Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Welcome, Revolutionaries! This post marks the beginning of Monument's blog! In this particular series, we begin our project to let you get to know our team! This week we focus on Maverick Schmit, the Artistic Director / Co-Founder of Monument and the playwright of the upcoming production of Hers is the Head of a Wolf. Follow the interview below to get to know more about one of the members of our team!
MONUMENT: Ok, it's noted that you hate talking about yourself so we'll just jump right in.
MAVERICK SCHMIT: Thank you.
M: We'll start with the easy stuff. What’s your favorite color?
MS: Powder blue.
M: Favorite food?
MS: My mom used to make this peanut butter noodle dish that is to this day the greatest thing I’ve ever consumed. I know what you’re thinking - thai noodles. Wrong. She made this peanut butter glaze/sauce (a mystery I have yet to solve) and mixed in the noodles and some chicken strips. It was incredibly filling and delicious. A close second is my dad's blue-cheese stuffed burger. Damned good stuff, folks.
M: Favorite article of clothing?
MS: An odd and specific question, almost as though whoever came up with this interview knew that I did indeed have a favorite. It’s actually this button up flannel shirt my dad gave me because his arms were too big for the sleeves.
M: Do you have any tattoos?
MS: I do not, because I’m a failure. I would like to go on record by saying that I adore tattoos and if I had the time and the means I’d absolutely be covered in ink.
M: Favorite weather or time of year?
MS: Fall, hands down. The air is crisp, the sun is still out, perfect temperature. I love the colors of the leaves and the breeze that starts coming in around late September. Plus football comes on (go Bears!)
M: Do you enjoy sports? Who?
MS: I’m a huge sports nut. Grew up in Illinois watching the Bears and that obsession has not wavered in any way. Despite the ties to Chicago and Illinois, my dad is a Cardinals fan which doesn’t make much sense but I do love baseball. The Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears. And boxing. Huge boxing fan.
M: Any boxer in particular?
MS: GGG - Gennady Golovkin. He’s unreal. Leo Santa Cruz is so much fun to watch. I’ll always root for Amir Khan too. Back in the day I used to pull for Ricky Hatton. And if you want to go even further it's hard to top Evander Holyfield. One of the best who ever did it.
M: Coffee or tea? Why?
MS: Coffee. All day. I love the flavor and it’s really satisfying to drink. And unless it’s some version of chai tea I don’t want no damn tea. It tastes like dirty water, I don't care how healthy it is.
M: Cat or dog?
MS: I like both but I also have preferences with each. I prefer a large, affectionate dog without a beard. And also bulldogs because they are wrinkly blessings from above. I love black cats and the fluffier the better. But I don't have time for aloof, shitty cats or those little rat-like excuses for dogs. Miss me with that yappy nonsense.
M: What are some hobbies of yours?
MS: Theatre consumes my life and I have little free time.
M: Well ok then.
MS: It's true. What little down time I do have is usually spent either eating or sleeping.
M: What do you do to relax?
MS: Find and spread memes.
M: You make it sound like a disease...
MS: In many ways it is. BUT I also love reading and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend a fair amount of time on the XBox.
M: Cool, cool, something normal. What do you play?
MS: Let me be clear: I’m by no means a “gamer.” But that being said I am fond of Assassin’s Creed, 2K, Madden, and the Show. Not to mention anything Rocksteady comes out with.
M: What do you read?
MS: A lot. But Vonnegut is perhaps my favorite. Though there's also a scene in Dan Wells' "I Don't Want to Kill You" that was so chilling and excellent it was part of the reason I decided to start acting.
(NOTE: Maverick was very insistent we mention how ravenously he recommends the John Wayne Cleaver series, of which "I Don't Want to Kill You" is a part.)
M: Dream Vacation?
MS: Yikes, I don’t know. I’ve never been on vacation before… I’d love to see New Orleans, Rome, and Greece. I’d just love to see it and experience the culture, the food, the history.
M: If you weren’t in theatre what would you do?
MS: Maybe a teacher. I’d love to be a professor one day and help challenge, develop, and empower our future generations.
M: Who is a favorite playwright?
MS: Oh my god, why are these so hard to answer? I don’t know. I’ll always love Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets. Miller and Odets because of their frankness in addressing the working class. They're reflective of the time, of course, but that's also part of the beauty. Williams is just a master of visuals, of voice, and possesses such a unique style. He's known for his leading women, for good reason, but my god he balances that frailty and poetry with violence and power and I fucking live for that shit.
M: Do you have a favorite actor?
MS: I’m a big fan of Tom Hardy, Ryan Gosling, and Cillian Murphy. I love the subtlety of their work. I’ve recently binged on Claws so Niecy Nash’s performance comes to mind as well.
M: Who is a hero or inspiration of yours?
MS: I’m inspired by both of my parents. I was blessed to have two very dedicated, intelligent, kind, and sincere people who have not only raised and provided for their children but who were also a part of our lives every step of the way. I also have an embarrassing streak of bad choices and belligerent behavior that they have always managed to not only forgive but also love and support me in spite of. My father has always been the sole, golden standard for masculinity in my life and has taught me so much about what it means to be a man. My mother is intensely connected to the world around us and has always been able to tap into my emotional state and help steer me through whatever crisis I’m having. It’s also because of their personal sacrifices and commitment that my siblings and I have always been provided for and have been able to attain things in life that we never could have anticipated as possibilities. I can honestly say that nothing in my life would have been possible without their commitment to us children and I owe them everything. They inspire me everyday. If I could be half as strong, humble, kind, generous, open, and even possess a fraction of their perseverance I would consider myself a success.
Professionally speaking, there are so many people who inspire me in so many ways… It’s really hard to try to narrow it down! I’d hate to leave someone out.
(An inordinately long pause.)
M: Want to skip ahead?
M: Ok, what do you admire in people?
MS: Honesty and kindness.
M: What do you despise in people?
MS: Arrogance, cruelty.
M: What charms you in a person?
MS: I love it when people are able to laugh at themselves. And I’m a sucker for big, brown eyes. *swoons*
M: Where are you from?
MS: I hail from Danville, Illinois. Which claims the great Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman. As well as Keon Clark, for the basketball fans out there.
M: What was it like growing up there, can you describe how it affected your childhood? Teenage years? How do you feel about it looking back?
MS: I grew up on the east side of town, right there by the old Quaker Oats factory. Unfortunately that was also the neglected side of town and I witnessed the savagery of existence. I watched as people struggled to get by, just to get by. And I know that myself and my family are the lucky ones who were able to escape it, but there are so very many who weren’t.
M: Did it impact your worldview in any way?
MS: Absolutely. It taught me from an early age that life can be cruel and that the circumstances that place people in poverty also keep them there. After Danville my family moved to a very rural part of Indiana - our school was surrounded by cornfields on all four sides, just for context. While there we ran into a hell of a culture shock. Mass conservatism, a fair amount of overt racism, and religion dominated the area. That isn’t to say there weren’t good people, they were certainly there and outnumbered the blatant racists and morons, but this was a part of the social landscape. In my years there I saw the complete and opposite side of things. People talking about things they knew nothing about, throwing around completely absurd commentary that had no basis in fact- things that woke me up to the great, cultural disconnect of not only region but economic status. The things that I saw people take for granted in one area I saw others beg for in another. I’d like to be clear in saying that these observations weren't really organized or understood until I was older. In my youth I struggled with identity, anger, and confusion. I wasn’t a pleasant person to deal with, I said and did many appalling things. But I had to take it upon myself to be honest and learn, grow, develop. To take all those humiliating mistakes and own them. It was only then that I was able to look around and start to see how others were approaching life, what systems affected them and how they operated, things like that. Once I understood my own failings and flaws I could look around and start to understand my surroundings as well.
M: When did you develop an interest in theatre?
MS: I suppose I always had some interest in performance. I used to reenact all of Jim Carrey’s Grinch in my living room. But it took me awhile to sort of work my way onto the stage. My interest was first piqued by my sophomore english teacher Jodi McClure- who I’m still close with. She introduced me to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and I loved Marc Antony and Octavius. Shortly thereafter I saw our high school production of Willy Wonka and a friend of mine by the name of Caleb Boyer looked like he was having the time of his life up there onstage so I finally decided to try my hand.
M: When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
MS: Well I foolishly pursued music for a second before realizing that I literally know nothing about it. I can’t sing, I can’t read music, I can’t play instruments. Don't understand composition. If there’s a “level zero” of musical knowledge I’m not even there yet. So, after some late night discussions with my mom about my future I decided that the one thing I was doing that made me happy was theatre. Then I read that scene in "I Don't Want to Kill You" and I was shook. It made me feel excited and like I was the only person who could bring that moment to life - the one where John's dad doesn't pick up the phone. So from there I dove in headfirst.
M: You went to college and studied theatre. Why Indiana State? Were you comfortable in your pursuit of this degree?
MS: I had some friends at ISU already, which allowed me to get an inside look at how the department operated and that was both helpful and comforting. I did take a look at a few other schools around Indianapolis and southern Indiana while I was in community college, but I felt like ISU had a lot to offer. I met some of the faculty, was impressed by the nature of the plays I had seen there, and I love Terre Haute. Add on the friends and proximity to my family and I was sold.
There was never a moment of doubt or hesitation as I pursued (and at the time of this interview, continue to pursue) my degree. I've had ridiculously supportive parents and Theatre was the means by which I discovered myself and what I stood for. It’s what gave me passion and purpose and I’m grateful everyday for every experience I’ve had with it.
M: How do you feel about it now that you’re in the field?
MS: Don’t get me wrong, the student loans suck. But I am who I am because of ISU and what I encountered while there. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
M: What was your favorite class?
MS: Tough question. Intro to Playwriting. That has to take the cake because of what I discovered about myself and the people I met there. I’ll add that my Theatre Theory class deserves a shout out.
M: How did your college experience shape you as a professional?
MS: I learned what not to do. Seriously. It sounds like a joke or something but I firmly believe that learning what not to do (whether through your own failures or from observing those around you) is the best thing you can possibly learn before entering the professional realm.
M: Were there any specific instances you can recall that affirmed your beliefs? Challenged them?
MS: Plenty. I witnessed a lot of frustrating things that revealed what was important to me. But really the biggest takeaways I had from college was to always fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves and to treat others with kindness. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or what you deal with: always abide by those rules. If you are in a position of power, do not abuse it. If you have a platform, whatever it is, use it for good. If you see something wrong, fight it with all you've got. Even if it doesn't directly affect you. It applies to so much more than you know.
M: What are the stories you gravitate to?
MS: I love stories that explore the human condition. Why we do what we do, the circumstances that define us and why those circumstances exist. As I’ve mentioned before, the savagery of existence is something that has consumed me. I can’t seem to escape it in my own work and it is beyond satisfying to experience while in the audience.
M: What about these stories do you connect to?
MS: It’s my life, man. Art reflects life, or at least it should. Theatre has a tremendous capacity to influence, enlighten, and empower. When I watch a play that speaks to me honestly, that doesn’t pull punches and shows us not only the world we live in but also how we might navigate it- that’s euphoric. Something that is approached honestly, without pretense, that touches the soul. You can’t beat that.
M: What is the effect you want your work to have on the audience?
MS: I want my audience, regardless of their walk of life, to be able to experience something profound. I’d love to be able to inject an understanding of different experiences that can unite us. But I’ll also settle for igniting a conversation between people.
M: Last question: A hundred years from now, what would you like to be remembered for?
Now you know Maverick! Stay tuned for future posts in our Get to Know series as well as other Monument updates!