What's Up with Matt "Rubber Repertory" Hislope, Lately?

Esther's Follies, mostly, but let's not forget that other thing

No Stilts Required
No Stilts Required

Baked goods and getting laid, remember?

Last time we checked in with Rubber Repertory's Matt Hislope, the frequency of his sexual encounters had just been hitched to a Fusebox Festival fundraising auction: Each instance of Hislope coitus within the year was to be noted with the delivery of a coffee cake to the winning bidder.

Well, we call him Rubber Repertory's Matt Hislope … but now that Rubber Rep co-founder Josh Meyer has absconded to L.A. to be with his true love and to pursue an acting career (and, no kidding, exercise classes with Richard Simmons), and so the brilliant theatre company's on indefinite hiatus, maybe calling Hislope that is a misnomer?

Maybe we should call him Esther's Follies' Matt Hislope, now?

But who he actually is, is Matt Hislope's Matt Hislope: A free agent of talent, good looks, and vague perversions, who just happens to work at Esther's – we've blogged about those redoubtable Follies right here this week – while improving the populace of the ATX with his very presence.

Hislope worked at Esther's for a while, six years ago, but then left. He's been working at Whole Foods for a while, too – for years – but was recently, ah, severed from that plum situation. And now Hislope's back – on stilts! sliding down from the ceiling! capering about in an exceptionally fabulous two-piece! – at Esther's again. And being interviewed by your reporter just a week ago:

Brenner: So, I'm wondering – I have to ask – about those, uh, coffee cakes?

Hislope: That is a tragic situation. When the year mark began, my lady-friend was out of town, and shortly after she came back into town, we broke up. So the coffee-cake situation … is not good.

Brenner: "Not good"?

Hislope: Um, yeah.

Brenner: But still it remains that whenever you have sex with, quote, another human being, unquote, there will be a coffee cake or a piece of a coffee cake delivered to the person who was the highest bidder on that item … ?

Hislope: Yes, that still holds true. And Zeb West, the winner, was out of town for a while, so he transferred – I'm unclear as to the actual situation – he and Sam Webber may have gone in on it together, so that when Zeb's out of town, the coffee cakes are delivered to Sam instead.

Brenner: So all that these deliveries are waiting for … is for you to have engaged in sex the night before?

Hislope: Yes, but – look, I don't want to make light of my relationship. It … it was rough. I thought I'd set myself up for a completely different year, so … heh … it's been a traumatic few months, between Josh leaving, and this happening. And I was fired from Whole Foods.

Brenner: What? Oh no! Tell me more about that?

Hislope: It was my own fault. I started having a very difficult time getting in on time in the mornings, after doing two shows at Esther's, and I … clicked over a certain point, that you just can't do, so, you know … So I wasn't fired for anything horrible. But I really messed up a perfect situation, because I had no job duties for the time being, and I also had an amazing boss who gave me exactly the schedule I needed to have to do Esther's, so, yeah – I mucked up good and proper.

Brenner: Dude. This is what comes of being an artist.

Hislope: Well, yeah.

Brenner: Like being on heroin or something. What the hell, man?

[Hislope shrugs, a little sheepishly.]

Hislope: So now I'm doing Esther's and slowly starting to work on a FronteraFest show. It's in the very early stages, but it involves Dick Price and Lyova Rosanoff, who used to play piano at Esther's for a very long time. The Chronicle voted her "Best Island of Sanity" one year, when the Hyde Park Baptist Church tried to, like, buy that entire neighborhood? She's the one house that's a hold-out. There's the entire block that's church parking, and then a fence, and then Lyova's wonderful home.

Brenner: Man, her and Dick Price, that's gonna have a built-in audience. But I guess Esther's does, too – although, it's a different kind of audience?

Hislope: I'm always trying to get people in to see the Esther's show – because people in our sort of circles, ah, they'd never go.

Brenner: Yeah – and that's sad, because it's good, it's got some fierceness to it. It's not like, ugh, the fucking Capitol Steps or whatever.

Hislope: I feel like the show is stronger now than when I was in it before. The powers that be are saying it's the strongest cast they've had overall in a while. I'm also very happy that they're making a lot more use of me this time – I'm kept very busy.

Brenner: And you're also an assistant for Ray Anderson, is that right?

Hislope: Everyone sort of is, but, yeah, I'm in most of the magic tricks. And working with Ray really is wonderful – he's one of the great treasures of Austin theatre, I think? I'm not sure I want that to be a quote, but Ray has, in addition to being enormously talented and creative, he has something that is one of the best things a great director can have: A sort of weird charisma that makes you want to please them. You really want to do a good job for Ray, and that carries things a long way.

Brenner: And what are the other ways you're being used more in the show?

Hislope: One of the big things I'm taking on right now: In any political sketch, I am Paul Ryan.

[Brenner laughs.]

Hislope: We're sort of figuring out the extent of that. And – this is difficult, because it's a piece that's being tried out, that's pretty much just Paul Ryan – we did it last weekend, and we're sort of revising some things.

Brenner: So you're more in the spotlight than you were last time.

Hislope: I'm not in a ton of actual sketches. There's a sort of sketch crew of the three guys – Ted [Meredith] and Shaun [Wainwright-Branigan] and Donnie [Loa]. And I'm in so much of the show, but I've not really cracked the sketch crew yet. But, ah – it might be interesting if I just go through my duties from the top of the show?

Brenner: Yes!

Hislope: Okay. I begin the show entering on stilts and walking up the stairs on stilts. I then appear as a dancing health-care bill. I then appear as Kim Jong-Il. I then don a sort of Muslim robe and sing a song about Muslim brotherhood with Shaun. I then sing as a member of the Tea Party, then join in a group number about how fucking hot it is in Texas. I then don big frilly sleeves and pants, to be one of Ray's dancing boys for a magic trick to the song "Cuban Pete." I then do a rapid costume-change and become a sort of Esther's equivalent of a Japanese-theatre kyogan for an Obama sketch. I then have a period where I'm intermittently changing clothes while pulling a series of curtains. I then appear as a sort of transgendered, horrifying beauty-parlor worker. And then I appear as Ray's assistant Tomas, in this extended audience-participation bit – that's one of my biggest things in the show. And then I appear in a musical about kids graduating from college and not being able to get a job. And that's just Act One. At the top of Act Two, as of right now, there's a sort of extreme fighting match – but with politicians – and I play Paul Ryan in that. And then comes one of Ray's tricks in which I get to strap in and come down from the ceiling. And for all this, assume that there's rapid costume changes. And then I'm Ray's assistant for another audience-participation bit where he takes a woman from the audience and saws her in half. Then I'm in this sketch about gun rights. Then I make a brief appearance in Ray's next trick that involves water and a levitation, and I'm his assistant again when he's doing his Amazing Frank bit. And then there's the classic "Cry Me a River" production number outside the window, with lots of things happening, with aquatic creatures and puppets and things.

Brenner: Wow, they are keeping you busy. And – okay, last question, because there's this fucking deadline with, like, fangs – do you write for Esther's, too?

Hislope: I'm trying to. I think I have many skills, but writing things for Esther's is kind of difficult for me. I always try to bring something to the writers' meeting, but as of yet I've not been horribly successful in getting anything in the show. I had this thing that I thought was gonna work, and everybody thought was gonna work. It was a sort of spoof of the art world, and it was a solo for me, and it's done with a slide show – so there's at least funny images to look at? But we tried it a couple times, and … nothing. People didn't get it. Two audiences got to sit and blink.

[Hislope blinks.]

[Brenner blinks.]


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Matt Hislope, Rubber Repertory, Esther's Follies, coffee cake, not getting laid, Whole Foods Market, Dick Price, Lyova Rosanoff

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