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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

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Actor Matt Daniels trains with Paula Suozzi, who runs Starting Line Athletics, a personal training shop in Bay View.
Actor Matt Daniels trains with Paula Suozzi, who runs Starting Line Athletics, a personal training shop in Bay View.

Acting on your knees: "Shrek" at First Stage

The ability to move is critically important to an actor, and therefore, critically important to the success of a play.

Some do it well and others, not so much. My short career as a professional actor was cut short, in part, because I could never keep still on stage and kept tottering around with no rhyme or reason.

For many years I’ve thought that Matt Daniels moves as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. He has poise and grace and never makes any kind of move without having a reason for it. I find it breathless to watch him onstage.

But he now faces what may well be the greatest movement challenge an actor could face.

Daniels will play Lord Farquaad in First Stage’s production of "Shrek: The Musical," which opens Oct. 11 at the Todd Wehr Theater.

Lord Farquaad is not the nicest person in the world and he is also very short in stature.

Which brings us to Daniels and Paula Suozzi, who runs Starting Line Athletics, a personal training shop in Bay View.

Daniels is going to play the good Lord on his knees. The whole show. Singing. Dancing. Jumping around.

Just imagine going through life on your knees.

"I knew this was going to be difficult," Daniels said. "That’s when I turned to
Paula."

Suozzi has a long and very distinguished career in the theater. She’s been an actor and director. She’s an opera and theater director of some note.

"I think my theater background helps me in this thing with Matt," she said. "I have an idea of what a director may ask him to do and so we focus on enabling him to learn to do it while on his knees.

"Matt is very dedicated to this process, and that really helps."

Watching this workout is draining. Daniels kneels on the floor, throws his arms to the sky and actually jumps into the air.

He kneels under a weight wrack and does 10 reps, three times. Amazingly, he gets on a treadmill, walks and even semi-jogs along. On his knees.

This promises to be a very interesting performance to watch.

"Shrek" opens Oct. 11 and runs through Nov. 17. Information can be found at Firststage.org.

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