Olsen brothers star in play about brothers

STAPLES - Brothers Matthew Olsen and Christopher Olsen are back in Staples rehearsing the lead roles of brothers Lee and Austin in Sam Shepard's play "True West."...

Christopher Olsen
Christopher Olsen

STAPLES - Brothers Matthew Olsen and Christopher Olsen are back in Staples rehearsing the lead roles of brothers Lee and Austin in Sam Shepard's play "True West."

Matthew read the play, a character study that examines the relationship between brothers, about 10 years ago, when he started college. He liked that the "language was edgy, but honest."

"A part of me always wanted to do it with Christopher," Matthew said. "I've always wanted us to work together, opposite each other on stage."

"The characters in the play are very polarized, but then make a distinct shift as the play progresses. I think this shift is something everyone can relate to, not just Matt and me as brothers," Christopher said.

"As far as us resembling our characters, I don't think so," he continued. "We have had a very close relationship for many years and these characters are a long way from that."


"Chris is my best friend," Matthew said, adding that they had the usual sibling rivalry that could, "drive me crazy. But I'm glad someone else is going down this rabbit hole with me."

Lamplighter Community Theatre, Staples, and Madhatters Community Theatre, Wadena, are collaborating on the production to be staged at Centennial Auditorium in Staples. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13-15 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 17.

Another twist is that the brothers are being directed by their father Kevin Olsen. The co-director is Don Hoffmann who directed Kevin and Matthew in "A Walk in the Woods," another collaboration of the two community theater groups two years ago.

Kevin has long been involved in theater both as an actor and director in community theater and directing high school and middle school plays and musicals.

Matthew has been studying and working in professional theater as an actor and student. Christopher is an artist and graphic designer. Don Hoffmann is a professional photographer.

"Theater is the most collaborative of the arts," Matthew said, and he expects the brothers and directors will "learn and grow together" as they share their experiences and unique perspectives.

This collaboration "has also allowed for a great deal of spontaneity as well, which is incredibly important in theater," Christopher said.

Neither of the leads has seen the play, which Matthew said gives them "a clean slate, more freedom to listen to the words."


The audience is cautioned that the play is about adult themes with adult language. There is some swearing and some violence.

"It's difficult material, but my hope is that the audience understands what the play is speaking about, that the language is there to serve the characters," Matthew said.

The brothers are both excited to come home to present this play. Although they have both had the opportunity to work with other theater companies in larger areas, they expressed appreciation for the education and support they received here.

"This type of work, the challenging and thought-provoking, is the type of work I think our area deserves to see more often," Christopher said.

Seating is limited because the set and seating are all on the stage.

Although the play centers on the brothers, two supporting roles have also been cast. Rob Freelove, Pillager, will play Saul Kimmer, a Hollywood producer. Dawn Timbs, Staples, will play the mother of Lee and Austin.

Matthew graduated from Staples Motley High School in 2002 and attended University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree.

He is attending graduate school in Sarasota, Fla., and working in a repertory theater there. Eventually he would like to teach and be the artistic director for a small theater company.


Christopher graduated in 2007 and attended UMD where Matthew directed him in a student production. He transferred to University of North Dakota in Grand Forks where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology. He has also been involved in community and high school theatre in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks in set design and construction.

He is currently completing a second degree, a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and new art media. His senior thesis is animation for which he is producing a short film.

Christopher also designed most of the publicity materials for "True West."

This show has one more semi-local connection. Playright and actor Sam Shepard lived with Jessica Lange, his partner for 29 years, in Stillwater from 1995 to 2004.

Advance tickets are available at Miller True Value and Staples World in Staples, Unity Bank in Motley and An Open Book in Wadena.

Matthew Olsen
Matthew Olsen

What To Read Next
Get Local