As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Detroit native Matt Manuel, who was making his Broadway debut in Ain’t Too Proud–The Life and Times of The Temptations when the pandemic closed theatres around the country. Manuel, who portrayed Marvin Gaye in the touring cast of Motown: The Musical, replaced original Tony-nominated Temptations performer Ephraim Sykes in the role of David Ruffin February 28, 2020. A former contestant on American Idol, Manuel was the male vocalist for the Simone Vitale Band and was seen as Benjamin in the short film Akoma.
What is your typical day like now?
My typical day consists of a few things. Exercise is a must for me. I have also been brushing up on my ASL through YouTube, and learning Spanish (very slowly) through Duolingo. I also enjoy cooking, so I like to try different recipes every once in a while.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
As a TV junkie, I feel like I could be here all day. Most of it isn't of substance, but my next show will be Bridgerton.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
Something I have begun to feel passionate about is the process of telling the stories of POC. We as POC must be emboldened to tell our own stories, and to my caucasian brothers and sisters, you must be careful not to whitewash our realities and storylines with your own hopes and dreams. We must stay true to ourselves at all times.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I believe we all are struggling with the current state of things. I believe that this is such an opportunity to grow and reflect on ourselves. Growth is never comfortable. We must persevere and remember that there is a season to everything. Let us be creative in how we bridge the gap between brokenness and stability.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I am still working on popping my creative bone back into place to be honest. I feel that it has been most important for me to just be, at this time. I am now just starting to feel the urge to write music and be creative again.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I have done a few projects here and there, but as of right now, I am most concerned with making myself as whole as I can be. Work has never been a problem for me, but overworking myself has. I believe things don't happen to me, they happen for me, and when I am meant to return to regularly working, I will know.