On November 21, 2020, Trenton’s Passage Theatre Company will be showcasing ‘Welcome to Matteson’, a powerful play by the playwright and actress Inda Craig-Galván. Through a live Zoom session, attendees will have the opportunity to watch the show from the comfort of their own home while also having the chance to partake in a talk-back discussion session with Craig-Galván.
‘Welcome to Matteson’ is a dark comedy that follows four African American individuals, and their journey through heavy social constraints such as classism, economics and discrimination and how they evaluate the meaning of family and relationships.
“I think one of the main themes is home in this play, what we consider home and how we value what we’ve labeled to be home,” said Craig-Galván. “Because we are spending so much time at home these days, I hope we’ll think about what is most important to us, not in terms of the actual property, but what you make of your home, the people inside of it.”
Setting close to her own version of home, ‘Welcome to Matteson’ takes place in Chicago, where Craig-Galván grew up and developed her skills as a writer.
Initially, Craig-Galván wanted to be an actress, which she successfully is. She has been featured on a variety of TV series such as Parenthood, iCarly and Incredible Crew. However, being an actress was never Craig-Galván’s final destination.
“I knew I wanted to be in (shows),” she said. “It took me a while to figure out what my place in it was exactly.”
When working on plays, Craig-Galván made it a habit to ask many questions about the writing process. “I was so annoying,” she said. “It was always something I wanted to do myself, but just didn’t really have an opportunity or know how to create the opportunity.”
It wasn’t until Craig-Galván began studying sketch comedy through classes at The Second City in Chicago that she made her way into the writing field of entertainment. She said “(Sketch comedy) really blew my mind because there was a way to make people laugh and to craft little short stories.”
While learning the art of comedy, Craig-Galván and a close friend started their own sketch comedy duo. Together, the two spread humor through the lens of their own experiences at comedy clubs in Chicago. “We took all of what we learned at Second City, doing that type of satirical work, and applying it to our own community and talking about our own experiences, which was great because as an African American at that time in Chicago, I wasn’t seeing a lot of sketch comedy that was speaking to black issues,” said Craig-Galván.
After years as one half of a sketch comedy duo, Craig-Galván wanted to take her writing to the next level. “(I) eventually came to the realization that if I want to pursue a career as a writer, I personally needed to get a formal education so that I would feel qualified,” she said. “So I went to grad school.”
Only 11 years ago, Craig-Galván moved away from her home town in Chicago to California and enrolled at The University of Southern California. There, she was part of the Dramatic Writing program at the same time her daughter pursued her undergraduate degree at another university.
She said, “Once I stopped thinking of (sketch comedy) as part of my past and really embraced it as part of just one component of my whole artistic voice, that’s when I sort of figured out what kind of playwright I am and started using some of those tropes from sketch comedy in writing a drama.”
Since then, Craig-Galván has been heavily involved in not just her own personal writing, but in other productions as well. She has worked as a staff writer and story editor on popular shows such as How to Get Away with Murder and The Rookie.
In addition to ‘Welcome to Matteson’, she has written multiple successful shows including ‘The Boy who Cried Dragon’, ‘Rules of the Debate’, ‘Year 9’, ‘Black Super Hero Magic Mama’, ‘A Hit Dog will Holler’ and ‘I Go Somewhere Else’.
Each one of Craig-Galván’s plays, including ‘Welcome to Matteson’, reflects on some variant of her life as an African American woman. She wants to emphasis the true meaning of this play.
She says, “This play is about these African American characters perceptions of each other; it’s about their prejudices and their biases and their, of course, internalized racism that we all deal with, but this play is about and for black people who are wondering what is being given and what is being taken and how to balance that.”
With the current state universal health during the pandemic, playwrights like Craig-Galván, have had to find a way to showcase their normally close-contact work at a safe distance. Although different from the original intent of the play, Craig-Galván is hopeful that the Passage Theatre Company will highlight ‘Welcome to Matteson’ in a creative way.
“Because of the smell of the food cooking, and because of the way it is meant to be staged, it’s a play that would benefit from being done in person, in life, rather than being on a zoom,” she said. “I’m hoping we come up with something inventive and interesting, So that you’re not just looking at peoples’ square, Brady Bunch framing of the Zoom play.”
However, if it does come down to the show being read through square frames, Craig-Galván is not worried. The absence of visuals will give the audience an opportunity to focus on her writing in a deeper way than ever before. “It is an opportunity to just really pay attention to the words, and ultimately, that’s what you really want to be focused on.”