When Matt Hune tells you, “I tend to fully immerse myself into what I’m doing,” he’s not kidding. Since last summer, the 31-year-old director of Houston’s newest community theater, Hune Company, has been staging plays inside his Montrose loft’s living room, which he’s converted into a black box theater. “Right now there are so many good theater companies in Houston,” he says. “We needed a way to stick out.”
His home, the budding impresario says, is the right setting for the type of intimate works he’s producing, including this month’s Up Close, a series of short performances by Houston artists centered on the theme of coming home for the holidays. “The more I think about the living room,” says Hune, “it’s historically a place where we share stories with each other.” It’s also, of course, a way cheaper stage than a rented theater space, which can quickly eat up a small company’s budget.
Hune, who teaches theater at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, is an HSPVA grad himself. Since moving home to Houston in 2010, he’s worked with big names like the Alley Theatre and Houston Grand Opera, but his heart’s in experimental performance, which he got involved in as a theater major at DePaul University in Chicago. “After school I got a warehouse with some friends—actors, playwrights, directors, dancers,” he says, “and we ended up doing theater in the warehouse.” So Hune Company is a return to his roots. Each show seats 20 people, who are welcome to come early, stay late, hang out and have a Saint Arnold beer on the house.
Immersive, intimate theater is having a moment in Houston. Earlier this year, the microcinema 14 Pews staged its first theater production, The Fever, in a hotel room at La Colombe d’Or. And this summer, Horse Head Theatre Co. built a geodesic dome on the banks of Buffalo Bayou for The Whale, which had audience and actors spending an hour together inside a metaphorical belly of the beast.
“It’s hard sometimes to sit passively in a seat, with the stage so far away from you,” says Hune, adding that shows like Up Close are “more of a holistic experience.” And they’re challenging—in a good way. “There’s no hiding behind anything. Everything has to be so honest,” he explains. “For me as an actor and director, it’s really sharpening my skills.”