Matthew Reiss

Law Firm, performing, writing

1992 Alumni


History Major/ Theater and English Minors
Graduated 1992
Chicago, IL

Law Firm,Performing,Writing

Since Emory

After Emory, I headed west to law school at the University of Kansas. While there, I organized a sketch and improv comedy troupe, and we performed for over a decade at venues across the country. The law provided economic security, but theater has always given me true joy. In 2007, I moved to Chicago, spent a few years learning improv from some very gifted teachers at Second City, the Annoyance Theater and Improv Olympic, and created a brand new troupe.

Current activities

I work at a law firm that is a 10 minute walk from my apartment by day, and my evenings are dedicated to theater – whether rehearsing, performing, writing or watching the work of my fellow comedic actors.I am the leader of the Second City based troupe, The Stuntmen. We are one of the only troupes to be accepted at both the Chicago Sketchfest and Chicago Improv Festival. We strive to create humor thru physicality, and our shows always close with an improvised action movie. I have also written and directed a few sketch shows in town, won an award for a sketch comedy competition, and I keep in performance shape by doing barprov gigs on weekday nights. Those shows are good challenges, because your audience consists almost entirely of improv troupes waiting to perform, themselves.

Highlights at Emory

I did several shows with the student run Ad Hoc theater company, the highlight being a chance to assistant direct a truly satisfying production of Godspell. I was fortunate enough to join the Theater Honor Society. And I think the show that taught me the most was Moliere’s School for Wives, starring Professor McDonough and directed by Professor Murphy. I had a modest role as an understudy, but witnessing the professionalism and creativity being generated on a daily basis made me want to elevate my performance to some respectable shadow of those around me.

Spending a semester tutorial working on Beckett with Professor Bynum was the best class I ever took. Beckett’s material highlighted all of my weaknesses as an actor – it was quite humbling and enriching. And I must give a special nod to the comedy troupe Rathskellar for giving me a glimpse of my future self.

In retrospect

The Ad Hoc experience was very empowering – it showed me that you don’t have to wait for theater to come to you. Theater doesn’t exist in the abstract; it’s a group of people committed to creating something out of nothing. That’s what gave me the confidence to start troupes in Kansas City and Chicago. And at some point in the creation of each new show, there is a moment at which I sense that the only thing keeping the show afloat is our collective belief that the show will exist. So far, our belief has always been rewarded.

I chose a path that is less daring than many of my friends and fellow thespians. I chose to make a living in another field and engage in theater on my own terms. I admire those who sink or swim thru their passion for the stage, but I think this was the right choice for me. Theater is my catharsis; it gives me permission to express myself, react, be an idiot. For that quality alone, it is an essential part of my life.