Terri Mateer’s play has a timely message in that it shines a light on the #MeToo movement. She hadn’t intended it to be pertinent — she was just telling her life story.
Mateer will perform her solo piece, “A Kind Shot,” this Friday, Jan. 17, at Vermont Academy’s Nita Choukas Theater Horowitz Performing Arts Hall in Saxtons River, Vt.
Her biography is the kind anyone would pick up of the shelf. Her father, a fighter pilot, died when she was 4 years old. Raised by a single hippie mom, she learned to play basketball from a man named Ike, a boarder who was a surrogate father figure.
A graduate of Brattleboro Union High School, Mateer was the first female student from the school to ever to attend college on a sports scholarship — she also earned her bachelor’s in interior design. She went on to play professional ball in Europe, later moving to New York City to pursue acting and modeling.
While her timeline is fascinating on its own, her journey has a much darker side because along the way, she was the repeated victim of sexual abuse by friends, colleagues and bosses. The idea for her one-woman show was sparked when she’d had a slew of unsuccessful acting auditions and took some advice to work with a monologue coach.
“After two sessions, the coach said to me, ‘You have to have something you really want to say,’” said Mateer.
At the time, Mateer had written about 30 pieces featuring different characters. When searching online for the tools to write a solo show, she discovered acting coach and teacher, Seth Barrish.
“He told me to throw (all my writing) away,” she said.
Instead, she decided to keep looking for another way. A week later, she was invited to see a solo autobiographical show written by playwright, Martin Moran. Barrish had helped Moran craft his piece, “The Tricky Part.”
“I watched Marty tell his life story, which was filled with sexual abuse,” she said. “I saw the parallel [to my life] and I thought the way he did it was so beautiful and inspiring.”
Barrish was there to do an audience talkback afterward. She was struck by how much Moran trusted his teacher.
“I felt I was in the right place to open up that part of my life,” she said. She began working with Barrish and his wife, Lee Brock, to write what would become “A Kind Shot,” which premiered in 2014.
In her piece, basketball is the thread that links the various episodes of her life. The show requires her to be physically robust, bounding around the stage miming everything from shooting hoops to doing a strip tease gone wrong at an acting class (yes, Mateer also once worked as a stripper).
The audience travels with her to Florida, France, New York and Chicago as she “unpacks” her defining moments of self-growth in the face of difficult and dangerous circumstances.
“This character is spinning out of control until someone steps in and says something,” she said. “It’s 12 seconds of a person’s life and that life is forever changed.”
What began happening after the talkback sessions Mateer hosts after performances of the show were an unintended consequence.
“I’ve been pulled aside by young women who told me [sexual abuse] was happening to them,” she said. “Some people emailed me afterward to let me know my show inspired them to talk to their mother or father or tell their [psychiatrist] what happened to them.”
One woman told her she had talked to her boyfriend about her experience with sexual abuse after seeing her perform “A Kind Shot.”
“She said he couldn’t believe what she’d went through,” said Mateer. “That’s so huge.”
She’s become an activist in performing this show, also unintentionally. In addition to producing and performing in Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" to raise money for a local women’s shelter, she was a co-organizer for the Women's March in Woodstock, N.Y., held in solidarity with the same-day Women’s March on Washington.
In addition to performing her solo show, she runs a design/build and landscaping business with her husband, Brian — one of her projects before they met was designing a headboard for Michael Jordan.
While the show has an enduring message and contains hard-hitting text, it also is filled with optimism and personal triumph while not being sentimental. Its overarching theme is the importance of stepping in when someone needs help, even if they don’t ask.
“The show inspires kindness,” she said.
Terri Mateer will perform her solo show, “A Kind Shot,” Friday, Jan. 17, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., at Vermont Academy’s Nita Choukas Theater Horowitz Performing Arts Hall, 23 Leavitt Lane, Saxtons River. There is no charge for tickets but they must be reserved at brownpapertickets.com/event/4455210.