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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Theatre and Religion continued...

George Hunka's responses to the postings on Theatre Ideas are posted today here.

I respect the time George has taken in his response. I'll begin with the blood and guts of his point, in his final paragraph.

"Audiences will find us, as audiences found the spiritual work of artists like Robert Wilson, Reza Abdoh, Peter Brook and others, so long as we conscientiously develop our craft and think deeply about our own relationships to the world. We reach out to our audience as churches do: by living in the community, by providing it with something they can't get in their own homes, in their movie theaters or at dance clubs, and, yes, by commenting on the world poetically, in newspapers and magazines, as some recent Nobelists are wont to do. Church attendance is dipping as well, but one thing is worth remembering: regardless of the number of people in the pews, the miracle of transubstantiation occurs during the mass whether or not there's anyone there to see it. That's why the theater isn't merely another vocation, nor a play merely another product to be sold."

I agree with, essentially, none of this. For one, I was raised by an Episcopalian priest. Considering the family business I'll say that I do not remotely believe in transubstantiation. Acknowledging that it's being used here as a metaphor, I will say that I don't believe anything transformative happens without anyone there to see it. The idea, to me, that theatre is some sort of higher calling, and not merely another vocation, strikes me as hard to defend. From my experience, being a Priest is a vocation, like any other. So should it be with theatre.

George's statement that our "audience will find us" strikes me as wishful-thinking at best, head-patting at worst. I've seen little evidence that if we just somehow dig into the trenches of theatrical history, improve ourselves, we will earn some audience that is just waiting to be woo'ed. They are not looking for us. We have to got and grab them by the lapels and say "You are missing something special." I'll add that claiming 'they'll find us like they found Peter Brook and Robert Wilson' makes me ask, does George mean the citizens of Germany and France? Because I don't hear Robert Wilson and Peter Brooks being name-dropped outside of, well, discussions like this one, very often. Brooks and Wilson have largely abandoned the United States; I don't want to do the same.

As for this paragraph...

"That theater or any of the arts can be an instrument of metaphysical investigation, though, is quite true, and this metaphysical investigation doesn't necessarily lead to dogma any more than surgery necessarily leads to vivisection. But, in our particular era, this requires the same new forms that Matt and Joshua think they're so assiduously defending. I get the feeling, though, that for both of these writers there is a sense in that a form can be too new, and that Brian is indeed thinking far more imaginatively about the potential of theater than any of us."

I'm honestly not sure what the heck George is talking about, and would love it explained to me. I'm not specifically concerned with the imagination of other artists, because it's largely their own concern what they do with their time and pen. I'm concerned with a theatrical community that is more interested in naval-gazing growing its audience. This attitude is what I find most counterproductive.


Joshua said...

Hey Matt,

I wasn't quite sure what George meant by that paragraph, either.

But I do think that comparing the bible to Battlelfield Earth was a bit glib, though I enjoyed the comparision - of the two, the Bible has done much more damage.

I would have left that comment over at George's but for some reason there is no comment page over there.

And BTW, did you watch Ulitimate Fighter last night?

Freeman said...

Hey there,

No, didn't see Ultimate Fight. Sadly. I love me some kicking in the face. That has a great deal of meaning for me.

Don't be so hasty about Battlefield: Earth. Scientology is a bit icky. To say the least.

The Bible isn't exactly this sunshine and roses book though. The City of Jericho and the Trials of Job aren't really bedtime stories.

Joshua said...

No, no - don't misunderstand me - I am a HUGE ant-Scientologist (I actually have a great link debunking it somewhere on me blog or in me files) - I just found it amusing that out of all the books written on spirituality in modern times, George chose Battlefield Earth, which only became a really bad movie.

But the bible has done, in my opinion, too much damage to us as human beings and continues to do so to this day.

From what I've read on your blog, we may have been separated at birth - though I was born way before Star Wars was originally released.

Now about Ultimate Fight - don't know you caught it, but Luke fought last week and he's a fighter after my own heart (and I suspect yours as well) and you can watch the last round of it online -

Last night was a heavyweight challenge - all I'm going to say is this - Matt Hughes is a dick (I've actually said that early in the season) and I'm embarassed we're both products of Iowa - but last night's episode, to me, reinforces the idea of karma and what goes around, comes around - in that instance, it was a hugely satisfying episode.

Pride does feature better fights and fighters, but Ultimate Fighter is more a soap opera than about fighting.

Freeman said...

Matt Hughes is a jerk, but I saw him fight live once, and I thought "Whoa, He could kill me in seven seconds."


Sir, back 'atcha. You seem like my kinda playwright.

Lovefest over here at Freeman's blog everyone!

Leibowitz said...

This is the only way to talk to you. Theatre is dead and will not be relevant again in America until after the Apocolypse. I speak from experience. We all know this deep inside or little disappointed hearts. I say we quit bellyaching and start making good films already. Have you heard about this newfangled digital technology and this Internet thing? I've made two films this past year and, man, it's great. SO. Option me the rights to one of them there plays of yours and lets get to work. And call me already.

Freeman said...


I am a bad friend. But my plays would also make crappy films.

Let's have a drink on Saturday. Seriously.