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Meet Barbara Matovu! Barbara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama and Minor in Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Although moving to New York to be an actress, as a theater artist, Barbara has worked as an actress, assistant director, and teaching artist.
Tell us about your experience(s) reading for the Bechdel Group.
I come to the Bechdel Group readings as an actor intrigued by new work. I’ve been a part of the monthly reading, 24-Hour Writer’s Challenge, and this month/August, I’m excited to be a part of the full-length staged reading of Hey Sexy: An Environmental Parable by Natalie Sacks. I love how Bechdel Group gets everyone involved. At each reading, the talkbacks are more than a Q & A, they are conversations among a community.
When in your acting career/work did you become aware of the Bechdel test and how has it changed or informed your work?
I had never heard of the Bechdel test until I was invited to read for the Bechdel Group for the first time about three years ago. Since then, I think I read (and listen, when it comes to attending readings) scripts differently. I pay more attention the female characters, how they are written and how they fit into the larger picture.
As you know, the Bechdel Group’s monthly readings are not rehearsed. What do you like about this kind of format and what do you, as an actor, get from it?
I like that it keeps me on my toes. There’s no opportunity to get too comfortable, so it forces you to stay in the moment. And, like an audition where they hand you sides before you go in, you have little time to make strong choices. The actors are there to serve the playwright. The more reading can look like final table read, the clearer the playwright can be clear on what is working and what isn’t.
Have you ever been cast outside of what you consider to be your marketable “type” at a Bechdel reading? How was that for you?
Yes, I think it’s happened two or three times. Each time, I got halfway through the script, when I went back to email wondering if I read it wrong, “Wait, which part did they want me to read?” The first time, I felt a little awkward, like when you interlace your fingers the with your less dominate thumb on top. It feels funny but it’s obviously not impossible.
Playwrights always appreciate the feedback they get from the actors at our readings. What would the perfect collaboration on a play’s development look like from your perspective as an actor?
One in which the playwright is always open to questions, even if they don’t have all the answers.
The Bechdel Group
Working to challenge the portrayal of women in film and on stage.