WESTMINSTER, CA - Dancers, singers, and sisters Jillian and Kylie Matthews are couple of young talented artists who have been with the Rose Center Theater since they were kids...because their mom is Resident Co-Choreographer, Jennifer Simpson-Matthews!
Older sister, Jillian Matthews has recently been seen in past Rose Center productions including, 42nd Street, Li'l Abner, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and most recently Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. She is currently teaching tiny-tot ballet and tap classes in Lakewood and is taking classes at Cypress College.
Younger sister Kylie is also a student at Cypress College, having recently been seen on the Rose Center stage in The Sound of Music, It's A Wonderful Life, and Winnie the Pooh. She has been dancing for 15 years has been dancing with Center Stage Dance Academy for the past 11. She too currently teaches ballet and tap classes in Lakewood and is also a choreographer at the Free To Be Me Performing Arts Academy.
Excerpts from our conversation:
J.M. - Jillian Matthews
K.M. - Kylie Matthews
What attracted you to being a performer?
J.M. - I was basically born into performing. My mother was in New York City when she found out she was pregnant with me. She is a choreographer so I of course started at a young age and have continued with it ever since.
K.M. - I started performing when I was very young, so from a young age I craved the adrenaline and satisfaction that came from performing. It became a way for me to channel all of my creative abilities and learn to leave everything all on the stage. The moment I stepped out on to a stage, I knew that it is where I am meant to be.
What has been one of your proudest accomplishments as a performer?
J.M. - I am proud of receiving the freshman dancer of the year award at the Huntington Beach High School Academy for the Performing Arts banquet awards night. I was given this award for my freshmen scene project where I portrayed Peggy Sawyer from 42nd Street. My group and I performed an excerpt from the song "Go Into Your Dance" and parts of a scene from the show. This is something that I was very proud of. My group and I worked hard to choreograph and perform this scene and I feel as though it really helped me to move forward in my dancing and performing journey.
K.M. - I think my biggest accomplishment has been being able to work (and get paid) as a choreographer! Not only focusing on dancing, but also on how dance is useless without acting and performing. Being able to pass my performance knowledge and passion for dance onto the younger generations is a great gift that I am so lucky to share.
How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals?
J.M. - I try to think ahead and prepare my song and anything else I need to bring to the audition. I always try to drink plenty of water throughout the day to make sure my voice is ready for the audition.
K.M. - I tend to get anxious really easily before an audition, so I make sure that I allow myself time to be alone for a bit and focus on the positives. I usually jump around a little bit and shake my arms and legs to get all the extra adrenaline out of my body. I also find that peppermint essential oil really helps to use before a singing audition. My advice would be to not focus on the worst case scenario, but be prepared if something doesn’t go the way you planned!
What do you find the most frustrating part of being a performer is?
J.M. - I tend to get annoyed very easily with people who aren't respectful while participating in theatre. I try to be a very respectful person when performing and if others around me don't feel the same way I get very upset.
K.M. - I think the most frustrating part of being a performer is how much I get inside my head. I am very critical of myself when I perform and it can get discouraging when I am constantly telling myself that I am not performing well in comparison to my past self or others.
How do you handle rejection?
J.M. - If it was something that I was really excited about of course I would be upset, but I tend to handle rejection really well. I usually respect the decision of the director or casting team and hope to try again another time.
K.M. - I just walk away, take a deep breath, and tell myself that something better will come along. I believe that everything happens for a reason, so I know that I wasn’t meant to get through that audition. I have had to deal with a lot of rejection this past year with a lot of auditions, but I get through it every time by picking myself up and pushing through.
Anything that motivates you as a performer?
J.M. - I love when I'm surrounded with people who are as passionate about performing as much as I am. I love having a strong group behind me to help motivate me to be a better performer.
K.M. - I believe that my main motivation are my own personal goals that I set in place for myself. I perform to feel good about my performance at the end. Awards and recognition don’t matter to me when I know that I did my best. I also love to just share my talents with those around me. Seeing that I made someone’s day with my performing motivates me to keep going and never give up.
Do you have a dream role?
J.M. - My first and favorite role has always been Elphaba from Wicked. Ever since I saw the show for the first time I have always connected with her personality and her journey. I feel like I could bring a dorky side to Elphaba that would connect my personality with hers. She has always been an inspiration to me in my theatre life and I would absolutely die if I could ever play her.
K.M. - I think that my dream role would be Zoe from Dear Evan Hansen because the dynamic of that show is something so special that I would love to be a part of. I saw the show last year and I instantly fell in love with the story, the characters, and the staging of it. I think that when I put my acting and singing abilities together I can portray a good version of the character. It is also a dream of mine to perform with Ben Platt, so that would be pretty cool too!
How would you prepare for a role like that?
J.M. - I usually try to read through my lines as much as possible so I can have them memorized as quickly as possible. Also anytime I'm in a rehearsal with my other performers I try to connect with them as my character to really understand my role.
K.M. - I have to give myself alone time to get into character. I get distracted very easily, so I need time to sit with myself and my version of the character I am portraying. I read lines in character and keep my mind in that place until the show has ended. I find that I my performance enhances when I am able to sit with the character and adopt them into my personality.
How important do you think training is as a performer?
J.M. - I think training is very helpful as a performer. I wouldn't say it's something that is required but it definitely gives some people an upper hand. I have been in voice, dance, and musical theatre classes throughout my whole life at differing skill levels. At the very least I would say that voice lessons are the best kind of training you could receive just to get a general overview of how to perform musically.
K.M. - Training is so important as a performer no matter what your specialty is. For me, I have been taking dance for almost 16 years and it has become second nature to me. Going to class almost everyday of the week for the last 10 years really shaped me into the performer I am today. Discipline can get annoying, but it is ultimately the thing that gets you to where you want to be.
What role have you had the most fun playing?
J.M. - The most fun role I've ever played was when I was a Duloc Doll and a Rat Tapper in Shrek The Musical. I was in two of the biggest dance numbers in the show and I had a blast. I got to work with a lot of my friends and got to be silly on stage while dancing. Also Shrek is a very fun show in itself.
K.M. - I think the most fun role I played was Piglet in Winnie the Pooh because I got to perform with all of my friends and the character was so fun to portray. I got to sing my own solo, tap dance, and had a monologue scene all to myself. I was in elementary school at the time and it was so much fun to be one of the lead roles!
On the flip side, what is the hardest role you've ever had to play?
J.M. - The hardest role I've ever had to play was when I was Brigitta in The Sound Of Music here at the Rose when I was just 13. This was a difficult role for me because I have always had trouble with remembering lines and I had a ton of lines. I was in multiple scenes where I would talk with so many other characters and it would be a long speech each time. I was very nervous going into the shows, but I practiced a lot and felt confident that I knew what I was saying.
K.M. - I think the hardest role I had to play was probably when I played Marta from The Sound of Music. I was only 12 and having to remember all my lines, when to say them, staging, and my harmonies was a little challenging for me since it was a bigger part. Though challenging, it was such a fun show and a great learning opportunity for me as a performer.
Do you have a favorite actor/performer? Who is it? Why are they your favorite?
J.M. - My all time favorite performer is of course the queen herself Idina Menzel. She has been my favorite ever since I became obsessed with Wicked at a young age. Her strength and passion in all of her roles has always been amazing and I look up to her and hope to be as talented as her some day.
K.M. - My all time favorite actor is Ben Platt. He played the original Evan in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway and has since been in so much more on and off Broadway. He is just an amazing person inside and out with the biggest heart. He leaves everything on the stage in every performance and never takes anything for granted. Not to mention that he is so incredibly talented! His humility and talent amaze me and I love him so much.
What is a fun fact about you that people wouldn’t be aware of?
J.M. - Something very random but very interesting about me is that in middle school I took an after school class where I learned how to do the Chinese lion dance. We had multiple performances and I was the lion head for all of them. It was something fun to do and it's an experience that I can remember for the rest of my life.
K.M. - I am the biggest fan of the TV show The Office to the point where I can quote a lot of the lines and can ace almost every trivia quiz on the show out there! I also love bullet journaling and I am self taught in calligraphy!
Any advice to other actors or aspiring performers?
J.M. - I would just want to tell them that even if they think they can't dance, sing, or act, if they are passionate about performing there is nothing stopping you from doing what you love. Follow your heart and do whatever you feel you want to do.
K.M. - My advice would be to never take anything for granted. Treat every performance like it is your last because you never know if you’ll get the opportunity to perform again. Treat your talent like a plant; you have to take care of it or else it will wither away as time goes on.