Matt Anderson, Children's Museum of Indianapolis actor, gives you a first hand account of how our extraordinary actors bring the museum experience to life for you and your family. This is the first in a series of posts from Matt. You might remember Matt from his exceptional Jelly Belly Art blog post last year!
In my bright blue outfit and neon green cape, guests instantly recognize me as a superhero.Of course, because Captain Extraordinary is unique to our museum, they don’t necessarily know which superhero I am. I often get: “Green Lantern!” or “Superman!” (or one time, inexplicably: “Wonder Woman!”). Either way, the kids are excited. We talk about dinosaurs and Transformers and how people can use porcupine quills to make art… but now it’s 10:30 am, and I must bid my friends farewell. I head to the dressing room and replace the outfit with an understated gray suit, a vest, and a tie. I whiten my temples and paint spirit gum on my lip to affix a mustache. Finally, I make my way to The Power of Children exhibition where, as Anne Frank’s father, I give a performance about the holocaust.
This is just my average day as an actor at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
For me, the fact that this is just an “average day” is precisely why I love the job so much. It’s a ridiculous understatement, but performing as Captain Extraordinary is rather different from performing as Otto Frank. And performing as Otto Frank is rather different from – well, whatever I’ll be performing next. Yet that’s exactly what makes the job so great: the incredible and almost staggering variety of programs we do here.
As much as I do love it, I had no idea growing up that this is what I’d be doing for a living. While I’d been interested in acting for much of my life—from making videos with friends in middle school to obtaining a theatre major in college—I never thought I’d be able to do anything with it for a career. Following graduation, I found work at the fantastical City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri and later at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve always enjoyed working with children and families so these jobs, though not traditionally in the theatre, felt well suited to me. It wasn’t until moving to Indianapolis in 2008 and seeing a listing for ACTOR on their children’s museum’s website that I realized that what I’d assumed were two entirely separate career tracks could actually merge.
My case is not an isolated one. There are nine full-time actors here at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and most have similar stories — a theatrical interest nurtured in high school, pursued into undergraduate studies, but with post-graduate jobs suddenly veering far from that path: brokerage assistant, coffee-shop barista, ballroom dance choreographer. Why weren’t we all actively pursuing careers in theatre, when it was clearly something we all loved?
Unfortunately, work in that discipline can have something of a stigma around it—being an actor means being either absurdly rich or famous in Hollywood, or a starving artist on the streets. It’s easy to see those extremes and not realize that there is a theatrical middle ground, such as in museums, especially if that type of specialized field is not yet in the public consciousness. Perhaps in the years to come, museum theatre will become a more mainstream profession. As it stands, my coming across this job may very well have been a fluke… and as such, I feel extremely lucky to have found it, and extremely lucky to once again be doing what I love.
To be continued...