Starting 5/24/24, 12:00:00 am: School of Rock

Interview: Matthew James & John Miersen (Next Fall)

Theatre Cedar Rapids


I was able to sit down with lead actors of our upcoming production of Next Fall, Matthew James and John Miersen and chat with them about their starts in theatre, favorite roles, and the current production.  Read on to get to know these two charismatic guys.


ED:  What brought you into theater?

JM:  For me, one thing I remember specifically is watching my brother perform his freshman year in high school.  He was in Beverly Hillbillies and he played Jethro.  I remember watching that show – I think I was it all three times.  I was like, “Yep, I want to do that.”.  And after that point forward, I made a conscious effort to be involved with it and to keep learning.  The dominoes fell from there.

MJ:  It’s just something I’ve always done.  My sisters and I used to perform musicals for our babysitters and that just grew into putting on shows all the time.  When I got into junior high, I went to a catholic school, so they didn’t have an actual drama program.  But I would reenact things from the Bible – playing all the characters.  (Laughs)  I got into high school and that’s where I really started getting into theater.  It’s been an on-again, off-again love affair.

ED:  So you started in musicals…

JM:  Time to bring it back!

MJ: Well….I don’t really sing.  This is when I was like…six… (Laughs)

ED:  Okay, we won’t talk about musicals anymore.  What is one of your favorite past roles that you’ve played?

JM:  Most recently, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  But I think one that I always go back to and think fondly of was Eurydice at Kirkwood.  I was The Most Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld.  I just had so much fun with that role and I always think back on that.  It was a lot of fun.

MJ:  Hamlet, Angels in America, and Lachimo in Cymbeline.  Also, Bottleman in Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, and both stagings of The Summerland Project.

ED: If you could play any role, what would that be?

JM: Hamlet. (Laughs) *Note: John (Horatio) and Matthew (Hamlet) were in TCR’s production of Hamlet last Spring.*

MJ:  You could do it!  You have time.

JM:  After seeing how much work you put into it, I would want to do all that.  (Laughs) 

MJ:  (Laughs) There’s so many roles!  I’ve always wanted to play the Devil or Don Juan in Man and Superman.  Umm…come back to me!

JM:  I really only have one – Tom from The Glass Menagerie.  I want to play that for sure.  I’m sure there’s a lot more that I can’t think of.

MJ:  Oh, duh!  Hedwig!  Also, either Salieri or Amadeus in Amadeus.  We’ll just round it out with Melvin P. Thorpe from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

ED:  Describe the character that you’re playing in Next Fall.

MJ:  He’s a forty-year-old candle salesman.  He, I think, is searching for something that isn’t there while ignoring what is.  I think he has a lot of insecurities about himself and that manifests itself in the relationship.  He’s a sassy guy.  He uses humor to deflect.

JM:  So, Luke.  The young, aspiring actor who holds his faith very close to him, despite being a homosexual.  He wants love even though he feels like he can’t have both things, but he still tries to fight for both.  He is a pretty caring dude, even though sometimes it seems like he’s just trying to get what he wants out of a situation.  At the end of the day, he wants what he wants, and that’s what he’s going to get.

ED: What is something that is challenging about this show and something that excites you about the show?

JM:  Something that’s challenging is the content, the story.  Properly telling the story and finding the motives is challenging.  Also, for me, doing that with this cast night in and night out is challenging.  You’ve got to show up with your A-Game because everyone is making discoveries.  That’s a good challenge.  I really like that and that’s what makes it exciting as well.  This last week and a half is when the show really falls together and blossoms.  We have a solid foundation, and I’m excited to see what happens when the show opens.

MJ:  For me, the most challenging thing is trying to figure out Adam’s motivations and where he’s coming from.  To fully embody his point of view has been challenging and interesting.  It’s also caused me to look at what I believe, which is good.  The most exciting thing is working with the cast and Angie (Toomsen) and Tamsin (McAtee).  Everybody is here to have a good time, but also to do the work.  We feed off of each other very well.

ED:  Why do you think people should see Next Fall?

MJ:  I think it’s always good to be exposed to different viewpoints.  This show tackles different viewpoints with a lot of humor and grace.  You know, it’s an unknown show, but I cannot imagine anyone coming to the show and not being pleased that they did and somehow not being changed.  It will start a very good discussion, and that’s what I think theater is about.  Lin-Manuel Miranda said that everyone sits int he same room, but they can all see a completely different show.  I’m really fascinated to see what the audience response is to the show.

JM:  Going off of that – one of the biggest parts of this show is whether you laugh, or cry, or don’t feel any emotion, you’re going to leave thinking.  You’re going to leave thinking differently than when you walked through the doors, which is what you always want to do in theater.  There is definitely something to learn from it.


 Get your tickets today for Next Fall, on stage January 13-28.