After her daughters, Juliana and Alexia, were born, Suzanne Mattes exited from the theater stage left.
She had been performing every chance she could since falling in love with acting as a junior in high school. However, once she began having children, it was her turn to take a seat in the audience, watching school plays and dance shows.
The Country Club resident happily did just that for more than a decade.
In 2021, though, Suzanne Mattes was encouraged by a friend to audition for the Manatee Performing Arts Center's production of "Mamma Mia." She landed the role.
In a role reversal, Juliana and Alexia Mattes sat in the audience to watch their mom.
Now, with Juliana 17 and Alexia 14, the mother and her daughters have crossed another threshold. They're all part of the ensemble cast in the Manatee Performing Arts Center production of "Something Rotten."
“It’s been a very different experience, because as a parent, you like to watch them," Suzanne Mattes said. "But to be in the show with them, I have to release that.
"Instead, you get to be part of the whole process. We have our inside jokes for rehearsals. We come home laughing in the car about whatever happened or how we messed that up.”
At 48, Suzanne Mattes feared she couldn’t keep up with her younger counterparts because the play involves so much dancing. She has impressed herself and her daughters, who are their mom's biggest fans.
Both girls attend Manatee School for the Arts and started dancing at 5.
“It is my dream to become a working actor,” Alexia Mattes said.
The show is demanding with a large ensemble of 20 actors, quick costume changes and multiple tap numbers. Suzanne Mattes changes her shoes seven times during each performance.
The family has spent about three hours a day, five days a week rehearsing since June. During tech week when the actors are bringing the show together on stage with props and lighting, the rehearsals last longer. The show began Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 27.
“This show, the ensemble is on the stage all the time,” Suzanne Mattes said. “There are the dance numbers, we’re the background in scenes, and the ensemble is moving the set.”
In one scene, the mother and two daughters tap dance in egg costumes, which is Juliana Mattes' favorite part of being in the show.
"Something Rotten," set during the Renaissance, is a musical about writing a musical. It’s rated PG-13 in the program for “themes, suggestive language and bawdy humor.”
“The show is incredibly high-energy and funny. The audience seemed to really eat it up,” Suzanne Mattes said of the production’s opening night. “It’s totally different from a lot of theater out there. It’s just one joke after another.”
“It’s like our little thing together,” Suzanne Mattes said. “You have sports families that all go to the fields. This is ours. We all go to the theater.”
The family enjoys performing together. Juliana and Alexia Mattes were both part of MPAC’s production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" last season, and Suzanne Mattes and Alexia Mattes were cast in "Gypsy."
Alexia Mattes plans to audition for "Oklahoma," but Juliana Mattes is still on the fence.
The mom says her two girls are so different that they’re never in competition for roles. They’re often auditioning together, but there aren’t as many plays that incorporate a role for her, too.
“I lucked out in this because I dance and am still able to tap,” Suzanne Mattes said, “A lot of times, I’m just not right for the shows they’re interested in.”
While dad, Lance Mattes, is a kinesiologist and not an actor, he’s an avid fan.
Suzanne Mattes has been cast again by MPAC for the upcoming production of "She Loves Me," which begins Nov. 30. She’ll be playing Ilona Ritter.
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.