Matt Hall has accomplished a great amount in his 29 years: from becoming an artist and model to acting in and producing plays. Among the Washington native’s exploits is the co-founding of Dragon Theatre Productions, a theatrical program of Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Imagination Celebration that inspires people to pursue their passion for the stage regardless of sex, age, race, experience-level or ability. This week, the Business Journal spoke to Hall and his mother, Jane, about his impressions of the local community, his latest projects and proudly pursuing his dreams.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Matt Hall, and I am a 29-year-old young man with Down syndrome who has lived in Colorado Springs for the last 16 years, having moved from Bellevue, Wash., with my mom and dad. I graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School, having earned both academic letters and a sports letter in swimming. I was on the swim team all four years of high school, swimming in both individual and relay events. I really enjoyed high school here, as the teachers, staff and other students were all very friendly and supportive. I have always enjoyed the performing and creative arts, having started with dance and movement classes when I was 3 years old.
My involvement in the theater was a natural step after first being involved in dance, and then becoming a model for Nordstrom’s and Lands’ End catalogs. … The modeling led to a walk-on part in the movie “Mad Love” with Drew Barrymore and Chris O’Donnell. Unfortunately, I ended up on the cutting room floor, but got to spend an entire day on the set shooting. I then became involved with the Bellevue City Parks Department youth theater group, and that is where I really caught the bug. … After graduating from high school, I found there were only limited opportunities for community theater in Colorado Springs, so I joined a theater class at the Club of Arts and met the teacher Cyndi Parr. Cyndi and the Club of Arts were interested in forming a “true community theater group,” which means if you are willing to make the commitment to be in the production, we would make a part for you! Over the years, we have grown into an annual production each summer, and created “Dragon Theatre Productions.” We are a program of Imagination Celebration and have partnered with the Pikes Peak Library District.
I love being involved in every part of the production. With over 100 people involved in the productions each year, I get to work with lots of fun, creative people who come together to make the plays a success for everyone. As co-founder and producer of the group, I get to be involved in every step of the process, from picking the plays, to tweaking the scripts and helping to create the costumes, props, special effects and lots more.
I understand that you’re also an artist. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I really love to draw and to create mosaics from glass and tile. I find creating is relaxing and lets me express things I am thinking about. I usually don’t sell my art work, but I have a few times, and donated some to various auctions for fundraisers around town. I create my mosaics in a weekly workshop hosted by Concrete Couch and I really enjoy the creative, fun atmosphere with my fellow artists.
Let’s hear more about your modeling work. How did you get into that?
My mom leveraged some contacts to get me into the running to be a model for Nordstrom’s. After submitting a headshot and bio, I was selected to come in for a catalog shoot, and the rest is history.
What do you think of Colorado Springs as a community for young professionals?
I think Colorado Springs is a great place for young professionals as everyone here is so supportive and there are so many activities to be involved in the arts, in government and politics, sports and outdoor activities. I am always meeting new people that want to get involved in Dragon Theatre, or Special Olympics or Colorado Springs Park Department programs. People in Colorado Springs are very energetic and positive.
You’re involved with the Special Olympics and the Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association. Can you tell us about those experiences?
Special Olympics and the Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association have provided a number of opportunities for me to participate in sporting and social events. For me, both of these organizations provide fun and safe environments to enjoy golf, bowling and social events like dances and parties throughout the year. I have met so many people and made so many friends from these organizations I can’t even count them all!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
Transportation and communication are challenges for me. With low muscle tone it is extra work for me to walk around [and] move, and that makes clear verbal communication difficult. Transportation is mostly handled by my mom and dad. I have found people very supportive in working to communicate with me, as they usually take the time to listen and give me feedback or ask questions to help me communicate my thoughts to them.
What advice would you give to other young professionals in Colorado Springs?
Find what you love to do and go for it! I love the theater and the entire creative process to produce a play, and have found a very supportive network of other artists that have come together to create this unique and ongoing theater group. Making friends and spending time with them is what I really enjoy, and that in turn keeps the energy going for the whole group.