Houston, get ready: Tomás Matos has arrived! The fabulous New York actor, rapper, writer, and model is strutting onto the stage at Theatre Under The Stars for the company’s production of the musical Rent. Matos, who portrays the character Angel Dumott Schunard, says their portrayal of the character is rooted in love and will speak to audiences far and wide.
“Angel is an unapologetically femme light in the world of the ’90s in New York City,” the nonbinary powerhouse explains. “She helps tell the story of queer love, through the lens of someone who is living their life with AIDS. In my perception, Angel is a nonbinary individual who participates in the art form of drag and uses it to step into themselves even more authentically.”
Matos, who identifies as trans-femme, explains that this is not their first time portraying the character. “When I was 15 years old, I played Angel in a youth theater production in New York City,” they recall. “I was part of this youth theater company called Kidz Theater, and we performed Rent down in the Lower East Side in Alphabet City—pretty much where Rent takes place. I was 15, but still a city girl. I was one of the girls just living my damn life in New York City, and I was able to pull a lot of inspiration from my surroundings. I think for this production, I’m able to make nods to that 15-year-old me who played Angel, just now as an adult.”
The impact of portraying a character living with AIDS is one Matos takes seriously. “We’re still living in a time when the stigma around HIV and AIDS is very much alive. You can look on any queer dating app and find someone who uses the word ‘clean’ in a way that it shouldn’t be. The more we can eradicate the stigma around HIV and AIDS by telling stories about people like Angel, Roger, and Tom Collins, I think the better our chances will be to keep moving forward.”
A born entertainer, Matos is simply thrilled to be back onstage, performing alongside so many talented actors who are bringing the iconic show to Houston audiences. “There’s something so beautiful about walking into a rehearsal space. I’m very excited to do that again—to play with all these amazing actors that I just met, and have someone like Ty Defoe directing and allowing the space to feel safe and inclusive enough to actually want to play. I’m really excited about that!”
Matos can relate to the character Angel, saying, “At the core of who and what I am is love and light. I think there’s a lot of that in Rent, and especially in Angel, despite all of what she’s going through. I’m really excited to lead with love.”
The AfroLatiné star of stage and screen, having made their feature debut in the queer rom-com Fire Island, hopes this production of Rent will be an invitation for all to live authentically and be more open-minded. “It’s especially timely to do Rent at Theatre Under The Stars, in Texas, to really tell people that our stories matter, our lives matter, and you can’t get rid of us,” the performer emphasizes. “Someone once said that in order for you to make change, you have to shove yourself into people’s faces. I think that’s unfortunately what it’s starting to come down to. We’re not going anywhere. And I think, specifically for me, being able to be unapologetically myself on a stage, telling Angel’s story, is imperative. I know that there are people here in Houston who can look at someone like myself and be like, ‘Oh, I belong here, too.’”
Keep up with Tomás Matos on Instagram @tomatos_.
Don’t miss Out@TUTS on Thursday, May 25th, where LGBTQ+ musical theatre fans can enjoy a night of live music, free bites, and drink specials hosted by Regina Thorne-DuBois.
WHAT: TUTS’ production of Rent
WHERE: The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St.
WHEN: May 16–28, 2023