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Actor, director, musician Plummer conquers life sitting down

By James Bright
On February 18, 2011

In the history of the world there is a long list of people who have overcome adversities of varying types and used their lives to touch thousands of others. One more for that list is graduate student Matt Plummer.

Despite being confined to a wheelchair, he is very active in music and multiple theatre groups. Plummer said his disability has not hindered him in any way.

"I do believe that it has made me who I am and has given me a different perspective on life in general," he said. "It has shown me that with persistence, a strong mind and ingenuity anything is possible. I have never let my disability get in my way of accomplishing my goals and I rarely even think about me actually having a disability."

It's a choice how much a person lets life get them down, according to Plummer, and he has no interest in curtailing his life.

"You can only accomplish as much as you believe you can," he said. "Sure, I'll never play Romeo but then again who said I ever wanted to? If I ever come across anything that I ‘cannot' do I find something else I can do and put everything I have into making it the best I possibly can. Theatre gives me a variety of ways to express myself artistically and challenge me personally."

Plummer's work is not just meaningful to him. Theatre major A'Mari Rocheleau said working with Plummer is a dream.

"He's such a talented, upbeat, positive person that he makes you look forward to every bit of rehearsal and is constantly providing laughs to keep the cast in good spirits," she said.

Despite his love for the arts now, Plummer said he was not always interested in theatre and it took a little coaxing to get him into acting.

"I was forced to take an elective in high school and it was theatre," he said. "[Theatre] was the only class available at the time. I was definitely not a theatre person and hated having to do anything in front of a group of people. I was not very happy about having to take the class."

Despite his initial reaction to the acting world, Plummer said a teacher helped him take the first steps of the path he is on today.

"The teacher, Vonya Eudy, helped me along the way and soon put me in my first show, ‘The Crucible', as Townperson #3," he said. "I was terrified and did not have any lines. But since then, I have been hooked on theatre."

Recently Plummer has taken on a new role in the acting world. He had his directorial debut with the University Playhouse's production of "Sideways Stories from Wayside School." Plummer said he adored being the director.

"I'm not used to being on this side of the stage and giving out direction but luckily I have a fantastic cast and crew alongside me to help keep things going in the right direction," he said. "It is going to be a fantastic show and something I am very proud to be a part of. Everyone involved has made this experience one to remember."

Rocheleau said Plummer is equally talented in acting and directing.

"Every time he goes onstage, you know the audience is in for a treat because he's either going to provide enough laughs to make their faces hurt, or he's going to bring tears to their eyes," she said. "But he's also absolutely fabulous as a director. He has such a clear idea of what he wants to see onstage and manages to guide you through accomplishing that while still allowing the actors to have creative power in coming up with characters."

Though he still loves acting, Plummer said his flirtation with directing may be turning into love.

"I'm really starting to love directing," he said. "It gives me an ability to look at the overall production and have my hand in a little bit of everything. I love the collaboration I can have with actors, crew and designers as a director. Acting is definitely a very rewarding experience on many levels, but directing gives me a feeling of accomplishment like I never felt."

Work in the theatre is not the only artistic endeavor this graduate student engages in. He's also a member of The Moving Stills, a band formed and filled with A&M-Commerce students. Despite his love for music, Plummer said his current schedule has it made it difficult for him to practice with the band.

"Hopefully it will pick back up again soon enough and we'll get some new recordings," he said. "Right now we are looking for some new equipment due to an accident with our van and guitars. Needless to say the van won that battle. Music is definitely a passion of mine and has become much more than a hobby."

Plummer - also a prominent member of Cricket City Improv – said scripted material and improv present different challenges and yield different awards.

"There is nothing like going on stage with no idea what is going to happen and using a suggestion to create a performance," he said. "But, then again, there is nothing like rehearsing a performance and getting it to the best it can be and showcasing your hard work to an audience. It really depends on the day of the week and the mood to what I prefer doing."

As far as the future goes, Plummer has no intentions of sticking around the DFW area.

"I want to get out in the world and try my hand at professional theatre and improv abroad," he said. "I really want to get as much experience as possible and find what is best for me through those experiences."

True to the nature of any director, Plummer has those who would love to follow him and work with him professionally.

"He and I have always talked about opening up our own theater sometime in the future," Rocheleau said. "We have such a great ability to be open with each other and manage to come up with crazy yet great ideas without ever fighting so I think we'd be great business partners one day."

One thing is for sure though - Plummer has proven himself to be adaptable and despite the un-likeliness of being cast in a conventional adaptation of a Shakespearean play; he still sees the possibility of one day acting in such a production.

"An all-wheelchair production of Romeo and Juliet would be a very interesting artistic choice," he said.

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