I Believe That We Can Win!
Matt Seiiji Ketai
It’s the 2005 National Final of the Mock Trial Championships and the Manzano High School Warriors have a 30-minute recess to re-strategize and find a new way to win. The trial may be fake, but the stakes couldn’t be higher for these teens as they deliberate whether to tell the truth or win at all costs. A snapshot of the friendship-testing hormonal pressure cooker known as high school Mock Trial.
Matt Seiiji Ketai is a writer and actor originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most recently, Matt’s pilot From Top to Bottom was a semi-finalist at the ATX Television Pitch Competition and a quarter-finalist at The Scriptation Showcase (on-going), the Stage 32 Comedy Competition (on-going), the WeScreenplay Pilot Competition, and the ATL Screenplay Competition, among others. In 2019-20 his short plays God’s Game and Blue. were featured in a variety of play festivals throughout NYC and his solo show Spiral. was a Critic’s Pick at the United Solo Festival. As an actor, Matt’s recent credits include: Abingdon Square (reading, WP Theatre), Regretfully, So the Birds Are and Akira Kurosawa… (readings, Ojai Playwrights Conference), Hot Cross Buns (workshop, Seattle Rep), Dracula (Williamstown), A Christmas Carol (Trinity Rep.), Ideation (New Rep), among others. Film/TV: Egg Day, Start-Up, Startup. Training: BFA Boston University, MFA Brown University
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I first started writing plays in undergrad…but I’m really using the term “plays” and “writing” loosely here. I think the first thing I wrote was about the zombie apocalypse and how it affected two college-aged twins (one was gay, I think)? Riveting stuff.
When I was in grad school, I started pursuing writing more seriously – And when I heard an audience laugh at one of my jokes for the first time, I was hooked. Coincidentally, this was also when I developed my adrenaline addiction, and now I have to go skydiving at least once a week.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I Believe That We Can Win! just kind of hit me one day? I did competitive Mock Trial in high school – and it is such a niche and high-pressure activity (with big personalities) – so I thought it would be an exciting topic for a play.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Optimistic, Pessimistic, Witty, High-Speed, Chaotic Good (this isn’t one word…which I guess proves my point)
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
My friends and family are huge influences on my writing. They are wild, kind, and hilarious. And I could write about them for years. I am also very interested in the concept of “legacy” – what does it mean to live a life, what do we leave behind when we die, will people remember us…etc. Even though I tend to write “comedies/dramedies,” that concept is always in the back of my mind. I would also say Mindy Kaling’s work has had a significant impact on me. I love how she writes marginalized characters that are not subject to their subjugation.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I don’t like Westerns or movies about people trying to figure out how to go into outer space. I am fine with movies about people figuring out how to come back from outer space, but figuring out how to get there? I don’t need to see that. It’s not like anyone is MAKING YOU GO…So, if you get your calculations wrong and it messes up your take-off or lift-off or whatever they call it…you brought this upon yourself! I don’t need to watch a whole movie about it!
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
Always a hard question! I feel like it changes day to day. To name a few: Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn, Akira Kurosawa… by Julia Izumi (really anything by Julia Izumi), Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery, The Assembled Parties by Richard Greenberg, A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson, Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, Hand to God by Robert Askins, and Eclipsed by Danai Gurira.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I do! I have a few projects I’d love to shamelessly plug. I just finished a final draft of my pilot From Top to Bottom (AXT Television Semifinalist, Scriptation Showcase Quarterfinalist, among others). It’s a half-hour comedy about young many dealing with grief, bankruptcy, and the exciting world of adult entertainment! My short film, Buttercream Majeure, which I wrote with my writing partner Tim Janas is going into production in fall 2021. And lastly, I am developing three new scripts. One is a half-hour comedy about politics in New Mexico, another is a feature about a sex addict…and time travel (more or less), and the last is an adaptation of my solo show Spiral into a more robust/full length play!