your talent for basketball and what was it like to go pro?
TM: When I was twelve years old, I was 6 foot 1 and a counselor at a farm camp yanked me off a rope swing, showed me a basketball and said, “Here, you’ll be good at this someday.”
Eventually, he moved in with us and showed me how to play. But I never had any talent. My sister had the talent. The first time she shot a ball, it spun and went right in. Nothing but net. I’m still working on my backspin! What I have is persistence and perseverance and I knew early on that I was going to have to work at talent. Glad I did because in the 8th grade and all thru high school I was playing on a team that had three other girls who were 6 foot 1, another 5-11, and a point guard who was 5-10. Outstanding even for a college team! And this was in Vermont!!! Our team went undefeated in the 8th grade and from that point till graduation we lost a total of maybe five or six games. We had a bunch of fans. Some took photos and gave them to us or to the local paper, the Brattleboro Reformer, and they started covering us. Once I heard a guy say that he had gotten snowed out of his house and since he was at the high school on a night we had a game so he watched it and from that point on he never missed another one.
When I decided to try to go pro, there was no WNBA or agents, so I put together a package of the newspaper articles from the Brattleboro Reformer with some photos and sent them to a bunch of European teams. I got three offers. Since I had studied architecture and design I chose France, they had an architecture program as well as some drawing classes I could enroll in. Then I had to play a pickup game in New Jersey for a scout for the French team. I did, then I had to negotiate, in my super strong 10th grade French, on the phone, with a coach who I had never met, a contract which would include an apartment, car and $2500 a month tax-free. Then, after four days of hellacious overseas traveling, two weeks of 3-A-Day practices on top of a mountain near the Alps with a team that barely spoke English, and after eight hours of sitting in front of a 12-course meal which I barely ate because I was a vegetarian, I was invited to meet the president of the team to sign it. Persistence and perseverance paid off.
MM: How did you get into acting and theater, and is performing on stage anything like performing on the basketball court?
TM: After playing pro ball in France I came back to the US and all I knew was that I wanted to express my design and athletic abilities, but I also wanted to help people. I was inspired by Madonna at first so I thought, OK maybe performing…I had done some modeling so the visuals and all the stuff she was doing made sense to me. I started taking classes, kept modeling, got some nice roles and then I produced and performed a show that had five women in it. It was just the best. I really enjoyed creating a way for women to work together. I also kept playing ball in the streets. People would stop and watch and it was fun! And the two can be similar very much at times, the training and practice are like rehearsals, and when playing in an ensemble it’s very much like playing on a team. When I drop a ball or a line it’s a hoot to recover and usually gets a laugh! I have found through theater that I really enjoy the script element. Playing with words, learning, expanding that part of my self. Athletics is great and via my solo show, they both come together. And then on top of that, the show inspires folks to look out for each other.
MM: Since this is such a personal story, are any parts hard to discuss, especially to audiences?
TM: It’s never hard telling stories. It was hard going thru some of my actual experiences for sure. And the realization of what I had been through was very enlightening. I had no definition of what it all was until I started writing it down and shaping it. That process has allowed me to share it in a way that’s not “hard” for me or the audience. Instead, it’s entertaining and inspirational.
MM: What have been the highlights of critical and audience feedback?
TM: Probably Mansfield. The applause, the kids’ faces after the lights went up, and, the next morning when I was pumping gas at 6 AM for the ride home, I was thinking about the show, thinking about what I could have done better and just as I had this exact thought, I should have added the name of Mansfield’s football field into the part where I say… I heard someone say, “Hey are you the person who performed last night?” I said “yes” and he said, “You did an incredible job! I’m the coach for the football team and we are going to implement what you said in our practices. It’s not about the winning, or being the best it’s about looking out for each other. You were just fantastic. Thank you.”
MM: What is coming up next for you professionally and is there anything else on your mind that you wish to discuss?
TM: Sometimes I think threading a camel thru the eye of a needle would be a lot easier than putting up this show. But then I talk to the audiences and sense that they have been inspired and that they too have a story and it’s time to hear it! I think, “Keep going, have heart, play defense and make your free throws!” So I keep going….
I have a child-friendly version of the show I’d like to share. I’m playing ball again in different school gyms near Woodstock. I want to thank Seth Barrish and Lee Brock at the Barrow Group Theatre and School in NYC. Seth has been the lead dramaturge of the show. We’ve been working together on it for about four years. I touch base with Lee as well. With their guidance, love, and support I’ve been able to gracefully work this stuff out in my heart, mind, and soul. And I am eternally indebted to my husband Brian. He is amazing. He is a surrealist painter and wood smith and the love of my life. We met and thirty days later we got married. It will be twenty years this summer. Without these people, this team, there is nooooooo way this show would be around. And I am super glad and grateful you gave it a place on your site and hope all your readers will come. Here’s how!
A Kind Shot runs 75 minutes, no intermission, adult language and there is a talkback after each performance.
The show is at TBG Studio Theatre 312 W. 36th 3rd Flr. NYC 10018
You can get $25 at the door. (Cash only please) Or you can call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006
A single online ticket is $20 and you can get 2 for 1 tickets at www.akindshot.com by entering the code word KIND.