He grew up in Texas and began his career under Richard Hamburger at Dallas Theater Center. He graduated with a BA in Drama from The University of North Texas, and he holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from York University in Toronto.
Relocating to New York City, Earnest spent a season as assistant director to Lee Breuer at Mabou Mines. With a New York Drama League fellowship, he gained the position of assistant director to Adrian Hall, a position he held for many years.
Earnest is Founding Artistic Director of New York City’s deep ellum ensemble. With them, he created original and adapted works that garnered international acclaim from 1995 until the company disbanded in 2007. Since 1999, he has also been an associate artist at Germany’s English Theatre Berlin . Since 2001, he has been associated with the University of Delaware’s PTTP/REP theatre company.
Earnest has also worked as an independent director around the United States. He has directed his own plays, as well as plays he adapted from literature, and his own translations of foreign playwrights. In 2012, he co-founded an international touring company, The Lunar Stratagem The Lunar Stratagem. His productions have been seen across the U.S., Europe and in Africa.
(Original plays and adaptations are also indicated.)
2012: I, Ca$$ie... or The end of days, written and directed by Matthew Earnest, English Theatre Berlin, Germany, following premiere at The Joan C. Edwards PAC, Huntington, West Virginia.
2010: Wanderlust: A History of Walking, adapted and directed by Earnest from the book by Rebecca Solnit. Ice Factory 2010 at the Ohio Theater, NYC following world premiere at Cleveland Public Theatre.
2009: Himmelweg by Juan Mayorga, translated by David Johnston. Directed New York City premiere at Teatro Círculo following US premiere at Burning Coal Theatre Company, Raleigh, North Carolina.
2008: The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, translated and directed by Earnest. Roe Green Visiting Director, Kent State University.
2007: Peter Pan, or The boy who would not grow up by J.M. Barrie, adapted and directed by Earnest, Porthouse Theatre, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
2007: We Were Civilized Once by Suzan-Lori Parks, from 365 Days/365 Plays. NYSF/Public Theater
2006: A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, English version by Matthew Earnest. The Warehouse Theatre, Greenville, SC
2005: The Josephine footnote, written and directed by Matthew Earnest, score by Joseph Troski, choreography by Tina Fehlandt. deep ellum ensemble at Daniel Arts Center, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (The Berkshire Fringe) and Hartshorn Theatre, University of Delaware (2006)
2003: Doctor Tedrow's Last Breath by Matthew Earnest, score by Joseph Troski, choreography by Tina Fehlandt. deep ellum ensemble at Trinity River Arts Center, Dallas, Texas and The Ice Factory, Ohio Theater, NYC (2005)
2002: Ch’ien-nü leaves her body. by M.E., after a play by Chêng Teh-hui. deep ellum ensemble at The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, NYC
2002: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, Dallas, Texas
2001 : Saints and Singing by Gertrude Stein. deep ellum ensemble at Washington Square Church, NYC; The Present Company Theatorium, NYC; Midtown International Theatre Festival, NYC; The Bridge (Dance-Theater series) at WAX, Brooklyn, NY (excerpts), (2002)
2001: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. deep ellum ensemble at The DStv Performing Arts Festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
2000: Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks. English Theatre Berlin, Germany
1999: blood pudding by M.E. (premiere). deep ellum ensemble at English Theatre Berlin, Germany; and Dublin Festival Fringe, Dublin, Ireland.
1998: Puntila and his servant Matti by Bertolt Brecht, English version by M.E. deep ellum ensemble at The Ohio Theater, NYC; and Brecht Centennial/NY Internat’l Fringe Festival (1998)
1997: The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, adapted and directed by Matthew Earnest (premiere) from the story by Katherine Anne Porter. deep ellum ensemble at The New York International Fringe Festival: BIFF Award; and English Theatre Berlin, Germany (1998); and The FIT Festival, Dallas, TX and University of Texas, Arlington
1997: The Purification & The Two-Character Play by Tennessee Williams. deep ellum ensemble at Chelsea Arts Theater, NYC, The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, LA, English Theater Berlin, Germany
1996: Wolf at the Door by Erik Ehn (NY premiere). deep ellum ensemble at One Dream Theatre, NYC
1995: Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare. deep ellum ensemble at NADA, Inc., NYCNational Endowment for the Arts "Access to Artistic Excellence" grant (2010): "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" (Cleveland Public Theatre, Cleveland, OH)
Cleveland Scene Best Director (2007): Peter Pan (Porthouse Theatre, Cuyahoga Falls, OH)
Raleigh News & Observer Top 10 of 2007: Elizabeth: Almost by Chance a Woman (Still Water Theatre, Raleigh, NC)
Roe Green Visiting Director, Kent State University, 2008
Cleveland Scene Outstanding revival: Our Town (Porthouse Theatre, Cuyahoga Falls, OH), 2007
Raleigh News & Observer Top 10 of 2005: Lipstick Traces (Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh, NC)
Dallas Morning News Top 10 of 2002: Coriolanus (Kitchen Dog Theater, Dallas, Texas)
Audience Favourite Award to deep ellum ensemble (blood pudding), Dublin Festival Fringe, 1999
BIFF Award: Excellence in Ensemble Acting, deep ellum ensemble (The Jilting of Granny Weatherall), NY Fringe Festival, 1997
Special Interest Residency Grant from The Drama League of New York, 1995
Dallas Theater Critics’ Forum Award for Outstanding Direction: On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning) by Eric Overmyer (Moonstruck Theatre Co, Dallas, TX), 1994
Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Award for Outstanding Production: Fen by Caryl Churchill (Moonstruck Theatre Co), 1993