I first met Terri Mateer when I was a 379-year-old philosopher and she was a Nazi. We mounted the boards in a play by Carey Harrison, Midget in a Cat Suit Reciting Spinoza, and although her role was small, her imposing presence – all six-feet-one of her – was not. She commanded the stage with confidence and authority in each of her scenes.
Flash-forward to July of 2016: At the Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, I finally got to see what Terri could do with a leading role. The character she played was a pro basketball player, fashion model, wannabe architect and sometime stripper and actress named…Terri Mateer, in a one-woman show titled A Kind Shot. From the moment she entered, dribbling a basketball, both the ball and the audience were in the palm of her hand.
This weekend, Mateer’s autobiographical play, which elicited bravos Off-Off Broadway at the Davenport Theater, is coming to the Rosendale Theatre for two performances: on Saturday, October 27 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, October 28 at 4 p.m.
A feature-length monologue, A Kind Shot is an unflinchingly candid, darkly comic narrative that holds nothing back as it lays bare the checkered career of its author, who evolves, over the course of its telling, from a talented naïf to a politically awakened woman. Throughout, the percussive pounding of the ball provides a rhythmic accompaniment to the narrative, as well as reminding us that, whatever crazy shit was going on in her life, there was always one thing, at least, that she could control: the responsive round object that always came back to her hand.
As the first female from Brattleboro (Vermont) Union High School to be awarded a college basketball scholarship, Mateer went on to a career in hoops that encompassed playing for Florida State University and then spending one eventful season, 1988/89, as a pro in France, on a team sponsored by Michelin. “The basketball culture was very loose over there,” she says, adding how shocked she was that the players would drink and smoke at half-time. “I was a vegetarian, and I got so fat – I was eating croissants, and I couldn’t believe these 12-course meals! But the level of play was awesome.”
Why she returned to the States is taken up by her solo show, where the incident is examined in detail. But suffice to say that it was part of a long series of betrayals involving exploitive and piggish behavior by many of the men in her life. Happily, that cycle was broken when she married Brian Mateer, a woodworker, Surrealist painter and all-around mensch who has schlepped props and handled the lights for her shows and provided constant encouragement.
Standing up to chauvinist coaches and abusive bosses led by gradual degrees to a heightened sense of social awareness and a strong commitment to political activism. Mateer was one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Woodstock, which was held in solidarity with the same-day Women’s March on Washington. She also produced and acted in a V-Day performance of The Vagina Monologues that raised more than $12,000 for Family of Woodstock. And her solo play delivers a strong message of empowerment to young people in general and to young athletes in particular.
“The day after Hillary lost, we did the show at Mansfield University, in front of all the student athletes – girls’ teams, men’s teams – and all their coaches,” as well as faculty and administrators, Mateer recalls. Because of the play’s raw language and the “tension of the times,” she thought it would be a good idea to be paid before the gig. She needn’t have worried.
“After the show, I could see [Mansfield president Francis L. Hendricks] making his way over to me, and I was pretty sure he was gonna ask me for that check back,” she laughs. Instead, he shook Mateer’s hand and said, “Cassius Clay, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and many others have appeared on our stage, and now you have graced it with your show and presence. Thank you.”
Although her pro-ball days are over, Mateer can still hold her own in a pickup game. The most recent occasion came at the Community Center courts in Woodstock: “There were three other guys, so we played two-on-two,” she says. “My team lost, but we had fun. The smells, the sound of the ball, the smack talk with chuckles, the getting to know someone quickly, genuinely, not even knowing their name or what they did – it didn’t matter, it never has. I used to play all over the city, with all sorts of people: homeless, rich, black, white, girls, guys, all colors, all economic backgrounds.”
Mateer’s main gig when she’s not onstage is working as a hands-on landscape artist, counseling her clients to plant vegetables and encourage native plants, helping them to feel connected to the Earth and to do what they can to sustain themselves. But more than anything, she is grateful to be part of such a supportive local theater community. “I got my start in community theater,” she says, and the strengthening of self-confidence and personal power it provided is something that she’d recommend to everyone: “Go do it! Audition! Knock on doors and say hi!”
Advance tickets ($15; $20 at the door) to Terri Mateer’s two performances at the Rosendale Theatre may be obtained from www.akindshot.com. You can also visit Terri’s website for details of the show’s run at Off-Off-Broadway’s TBG Studio, opening this January 13, 2018 and continuing through February 25.