One of the most versatile actors in Houston, David Matranga has just finished a run as the heroic, noble Macduff in the dramatic tragedy Macbeth at Stark Naked Theatre. He's currently appearing as the young, innocent Detective Sergeant Penny in the comedic whodunit The Hollow at the Alley Theatre. Local audiences have also seen him recently in the Houston Grand Opera's production of Show Boat. Television audiences have seen the Yale School of Drama alum in Law & Order and Longmire. An experienced voice actor with more than two dozen animated films to his credit, he's also filmed the action comedy Urban Shakedown. And all of that is just what he's done lately.
Playing such a variety of roles requires Matranga to be something of a chameleon, though he says part of his job is to find a connection between himself and each character. "I try to stay away from the clichÃ© things that you hear, like 'I transform into another person.' You have to use all of who you are in a role, but you're always still you. You're using different aspects of yourself, but it's you."
Macduff was a role Matranga had had on his wish list for a while. Still on the list are Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman ("I'm still a little too young for that part, but I'm looking forward to playing it some day," Matranga tells us), Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge and James Tyrone in Moon for the Misbegotten.
What He Does: "I'm a storyteller," Matranga says simply. "I read a script or a screenplay and then I figure out with my training and instincts and all of that a way to inhabit that role in a way that reflects some human story. Being an actor allows me to tell another person's story, even if its not so much a fun or happy story. People ask actors if its fun to play a bad guy and I understand where that question comes from, but villains don't think they're villains. So if you playing a villain as a villain, you're doing something wrong."
Although his work as a voice actor does have some significant technical differences, he says. "On stage techniques sound fake on screen, but acting is acting is acting is acting. It's still the same muscle, it's still comes from the same place. I tell people you can't be a voice actor, you have to be an actor."
While he doesn't have to be in costume for his voice work, Matranga admits he has taken a toy gun into the sound booth when he was playing someone who used a gun. "It's not physical, but it is. In voice-work, characters are still physical on screen."
Standing in a sound booth with a microphone, his script flowing on one computer screen and the animation on another, Matranga says he studies the character. "I look at his eyes, his shoulders, how fast his movements are. All of those things still inform the voice. And I'm not standing still, I'm acting out some of the action, not because it's required but because it helps with the role. I'm sure I look crazy when I'm in the booth because I'm in there alone, fighting and jumping around, making fight sounds," he laughs.
Why He Likes It: "The reason we do theater, as actors and as audiences, is to change each other in some way. There's an intimacy between the audience and the actor, there's an exchange. It doesn't always happen, but sometimes I feel that the audience so with me, it's palpable.
"I've read 'If you could anything else besides acting and be reasonably happy, go do it.' Acting's such a difficult thing to do, such an insecure life, but it's what I've chosen to do."
What Inspires Him: "I'm a student of human behavior. For me, acting is behavior before it's anything else. It's in the body, it's in the physicality of somebody before they even speak. The verbal side of it is kinda secondary sometimes. It has to come from somewhere in your body.
If Not This, Then What: "I would want to be a doctor, like a neuroscientist. That or a psychotherapist. It would still be looking at what's going on in our head, why we make the choices we make."
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If Not Here, Then Where: "I lived in New York for years and I'd probably want be back there." Asked where he'd like to live overseas, he says Naples.
What's Next: Matranga plays Detective Sergeant Penny in The Hollow through August. After that he's got more stage and film roles lined up.
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