I'm not sure when I may have first met Matt, but I got to know him when he directed me in David Stevens' The Sum of Us at NDSU in the early 90s... later to be adapted to a film starring Matt's favorite singer (not!), Russell Crowe. I believe that he was to have been graded on the production. It's been too many years now, I don't remember those details. Matt was just a few months younger than I. We were both 21 or 22 years old... I know this for sure because we were legal to hit the bars afterwards! If memory serves, the powers that be did not appreciate his production. I don't know if it was the subject matter (a young gay man's relationship with his father), because it was a very well-done production. I had done theatre in high school, and I later did community theatre into my 30's (I think my last show was Jesus Christ Superstar, Matt's first upon moving to Boston). In that time I worked with some good directors, but Matt was by far the best. I think I had some natural talent as an actor. Growing up, when watching movies and TV, I thought about how I might have delivered a line or played a scene better than the actor onscreen. I pretended I was acting; I pretended I was pretending to be someone else! But in the plays I had done in high school, I never had a director really sit down and talk about the character I was playing. Matt was the first director I had to do that, and we did it throughout the rehearsal schedule. The notes he would give after rehearsal were the most insightful, constructive of any director I've worked with. I could really see the show come together over the course of rehearsals. It never really plateaued, every rehearsal was a leap forward. I've never done theatre professionally, but Matt's production of The Sum of Us was the only professional-quality show I've been a part of.
I was first became aware of Matthew, because my co-workers in Boston kept telling me about a guy in our mall who could be my (twin) brother.
When I finally met Matt-I realized there was a resemblance (more like 1st cousin!) But he had a similar disposition-so open, warm-he was ebullient and vivacious.
We ultimately became friends and I referred him for a position at my job Saks Fifth Avenue and he took the job.
That was it: everyone called me Matthew and him Vincent-it was hilarious.
I then moved to NY and shortly thereafter Matt became my roommate. We had much fun discovering NYC and following our dreams.
As life would have it we both moved onward and upward and fell out of touch (pre-facebook) and I have only just discovered his un-timely passing.
What I can say is that Matthew was genuine and authentic. He was kind and passionate. He was a good friend. He was the eternal optimist to my jaded NY cynicism.
Its clear many others felt the same; and that while he lived his passion-he had a profound impact on others he met along the way.
I am truly saddened that my search for him ended up with the discovery that he passed and I wish to express my sincere condolences to his parents; who I know he adored and who I also know should be so proud to have raised such a wonderful man-who realized his dreams and meant so much to so many.
And Aaron-I do remember you, and I know Matt was quite fond of you and it was abundantly clear you were a valued friend.
I hope you can find a measure of peace knowing he is still with us-we can still hear his laugh, can see his smile, and we can feel him in our hearts- as our mind's eye recalls his glowing visage.
Knowing him has made us better and enhanced our lives-he lives on through each of us that knew him.
After Matt moved to Boston and after he did Jesus Christ Superstar, he had photos taken for an agency, as you do. He sent me a composite of them with a note on the back.
And here is the note on the back.
Rachel being my daughter.
And for no reason whatsoever here are the three pictures separately.
So there is a small taste of what Matt looked like when he was in Boston in 1995 or so.
I started spending time with Matt's family in High School. I would spend Thanksgiving with his family. This became a yearly tradition for me. First at NDSU, then in later years at the Civic Center and finally at the YMCA. At the end, I was no longer attending alone. I was bringing my family.
Now on a side note, I was not a big picture taker, nor did I particularly like having my picture taken. So there are few pictures of myself with Matt. Here are two.
First is one of Matt and myself playing an intense game of Connect 4. With April Farver watching with baited breath.
Next I have a photo of Matt with my entire family.
In this photo, from left to right is William Guderjahn, held by his mother, April Farver, unknown child (sorry, I really should remember him), Matt Burkholder holding Rachel Guderjahn, and Aaron Guderjahn.
If anyone knows who the "unknown child" is, please let me know and I will update this post. My apologies to this man.
So, Matt's been gone two years the end of December.
I don't really know if this is the proper place for this. This site was meant for memories of Matt. Originally I was hoping for mostly uplifting or cathartic memories of Matt. Healing maybe. And we received some of that. We. Like I am doing this with anyone else. I received some really nice memories of Matt. Scroll down the stories and there are some well written submissions. (You have to skip mine to find them) Maybe my last post changed that, I don't know. And this post is mostly focused on me. Oh well. Matt won't mind.
I do know that no one is sending in any memories anymore. I am not upset about that. It's been a while. And hey, I haven't written anything either. I certainly remember things other than what I have written and yet here the site sits. With no updates. At all.
I was going to scan in some art I have that Matt drew when he was in 7th or 8th grade. It is pretty damn good. And I have a couple of the Christmas cards he designed. I was going to add a page with that. And maybe contact Vel Rae and see how many other Christmas Cards he designed that I could get and put online. I am sure she would have been more than helpful. She always has been. I wanted to build this site up to a true representation of Matt and all his talent.
But doing any of these things, much less contacting Vel Rae is just too much for me to accomplish. I start to, and I break down into sobs of grief. Like he just died a week ago. Not 2 years ago.
Oh, I can go about my normal day, I can interact with people just fine. Nobody knows a thing. I'm pretty good at faking it. I can even talk to someone about Matt as long as I don't let myself think too clearly about the fact that my friend Matt is dead. If I did, I would be the guy curled up in the corner crying all day. Every day. Instead of the guy that cries every night when no one is around to see. The guy that feels like his heart is going to explode in his chest from the pressure of his grief.
I have read books about dealing with grief. Too many to count. I have met with councilors, psychologists and psychiatrists, and none have been able to help. I don't want to be locked up in an institution. I don't want to try medication any more. It didn't help. And please, no one talk to me about god. Just don't go there. If that is my problem it is unsolvable. Let it be.
I am not really sure why I am admitting all of this to the 10's of people who still stop by this site. This is not really for them. And it's not for Matt, wherever he's looking down from, because he's not anywhere. That's what dead is. Being gone. The only place Matt is now is in the hearts and minds of everyone who loves and remembers him. And that's quite a few people, but its not really Matt. It's not the guy I was going to meet after the show. It's not the guy that I will never get to meet with again. And never get to talk to until all hours of the night.
This was really just for me. To put it out there. Because I read in one of those grief books that it was supposed to help. So, now it's out there. Let the healing begin.
This wasn't really a memory of Matt. But, it was about him. Plus, it is my site. And nobody was using it right now.
Matt died a year ago. Not exactly, but close enough.
It doesn't feel like it was that long ago. It feels like he just died. It feels like it all just happened.
I was going to meet him. That night. The night he died. I didn't know he was in the hospital. He didn't tell me. No one told me.
The last I had heard he was going to be house managing the show at Theatre B and I had tickets and we were going to go out after the show and talk about the show. And talk about Theatre B, because that was going to be the first time I was going to have gone to a show there. And it was his favorite place.
So, I was getting ready to go to the show and I received a phone call from someone at Theatre B. They said the show was canceled that night because someone in the ensemble had died. I expressed my condolences but was privately relieved because at least it wasn't Matt that had died because he wasn't in that show.
You see, I thought that the “ensemble” meant the people in the show, not the way that they meant it at Theatre B. I wasn't that familiar with Theatre B at the time. So when I hung up with the person from Theatre B, I immediately called Matt, to see who it was that had died and to see how he was taking it and to offer my condolences to him. He didn't answer. I didn't leave a message. He would see I had called from the caller ID on his cell and call me back. He was probably busy with other Theatre B people anyway. I would give him some space.
So the next day, I was getting the oil changed in my car. As I was waiting for that to be done I thought that when I got home, I would call the Matt's house because he hadn't called me back yet and I really wanted to talk to him about who had died. And Vel Rae would put him on the phone or tell me what was going on if he was too busy.
As I continued to wait, I decided to browse the Forum the have there. I opened up the front page and there was Matt. I was looking right at him. What the hell? Why was Matt on the front page? Then I read the headline and everything stopped. Well, everything else kept going but I don't really know what was happening.
It took me a few tries to actually read the story and comprehend it. I mean, how can this be real? We are the same goddamn age for Christ sake! He cant be dead. I'm sorry, that's more me now than me then.
I don't even know how I got the car home, really. It's a half hour drive, and I was pretty overcome by grief.
I didn't get a phone call from anyone, so I am glad I read about it in the paper. Though I guess I was going to call Vel Rae when I got home, so I would have heard about it then. I don't know how I would have handled hearing the news on the phone. I don't imagine I would have handled it very well.
For a short while I was offended that I wasn't asked to be involved at the ceremony until I realized that I wasn't in any shape to do anything. I was barely able to get up and say something.
I didn't really come out of shock until after the ceremony at NDSU. I don't even really know how I got the car home that day.
I do not mean to be overly dramatic about it. But like I said on the front page of the site. He really was my best friend. And I don't know when or how I will get over the loss.
I am missing Matt quite a lot lately so I thought I would write down some random memories of him. I wish these memories where more complete:
I remember singing a duet with him at NDSU. "You're Nothing Without Me" from City of Angels. He sang the writer's part in the song. I don't remember who played the piano for us. [sorry :( ] And I don't remember what the class was. *shrug* I do know it was fun singing it with him. I remember that. It was a blast.
I remember when I went to visit him in New York for a month. I slept on his futon. He got me a part in a play he was doing at the time.
[He always seemed to be doing that. He must have put me into 4 or 5 shows that I never even auditioned for. Someone always got sick or quit and Matt would say "Hey, Aaron would be perfect for this!" And I would always say yes because it meant I would get to spend time with Matt.]
Anyway, the part in the play in New York was essentially a non-speaking part where I stood around on stage a lot as a mortician looking somber. But I got to watch Matt in a fairly big role on stage and that was really fun to do. I always liked watching him act. So the review came out for the play and the reviewer had mostly negative things to say, as New York reviewers do, but he mentioned my performance and said that I had done everything a funeral director could do. I remember thinking it was sarcastic (based on the rest of the review) but Matt said that I had just received a positive review in New York in under a month and that could be turned into actors gold. The rest of the cast was actually kinda jealous about it. But Matt was as usual really positive and great about it.
I remember another time Matt got me a part in a show he was doing. This time in Fargo. “The Winters Tale” directed by Dr. Lifton and performed at the Plains Art Museum downtown. This part had two lines, I think, but once again I got to see Matt perform and spend time with him. What I remember about this show was how hard a time he had memorizing his lines. In fact, later in one of the last times I met with him I asked him why he stopped acting when he was so good at it and he said it was because he struggled so much with the memorization. It made sense I guess, but when he got the lines down, he sure was a great actor.
I guess thats all for now. I wish I could remember more details.
I don't know what made me google Matthew Burkholder today, but I did and to my dismay, I'm just now finding out that he's gone.
I took Theater 115 with Matthew Burkholder the beginning of my sophomore year at UA. I'm was an Environmental Science major, and theater was way out of my comfort zone, but I just thought, "Why the hell not?" I mainly thought that it would be a nice alternative to public speaking, that I would get some sort of self-confidence from this class. To my surprise I did, and basically because of one person-Matthew Burkholder. That man could light up a million rooms. His smile just shined for days. Not knowing anything about acting, and obviously being very terrible at it, Mr. Burkholder opened his arms and accepted me and everyone in the class. He gave every single student the same amount of attention whether they be the best in class or the worst in class. I did stuff in that class that I would never, ever see myself doing and it was all because Mr. Burkholder made me feel comfortable and accepted no matter if I did awesome, or failed miserably. I enjoyed that class more than any other class at UA, and I'm so glad that Mr. Burkholder was there to help me through it. At the end of the semester, after doing the final monologue, I remember being so proud of myself and hoping that Mr. Burkholder was just as proud. I ended up getting an A in his class, so I guess that means he was.
He was such a selfless man, ready to help anyone and everyone. I know he will be missed by everyone.
It's Matt's birthday and he isn't here for it. That makes me really sad.
Our Birthdays are 4 days apart and when we were in High School we used to get together and watch movies all night for our birthday.
This was when movies were on VHS. Do you remember "Be Kind, Rewind"?
We would pick a day to celebrate that would work best. And we would go to the video store together to pick out the 5 or 6 movies we were going to watch. I remember it as usually 5. We got a variety of movie styles and after a while we got good at knowing what to pick out and what order to watch them in. (We did all night movie nights on more than just our birthdays.)
We had it down to a "science". We watched the first movie. Then we had pizza. If we were lucky it was homemade pizza that Vel Rae made! (the best!) After that we just settled in with snacks and watched movies until the sun came up. It was a lot of fun. I never was able to watch movies all night long like that with anyone else.
There was something fun and unique about staying up all night until the sun rose again and still watching movies. The deep movies seemed deeper somehow. The comedies funnier. The snacks tastier.
We had some really great discussions about the movies. And sometime the discussions were not even about the movies. We really connected.
And it was a lot easier to stay up for 36 hours when we were in our late teens and early 20's.
I will always miss Matt. And I will always miss him a bit more on his birthday. I know thats not original or anything. But it sure is true.
I was living with Matthew in a little 2 bedroom up by NDSU. I was home alone and I had purchased an expensive frozen pizza for the first time. I usually got the cheap ones. I was excited to try out a pricey one.
I cooked it and watched carefully. When the cheese browned just right on top I grabbed a cookie sheet and slid it onto it. It looked perfect! Then when I was standing up with it it slipped off the side of the sheet and landed face down on the dirty linoleum floor.
When Matt got home about an hour later, I was sitting on the couch. He came in in a really good mood (like he usually was) and I didn't respond. At all. He went into the kitchen... Silence... He came over and sat on the couch beside me. a few seconds later he said, "It looked like a really good pizza." We laughed and I cursed about it. Then he helped me clean it up.
This was back in the early 90's and we had a telephone answering machine that we left funny messages on. The two I remember clearly were:
Matt:"Hello you have reached the home of Matt Burkholder and Aaron Guderjahn, We are not here and the answering machine is broken. This is the fridge. Leave a message and I will stick it to myself."
And My favorite one was from when Matt was really sick:
Aaron:"(in a hushed voice)You have reached the phone of Matthew Burkholder and Aaron Guderjahn, I can't answer the phone right now cause Matt is really sick -(Matt from a distance) Bring me my soup!!- oh, gotta go! Leave a message after the beep!"
As usual Matt's timing was excellent! A lot of laughter came with the messages.