We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Torney and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Matt, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The biggest risk I ever took was leaving my life in Ireland and moving to New York to start over. I got into an amazing MFA program in directing at Columbia University, and had to choose between continuing to build a steady career as in Dublin, or to take a massive leap into the unknown. I remember stepping off the plane and hopping into a cab to a friend’s apartment where I had a couch to sleep on for two weeks, and thinking “what have I gotten myself into?!” Looking back, I could never have predicted the many profound ways that moving to the USA would impact my life, from incredible learning experiences and creative opportunities, to fundamental challenges to my world view and to how I approach both living and working. I learned the importance of listening and being open to new perspectives, the need to adaptive and flexible in my thinking, and most of all the need to be resilient as you live through change – all lessons that have been invaluable while moving to a new city and starting a new job during a pandemic! The most important lesson I learned is that risk and renewal go hand in hand. You can’t be afraid to take a big leap, or make a bold move. In fact, if you want to change something in a truly impactful way, it is essential.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am the Artistic Director of Theatrical Outfit, an amazing theatre right in the heart of Downtown Atlanta.  Our mission is to “Produce world class theatre that starts the conversations that matter” and we present a Mainstage season of plays, as well as running a new play development program called “Made in Atlanta”. We offer our audiences exciting artistic experiences that celebrate, console, and wrestle with the important questions of our lives, and are always looking for new ways to engage more deeply in conversations around the work. Coming out of the pandemic, we are focusing more on telling the stories of Atlanta, investing in artists who live here, and building deeper connections with communities all across the city to strengthen the long term impact of our work. What is most exciting to me personally is how closely the mission of the theatre aligns with my own vision as an artist. I am originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland, and grew up in the middle of a period of intense political violence that is known as “The Troubles”. The theatre was where I felt at home, and where I felt there was room to explore a very confusing reality. It was a place in which we built community and found common ground, and most importantly, it was a place centered on creativity. This perspective informs my work at Theatrical Outfit, and I want to create the same space for exploration, creativity, and community building here in ATL. Also, the pandemic has offered us an amazing opportunity to refocus and rebuild with a new focus on racial equity, and building a stronger, healthier, and more inclusive art form. It’s an exciting and challenging time in which everything feels vivid and alive.

A production of Hedda Gabler I directed at Studio Theatre, Left, Julia Coffey, Right, Michael Early. Photo Credit: Allie Dearie.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a tricky question for me since I moved here in the middle of the pandemic, so I haven’t been to too many spots! Our hands down favorite is the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, which has been a refuge during the past few months. They have an amazing outdoor seating area that feels very safe, and the food and beer menu is just incredible! Top tip is to go on Sundays for their special “Sunday Supper”. Also in Decatur is the wonderful Folk Art, which does an incredible breakfast. When my family visit from Northern Ireland, they will be taken straight there for the Chicken and Biscuits, which I am pretty sure will blow their minds! For take out, we love to go up to Buford Highway and sample some of the international cuisine. My personal favorites are El Taco Veloz, which tastes so good, and of course the spicy dumplings from Gu’s. Another favorite thing about Atlanta are all of the great parks and green spaces. Piedmont Park has been a great place to go with our daughter, and we have some lovely places to walk near our house as well. We have had some long walks over in Grant Park, taking some detours to see the lovely Victorian houses in side streets. I can’t wait to finally get to go inside some places, hopefully later this year!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to Lynne Parker, and everyone I worked with at Rough Magic Theatre Company in Dublin! Lynne was one of my earliest mentors, and she taught me that true strength comes from building a strong community, and treating people right, both on and off the stage. Like me, Lynne is from Belfast, and she also taught me the practical value of common sense, which is a very Northern Irish trait! As I have navigated some of the challenges of 2020, I keep drawing on lessons learned from Lynne, Loughlin Deegan, and the rest of the team at Rough Magic about how to balance vision with kindness, and the way in which investments in your community will be repaid many times over.

Website: www.matttorney.com
Instagram: @matttorney
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matttorney/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/matttorney?lang=en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matt.torney
Other: www.theatricaloutfit.org

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