BY NOAH SHEPPARD
Although he may only be in his third year of Sheridan’s Musical Theatre program, Mateo Lewis is already making waves in the industry. The twenty-year-old’s original musical, Boys Don’t Cry, was featured as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival and produced by Lewis’ own company, Basement Productions.
The musical starred Lewis himself, playing the role of “Jayden.” It follows Jayden’s journey after the death of his father, an old fashioned, macho soccer-star, exploring gender expectations and, more specifically, what it really means to be a “man.” Lewis looked to his own life for inspiration.
“Being the queer, effeminate, gender-non-conforming man that I am, I’ve always been very passionate about the representation of masculinity in the stories we tell teenagers,” said Lewis. “I initially set out to write a teen story where the hero isn’t macho, isn’t ‘cool.’ I think so many problems come from glorifying that kind of masculinity.”
Lewis says it was his family and friends who encouraged him to submit Boys Don’t Cry for the Fringe Festival after work-shopping the show in 2018. Through the festivals lottery system, his show was chosen for the Teen category, which specifically highlights shows with relevance to modern teenagers. The show became a quick fan-favourite and critical success.
“I was really shocked by how profound the audience reception was,” said Lewis. “I had men of all ages come up to me in tears after the show, telling me their own stories about their fathers or their relationship with masculinity.”
Lewis comes from very humble beginnings. He first started by putting off a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in his basement. He expressed that Sheridan helped him immensely in the creative process.
“We take a series of classes on creative process, to help us find our own unique creative voice through movement,” Lewis said. “I don’t think I could have ever created anything so risky and personal without that influence from my time at Sheridan.”
This early success for Lewis signifies good things to come in his future. Sheridan’s Associate Dean of Visual and Performing Arts, Michael Rubinoff, expressed his excitement for Lewis through an email statement.
“It is thrilling to see Sheridan students like Mateo not only creating new musicals but also producing them,” Rubinoff stated. “Presenting new work is filled with many challenges and I am very proud of Mateo for taking the risk and finding success early on in his career.”
After working on the musical for two years, Lewis says it’s time to move on from Boys Don’t Cry.
“I’ve learned a lot, but I think it’s time to put it (Boys Don’t Cry) on the back-burner for now and get cracking on a new project…and I’ve got a couple really exciting new projects coming down the pipe,” said Lewis. “My heart truly belongs on the stage, so no matter how much I write and produce, I’ll never be able to give up performing!”