Matter Events: Extravagant v. Lo-fi

Katherine Lehr
Dec 12, 2016 · 4 min read

Matter Studios debuted its first live event, “Matter Presents: Total Power Move,” in early November. This ambitious undertaking, which was born out of a brainstorming session in mid-July, was originally envisioned to be an intimate, low-dollar gathering. That quickly changed — and it was probably for the best.

This was an opportunity for our small team, only two weeks in as a company of seven, to identify — and, eventually, execute on — a concept that would embody our company’s mission: to work with diverse, entrepreneurial creators who want to pioneer their own things. The event would be about finding a provocative lens to look at power in our culture right now — who needs it, who needs to relinquish it, and who can’t or won’t.

It was also an opportunity to go big. As we started to assemble a high-caliber roster of performers, it was clear we needed an equally talented theater crew to pull it off. Most of our staff had been involved in professional events at some level — whether it be as a panelist, as the editorial lead, or the person giving creative direction — but no one had built something of this scale from the ground up.

The Dance Cartel. Photo: Laurel Golio
Bathhouse Studios on November 2, 2016. Photo: Laurel Golio

First, we needed a space that was essentially a blank canvas so that Tracy Ma, Matter’s creative director, could bring her brilliant vision to fruition. The selection of the Bathhouse Studios, a photo rental space in the East Village, meant we’d have to bring everything in — lights, sound system, stage, chairs, tables, video projector, food, alcohol, and liquid soap for the bathrooms. It also meant that we’d have to find the people who were going to provide these things. (We enlisted the help of Broadway director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, who was instrumental in mobilizing a first-rate group of theater pros.) And, oh yeah, we also thought it would be smart (and not insane) to produce a 128-page magazine that would be distributed to attendees during the event.

The full “Total Power Move” cast. Photo: Laurel Golio
Himanshu. Photo: Laurel Golio
Fariha Róisín. Photo: Laurel Golio

The end result was a huge success, both internally and externally. More than 50% of attendees surveyed two weeks after “Total Power Move” said that they were still thinking about the event, which featured the following performers: Bandana Splits, Oliver Bateman, The Dance Cartel, Joon Chung, Tyler Ford, Keith Hernandez, Himanshu, Luis Moreno, Fariha Róisín, Molly Soda, and Darcie Wilder. Moreover, we’re in the process of taking it on the road to five or six cities across the U.S. in 2017.

So we proved that we could go big, but what about delivering on our earlier promise of producing something lo-fi? Could we make a lasting impact with a smaller budget, one that is one-tenth the budget of “Total Power Move”? We’ll know for sure this Tuesday, Dec. 13th, when we put on “Matter Presents: Feelings — A Holiday Party.”

I am going to go out on a limb and say we will. Sure, there are a lot of variations in these events (see the chart below for more details), but great content is our constant endeavor. Matter has once again identified a unique set of voices to explore the issue of utmost importance — all the feelings associated with the disaster that was the 2016 election.

And although the production value is lower and the venue smaller (albeit awesome!) — which, again, is by design — “Feelings” will show that Matter is doing what it set out to do: surprise and delight audiences, in many different forms.

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