About Me

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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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

National Strategy for Victory

The above document (linked in the title) is the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

A few comments:

"Failure is not an option."

Failure is never an 'option', it's just something that happens when goals are not achieved. The short term goal in Iraq is "making steady progress fighting terrorists [later in this same document the term Terrorist is broadened], meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions and standing up security forces."

These are the short term goals and even those have been a trial. The Democratic Institutions in Iraq are arguably untenable because of the differences between major social groups in Iraq and their past grievances; the steady progress fighting terrorists has proven to be an endless battle that we invite simply by being present in Iraq; the political milestones, such as votes, haven't improved the situation on the ground or moved Iraq towards real stability and the Iraqi security forces are notoriously undedicated and untrained.

The problem is, of course, that democracy and institutions are social contracts. We agree to them, together, as a people. A constitution has meaning insofar as it is given meaning, leaders have power that is granted TO them by those who agree to surrender that power. Even these short term goals aren't militarily achievable because they require a social agreement in Iraq that cannot be brought about from the outside, or with a gun.

The second goal is "Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential."

Now, these are simply very loose extensions of the short term goals. It assumes that, essentially, we are hand-holding a fledgling but fully legal government in Iraq and a fully trained Iraqi security force. Of course, these institutions are going to be viewed as puppets of the United States and therefore without real legitimacy to a sizeable portion of the Iraqi population. I would assume those are the same people aiding in the guerilla war against our forces, and those attack will be even more effective against a weak and struggling new government, which is propped up by imitations of US histories milestones.

I won't bother with "achieving its economic potentional" because our version of Economic potential and the rest of the worlds has always been very, very far apart. See Venezuela.

The Long Term goal is: "Iraq is peaceful, united, stable and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner of the global war on terrorism."

First of all, this is a country in the dead center of the Middle East, so the idea that it will be peaceful, united, stable and secure, because of our military, in anything less tha 100 years is simply a pipe dream. Beyond this is the frightening implication that by the time this goal is achieved, there will still be a "global war on terrorism."

In this document it is asserted that Iraq is the central battle on the war on terrorism, and that if we fail, it will embolden terrorist tactics.

The problem, of course, is that we chose to turn Iraq into this central battlefield.

We failed in this particular enterprise when we took nation-building and imperialism as our main tactic in fighting a fanatical, Islamic, guerrilla minority that has no national home and did so by making false claims about Iraq's connection to Al Queda. The fight against an ideological enemy is, of course, an ideological one. To turn it into a game of cowboys and Indians was the wrong strategy from the very beginning.

We will not lose the war on terror if we let Iraq pick up its pieces and draw down. In fact, if our force there is smaller, we may just be able to give Iraq the impression that we believe that it should have a sovereign government of its own. All we will lose is a little pride, which we seem to have no problem parting with when we torture prisoners and ignore the United Nations. We need to refocus our efforts on giving at the very least, the appearance that we know when we have made mistakes, and we want to do better.

Then, perhaps, we get on with the business of intelligence gathering, supporting democratic movements in the Middle East peacefully (Iran would be a great place to start) and working towards the sort of economic aid that could repair much of the death, resentment and violence that hunger and poverty breed.

A few rambling thoughts from Today's Speech

"Freedom is the destiny of every man, woman and child on this earth."
"A time of war is a time of sacrifice."
"We must fight the terrorists and Saddamists."

Bush is speaking as I write this.

"There is only one way to honor the sacrifice of [the troops] which is to take up their mantle, carry on the fight and complete their mission."

Anyone who says "There is only one way" is always lying to you.

Essentially, Bush is responding to the massive uproar in the Senate and in the public against the war. The American public is incredibly late to the debate, and so is Congress. What's amazing is that this speech is the same as the ones that he was giving a year ago, two years ago. The debate heats up, the debate changes, the realities in the desert change, and you hear nothing new.

Now, I know it's very easy to say "This is the same old garbage" and it is. But what is increasingly dangerous about this is "completion of the mission" is increasingly vague, hard to pin down, and has been changing year to year. The congressional vote gave him permission to carry out UN resolutions (lest we forget that the UN voted against this particular method of going into Iraq) and permission to stop the "threat" that was in Iraq (there were no weapons of any particular danger to us in Iraq, besides roadside bombs and machine guns and digital cameras.) So the mission has changed to the undefinable "spread of freedom in the Middle East."

Now, it's a slippery slope argument to be sure. His argument is "if everyone lives like us we will be more safe." Of course. It's an Orwellian argument. If everyone thinks the same, no one argues. It would also be easier for my boss to give me a frontal lobotomy, some water, and a cott in the back room, so I'm always here and don't have other ambitions.

I would like, very much, to remove the term "terrorist" from the lexicon. The more specific the language, of course, the clearer the enemy. We are fighting, for the most part, Sunnis who feel disenfranchised, an organized guerilla movement that views us as a partner of Israel and enemy to Islam, and people who are easily recruited by such arguments by the US's brutal treatment of civilians and torture tactics.

They are guerillas and this is a guerrila war. We don't have a great track record in guerilla warfare, and for an obvious reason: we fight them on foreign soil with political motives. That's two strikes against you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Phantasmaphile

I direct your attention to this website which has a great posting on Cabinets of Curiousities. Just crazy and cool and will wet anyone's whistle who is looking for a little inspiration.

Oh, and this site is run by my girlfriend who is, yes, just that friggin' amazingly amazing.

Theatre vs Theater

Just because it's always fun to beat a dead horse until it's blue, blue, blue...

I'd like to take an unofficial poll: Theatre or Theater? Which do you write, why do you write it, when do you write it?

Welcome, Matt

Matt J out of Long Island has started a new theatre blog. Welcome, sir. I find the title of the blog a mite bit...familiar. But let's give him a warm welcome.

Theatre Conversation.

Monday, November 28, 2005

December Approaches

Just watch those suicide rates rise!

I wonder if there is a direct correlation between discount sales going up and people jumping out of windows. Like, for every five percent that Kmart cuts off the latest fashions, we lose five percent of the future chess champions of the United States.

Anyhow, I'm back from Thanksgiving with the newly extended family, feeling frisky, ready for a good brawl. I will be turning 30 next week, so I'd better get all my youthful indiscretions out of the way now. I mean, within this week. December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. Tom Waits birthday. That's when it's all coming to a screeching halt.

Who wants to help me humiliate myself before I am bound by law to resemble an adult?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I hope you had a happy one. Or at least, one that didn't include anything terribly bad happening.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sixteen?!?

Ladies and gentlemen, there was an earthquake in Pakistan that threatens millions, New Orleans is still a disaster, millions have AIDs and Malaria across the globe.

And CNN runs an article about 16 kids that choked on fucking toys in the US in 2004?

We are the bloated belly of the disease of wealth.

Reporting as News

In a remarkable piece of historical inevitability, the father of access and anonymous sourcing, Bob Woodward, has come under fire for hiding a source. Judith Miller (who I am not a fan of) was in jail for protecting a source. The New York Times has committed pages upon pages from it's public editor and elsewhere to define and redefine and defend and qualify their own sourcing and editorial practices.

I do find all this extremely enlightening. It's is important to get access to power and that means that those who provide us with that access, the press, should be scrutinized from time to time. The abuse of journalistic privilege by sources ("Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove) shows how easily journalists can become inadvertant propoganda tools, and can become the very message that they are trying to analyze. Should all anonymity be defended without rhyme or reason. Probably not. Especially when the source is using that anonymity to commit a crime.

That being said, the troubling thing is that the news has become the news itself, and not the newsmakers. Take for example the Valerie Plame case. What does this story consist of? A long list of journalists, a special investigator, a reporter thrown in jail, questions of anonymity and the public's right to know, blah, blah, blah. But what is the actual story: We were being lied to, and the person that said so, earliest and most bravely, was attacked, through the press. By the top and crop of the administration.

The Bush administration has a tried and true way of defending itself, which is to attack the messenger. When the larger anti-war protest ever organized showed up before the invasion of Iraq, a protest that spanned several continents, Bush was never taken to task for their argument. He simply said that he wasn't going to make decisions based on a "focus group." By reducing the messengers status, he ignored the message.

He does so with the press. He refers to the Press as "the filter." He questions their reporting even as his own people send them false information. He uses Fox News (indeed) to dilute the message of the mainstream press. In this way, how the messages are received becomes our news, and the actual news becomes only a theater in which this plays games are played.

The truth is, the Bush administration lied to get us into a war, and then committed the sin of absolute incompetence. But their failures don't start and stop in Iraq. This administration has attempted to institutionalize legal torture; it as curtailed countless civil liberties; it has given the CIA and FBI broad new powers to peak into our lives; it has attempted to influence public broadcasting; it has fallen down on disaster aid; it has nominated both cronyies and idealogues to the Supreme Court; it has endlessly used false claims to attack it's political foes; has promoted religion in science classes; has politicized the FCC and the FDA; and it has alienated the US from the rest of the world.

That's the news. The news is that he is still the President after all bloodshed and falsehood. That's the shame of the nation.

Who why are we talking about Judy Miller or Bob Woodward? Why are they the ones on trial?

Monday, November 21, 2005

A.W.O.L Review

My latest review for nytheatre.com, of an adaptation of Colonel Zoo called A.W.O.L, is up here.

Feel free, if you've seen it or were a part of the production, to comment on the review below.

Revising, Catching Up, etc

I haven't updated this space since Tuesday and there has been much, much hubub. Republicans who never served in the armed forces calling an ex-Marine a coward for showing common sense. Bob Woodward getting back in the middle of the secrecy game. The Bush administration taking one step closer to George Orwell by actually changing a transcript from a press briefing to turn an admission into a denial. It's a beautiful time to watch the culture, because it's exploding into a thousand tiny pieces.

And, therefore, we write. My latest play received a reading from the Blue Coyote Theater Group on Friday. Comments are that it was funny, twisted and too long. (Read at about 3 and a quarter hours, which is too long.) But, I was happy to get some big belly laughs and appalled looks. They are what makes this grown man smile.

My friend Scott Reynolds from Handcart Ensemble dropped by. Scott is Mormon, and the play has a rather high rate of anti-Mormon jokes, which he took in stride. When he ducked out, he whispered in my ear "You should be shot," which I am going to take as a compliment.

And so, I'm speeding up the play by better defining the action. That always seems to work.

I saw the Metropolitan's production of "The Inheritors" by Susan Glaspell this weekend. The cast is very strong, and it features my pal Matt Trumbull, who can get a laugh out of an exit line (and does) like no one else. The play itself has its ups and downs. There is something quite remarkable about seeing how little the arguments have changed over the years between the revolutionary and the careful in this country. But what's striking is that we all couch our sentiments in being more "American" than the other. "It's un-American, what's your doing!" "No, it is precisely because I'm an American that I question America."

As far as I can tell, this shows just how effective the term American ever is or ever was. It means nothing, which is precisely the point of the word. This culture is intended to be about freedom, and part of the danger and joy of freedom is making your own meaning.

So the play did leave me with some things. But it also left me with a few lines that I will remember for an entirely different reason: they are high camp. Such as "Damn the wind!" and "She choked to death in that Swede's house!"

Martin Denton has a fine review of the play up here.

Yesterday, also, I had a little pre-Thanksgiving with Matt Trumbull and my girlfriend Pam and her roommate Lauren. We had slow cooked ribs, three pies (pumpkin, apple and cherry cheese pie, for the record) and watched Jodie Foster's "Thanksgiving is messed up" movie Home for the Holidays, which I thoroughly recommend. If anyone's interested in why I am not moving to Kansas to make theater, I'd point to last night and the sense of friendship and family I have here. It's a wonderful...um...life.

Oh no. What have I said?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A creative way to support "indie" theater

Martin Denton has posted a Guide to Musical Theatre History and it's really fantastic. Best of all, he's posted links to books and CD that can be purchased on Amazon.com

Now, there's a lot of reasons this is a great thing to check out. The first is simply that Martin Denton is a great resource and huge enthusist and anyone who has an interest in the New York Theatre scene won't find a better place to put their finger on the pulse than his website.

The second is that buying something or listening to something in a context often really augments the experience, and Martin is providing the context.

The third is that buying those items through his links actually puts money in the coffer of nytheatre.com. Sometimes we all want to donate, but we wind up spending our money on things like CDs, MP3s, Ipods, shirts and books. You know what? This kills two birds with one stone. Get yourself something nice, and also give a little back to the community.

Go check it out. Click the title of this post.

Trav S.D.'s New Book

Trav S.D. is a downtown performer that I've met a few times and he's a brilliant enthusiast for this subject. While it's the Times and they throw him a few little punches, it's generally a fantastic step in the right direction for him and a big bump up in his street cred.

Go Trav.

Buy his book, crew. Support one of our own.

Reading of "The Most Wonderful Love"

Blue Coyote Theater Group is going to do a small informal reading of my new play on Friday, November 18th at 7pm. The details are here.

If any of you, in the New York area, are interested to stop by, give it a listen and throw in some informed thoughts (afterwards, over beer) I'd love to have the eyes and ears. Let me know if you have interest in checking it out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bad Karma

Even though Isaac and Josh have both posted this, I feel I must as well. It is, of course, bad karma. Very bad karma.

But I...can't...help it. Must press the button!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Most Wonderful Love

Crackin' a beer. Just finished the first draft of my new play "The Most Wonderful Love." Work to do, of course, but I'm happy to have this one with the words "End of Play" on it.

Score one for the good guys.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

First Folio Shakespeare Method - A lecture

Over on Parabasis, Isaac asked a very earnest question and I feel it's probably best not to joke about it there. So I will, appropriately, joke about it here. Isaac asks about reading the text how to determine what Polonious should wear in Act I, Scene 2 of Hamlet.

This made me think of First Folio. I worked with a First Folio crew right out of college, in the worst ever production of Romeo and Juliet (I was Romeo, and I can tell you it was a smashing failure) with the New Hampshire Shakespeare Festival. For those of you unfamiliar with the First Folio sect of the Shakespeare Worshipping Society, here is an example of the sort of logic to be found therein.

-------

First Folio - A lecture

(CLAPS HANDS)

Listen up you maggots. I am here to set the record straight about Shakespeare, who was NOT the Earl of Oxford, thank you very much, but was also in total command of every single word, phrase, loose end and capital letter he placed in every word on every page of everything he ever wrote. He was not simply a genius, as we all accept, but he was correct and perfect in all things, and the only way to strive towards perfection is to attempt to find the messages he clearly sent in every syllable, and obey them, like slaves to a terrible and immortal master.

Each one of you, who has come here today, has come because you are unworthy to lick the fading ink from the bottom of Shakespeare's shoes. You have tried to direct productions of Hamlet set in 1920s Vermont, recast King Lear's Fool as a pack of wild dogs with tape recorders on their backs, performed Julius Caesar with a Kindergarten class, and rewrote and recut Much Ado About Nothing so it could be done effectively in sign language. You are tired of trying to climb the great wall of William armed only with your own lesser impulses. You've come to find out what the writer truly wrote, because after years of a sub-par liberal arts education, you are completely unable to read.

I will provide you with the facts. The only true facts. And before we break up into groups and cry and pound out iams with drums, I would like to give you a quick list of the rules we will follow at all times. Are you ready? I know you are:

1. Shakespeare tells us how to say it. One of the biggest problem facing actors raised on Marlon Brando and Owen Wilson is that they, in fact, feel that they have carte blanche to push the words around in a way that feels "True" to them. Truth has nothing to do with speaking. For example, I am often lying to my friends and family. Does that mean I am not talking? NO.

Each line is written with a certain number of beats. Most lines are ten beats long. They are the "common" lines and should be delivered loudly, so they can be heard, and without any inflection at all. Adding inflection to a ten beat line is the same as adding "just kidding" to the end of the Ten Commandments.

Some lines are eleven beats long. That means they suddenly seem to falter. When speaking these lines, let your voice trail off into wistful nothingness. Show the audience that you are both thoughtful and confused. The more confusion the better, as an eleven beat line is not supposed to have either emotional clarity or directness.

Some lines are twelve beats. That means they should be shouted at the top of one's lungs, as if the sheer effort of speaking for so long is a cruel torture. With lines so long, Shakespeare is performing the functional equivalent of poking you in the psychological ass with an ethereal hot poker. Let the screams come and the line will sing.

If you find a longer line that twelve, simply add the end of that line to the beginning of the next.

If you find prose, as they call it in the funnies, speak it as quickly as possible and get it over with. Shakespeare was not a prose writer, and writing in prose is his way of protesting an addition to his script that he felt was unnecessary. It was a way of saying to a producer, "You smell as sweet as The Rose." For those who don't know, the Rose, in Shakespeare's day, smelled very much like shit.

Capital letters should be highlighted with a raised eyebrow. All words should be pronounced phonetically, even if it makes you sound like you have Down's Syndrome. One must sacrifice pride for accuracy.

2. Shakespeare tell us where to stand. Blocking is often decried by directors as the artistic equal of being a traffic cop. Some claim it is an art, others a dreadful bore. Luckily, Shakespeare doesn't care about directors and doesn't care about your problems. He simply shows each actor where to go and when based on subtle indications in the text.

For example, when a character says "you" to another character, that is more informal than "thou." If a character says "you," regardless of what they are saying, the performer should walk towards the other actor, the one they are speaking to. If a character says "thou," the performer should move his or her character to the other side of the stage and remain there, holding his or her nose. (Note: it could be the other way around.)

Another example is the word "sir." If a character says "sir" one must bow upon speaking the word, each time the word is said. If the character says "sire" the performer should drop onto all fours, like a dog that deserves kicking. If the term is "My Lord" one should hold out his or her hands in front of his or her face, to shield the character's eyes from the blinding light of the other character's authority.

It's all there. Clear as day. All you have to do is read it. Idiots.

3. Shakespeare wanted us to cut nothing. When anything is lost in the text, regardless of length, we are placing his plays on the ground, pulling down our trousers, and relieving our collective bowels on literary history.

4. Shakespeare wants us to speak quickly. Cutting nothing means speaking faster than most people can hear, because otherwise many productions would be five or six hours long. The reason for this is that we now think and hear much more slowly than Shakespeare's often uneducated audience did. They actually had brains and ears that were 20% larger than ours. Shakespeare's was 60% larger than the average human brain. You can look it up.

For the most part, the audience will catch many of the important words if you speak as quickly as possible, as most plays are written carefully so that only the third and sixth words of every line are important. Everything else is gravy.

5. Do not rehearse. Once we learn all these rules, rehearsal only stands between you and perfection. The more impulsively you perform these plays, scroll in hand, with all the rules in mind, the closer you are to the chaotic glory that Shakespeare not only intended, but encouraged.

Rehearsal is a very long, expensive process and much like us; Shakespeare was poor. Why waste time? Read the text aloud, perhaps once, with the other actors. Then you can charge whatever will pay the rent and rush through the text, as the rules indicate, and show them the true nature of his plays.

If they want to understand every single word, they can buy the Arden like I had to.

All right! I think that's a good start don't you? There are some more specifics we'll get into, as there are literally hundreds of tiny things to remember before you can truly perform his plays as God, meaning Shakepeare himself, intended. But with those 5 rules to start with, I think we will make excellent progress and removing all your failed impulses. In fact, we will remove any impulses, good or bad. But honestly, who needs them when you've got Will, king of all words, to lead you to the stage?

Now, let's begin with Hamlet's speech to the Players...

-------

There is no God

Children die every day from malaria and worse.

Good people are being told they have cancer, probably right now.

Bodies floated through the streets of New Orleans.

Suicide bombers are blowing up hotels full of reporters.

...and we can't get even get a broken leg for the representative of all that's wasteful and wrong with this dreadful world, Paris Hilton? Even with a CAR?

Where is your beautiful "God" now?

The Walking Dead

Just a quick "toss" to one of my dearest old pals, Marshall Warfield (poet? professor? 30 years old? engaged? check, check, check, check) and his recent contribution to the Pittsburgh City Paper. This article is review of a comic "The Walking Dead" and a bit of breakdown of George Romero's zombie masterpieces. Short version: It's about ZOMBIES!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A sign from God


Thanks to my friend MCJ, and his Dad, for sending this around. Fantastic and everyone should see it. MCJ, you're my hero.

Workshops, Collaboration and Feedback

I'm feeling pretty pumped today because I sat down with a friend and collaborator of mine, read through the first two acts of my latest play "The Most Wonderful Love" and came away with some solid new thoughts, notes, and edits.

It made me think of precisely the wrong kind of directoral approach to playwrighting. Joshua James has written a fantastic, telling and, as usual, witty version of similar thoughts on his Daily Dojo.

A few years ago, I had completed my play, "The Great Escape," (Pictures of the eventual production can be found here) and I was looking for a place to have it produced. Through a contact who was high on the script, I was put in touch with a downtown director who I'd heard of, and who has had a solid reputation for his Greeks and Shakespeares.

We met in Park Slope, and having never met me before, he proceeded to explain to me that he had uncovered the protagonist of the play, which he felt was "Susan," a character that is off-stage in Act I, tied up and silent in a bag in Act II, and finally comes in for a show-ending monologue that makes up almost the entirety of Act III. His suggestions were based on this concept, ripped from the pages of a playwrighting text book. He felt the play was "her" play and that I should rewrite the play to match who was "clearly the protagonist."

Needless to say, I didn't wind up working with him. It occurred to me that he didn't actually want to direct the play I'd written; he wanted to direct the play he was looking for between my script and his own designs.

What I've found is essential is to be rather careful about who you listen to and to what end. That's why I feel workshops and open discussion about a play are often rather damaging. Only someone who understands and enjoys the playwright's work should be anywhere near the process of creating that play.

Last night, I got some pretty merciless feedback and walked away with a fair amount of work to do, but knowing that it was from someone who was high on the play already, made the work something I'm looking forward to doing. If it had come from someone with an agenda that was anything except "I want to see Matt Freeman's best work," it's simply off the table. Anyone who I feel has little personal stake in my work is someone who I won't accept commentary from during the initial process.

I know some playwrights relish a long workshopping process (most don't.) I'll be bold enough to quote myself regarding that from my Rants and Raves on the New York Foundation for the Arts Website:

Rant

Workshops: Playwrights know the workshop dilemma all too well. It’s how large production companies earn their “new work” grants while avoiding the production costs associated with actually producing untested plays. The end result? Hundreds of expressive and original new plays, whittled down to nubbins of shavings of what they could have been, wartless, because of hours and hours of witless “feedback.” Well intentioned, maybe, but deadly for your sense of self, like a boob job.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"We Do Not Torture"

So sayeth our President.

Firmly.

Saying "We do not torture" means, expressly, that there is no reason for us to bring political prisoners to places where torture is legal and common. Which is why we... do exactly that.

Oh and then there's this:

That's the Abu Ghraib photo that doesn't include naked human pyramids and dog collars.

Guess what?

We Torture.

Grass Roots

In his Brooklyn Rail piece, Zachary Mannheimer suggests that theater artists could make more of an impact on the country as a whole if they organized, studied and infiltrated the smaller communities on the margins, bringing professional level arts out of the cities and into the fields. He maps out a carefully sneaky plan to seduce the locals and bring them what they need with our city level smarts and armed with collegiate jobs.

I don't disagree with any of what he's saying, to be perfectly honest. The audience for Broadway is predominantly outside of New York City. If we want plays to sell well, or theatre artists to become important to the country as a whole, I'm certain that we should do more to get the word out into the rest of the country.

While I've read a few things that would suggest to me that most artists are a bit defensive about their aspirations, I would say that I feel no shame in prefering to live in cities. There's more acess here, I spend a great deal of money for it, and I do want to have a successful career and when you want that, you go where the industry is thriving. You don't go to Alaska to harvest tropical fruit.

In that analogy, it's clear when I say Alaska, I mean Zack's Wichita, and when I say Tropical Fruit, I mean artistic praise. Let's just assume that when a producer in the great plains sees "produced in New York" on a play's resume, they're more likely to take a look at it than when they say "ran for ten years in Wyoming."

That being said, I also feel that we're underestimating the popularity of theater outside of New York. Anywhere you'll find a public high school, I'm sure you'll find at least one musical being produced. Much of my early access to Shakespeare, personally, was in Allentown PA, where Allentown College's theatre would import (yes, often from New York) top flight performers and excellent production values.

Before I go too far into disputing what Zack is claiming, I would like to add that it has a great deal of merit simply for having been said. There is a great deal of untapped interest, money and quality of life all over the country. But whether or not one has an interest in selfless evangelizing is an entirely subjective (pardon me, Zack) question. Objectively, the entire theater community would helped a great deal if we all moved to the suburbs and got our hands dirty trying to build a series of interesting and accessible venues in pockets where they are missing. It seems there is little will for this, though, because many of us did what most naturally do: sought a refuge from places where interest was sparse.

Should we abandon the battlements? I don't believe so. But I also believe they haven't been abadoned.

Before leaping heartily into a race to the frontiers, I would find it interesting to take a tour of (online or otherwise) little known and earnest theaters in places like Wichita, Kansas. Places we may not currently be aware of, but know are there. There were spots of theaters all over Pennsylvania where interesting work was produced, or where at least quality peformances of "The Death of a Salesman" could be counted on. I'd love to hear more about them, and see if what we suspect (that theater barely exists outside the cities) is reality.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Further interesting thoughts

Ross Peabody's blog is home to his comments on a fair number of topic, especially regarding Indie Theater vs. Off-Off Broadway. Take a look here. (Referred from the nytheatre i.)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A New Deal

Read and comment on this. Interesting stuff. Zack of the Subjective...interesting guy. Has "the vision thing."

Friday, November 04, 2005

The news from Argentina

Is not good. Thousands protesting Bush and the US "free trade policies" that have essentially made it easier for us to use them as cheap labor.

Here's a bit of the rhetoric down there. The truth hurts:

"Bush is a torturer, a violator of human rights and a murderer, who does not respect United Nations resolutions, international treaties or the sovereignty of peoples, as in the case of Iraq," said Adolfo PĂ©rez Esquivel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is one of the protest organizers. "He is not welcome in Argentina, and he should be repudiated."

"Scooter" and the Bear

On this gentle morning, I'd like to direct readers of my blog to this brief article in the New Yorker concerning the purple prose of conservatives, and "Scooter" Libby in particular. Pay special attention to the bit about the bear.

The article can at least serve as some comfort to Libby supporters: he'll have a hobby in the slammer.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Micheal Brown's E-mails

This PDF shows just what a goddamn idiot Michael Brown is. Enjoy, or weep, or whatever.

EDIT: this PDF isn't working. But I'm sure it's gotten around that Michael Brown's e-mails during the Katrina event included advice that he should roll up his sleaves so he looks like he's working hard, questions about pet care and personal grooming, and asking a friend if he can quit.

What I personally love about the Republicans during a scandal, is that give us so much material. Clinton's personal life was attacked and the man looked sad, sorry, beaten up and humiliated during his second-term scandal and impeachment. It was the worst kind of politics.

On the other hand, we have this old boy network of spoon fed war mongerers and their cronies who leave gems like Barbara Bush's gaffe about the poor, crony Brown's overtly un-heroic stances, and Bush's faked miliary media events. It's like Clinton was the warm up act for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Review of "Stumps"

My latest review for nytheatre.com is up here. It is of the recent production of Mark Medoff's play "Stumps" by Nicu's Spoon.

If you've seen the production or know the companies work, feel free to post comments on the review below.

Harry Reid: Staying on Topic

Reid, a Mormon and Democrat, was someone I had trouble taking seriously. He seemed wishy-washy and overly cautious, treating Howard Dean like a problem to be solved and treating Republicans. What did I know? This man just kicked the Republicans in the balls, to gum up their ever vigilant course-changing machine. God love him for it.

If there's one thing that Democrats have failed to do until this moment, it's adapt. The Republicans have used the same tactics over and over, and each time we find ourselves sitting with our mouths open, pointing, begging someone to come to their senses. It took us a while to realize, apparently, that it's better to be on the attack than on the defense.

With "Scooter" Libby's indictment, this country is moving closer than ever to having a public airing of the lies and crimes of the Bush administration. Libby wasn't Karl Rove, but if you remove the big three from immediate indictment (Bush, Cheney, Rove) it doesn't get much closer than Libby. And while he's "only" faced with obstruction of justice and perjury charges, as that moves forward, he'll be forced to look at serious jailtime, or start talking.

What does the Bush administration do? Bring in a conservative supreme court nominee and annouce their plans to do something about a possible flu pandemic. One of which sounds scary and could have been announced at any time (you'll all get sick!) and the other took less time (four days) than seems healthy for a true re-examination of his choices. The fact is, on Friday Libby was indicted. By Sunday, the news was full of carefully timed "big news" to drown it all out.

Until Reid pulled the parlimentary equivalent of sending the Republicans to their room without supper. Now, they're playing into his hands, calling the move a stunt and being "angry" about it. The important thing is that Iraq, Scooter Libby, and the lies that led to the war in Iraq are back on the front page, where they should be, because Reid wouldn't let Rove change the subject again.

Applause is in order.

Holy Cute Grenade, Batman


Look how friggin' cute this thing is. It's silly. New born baby Panda at the National Zoo. Named Tai Shan.

I want one.

Reviewing Direction

Over on the Nytheatre i, Martin Denton asked a question about what playwrights need from reviewers. Quite a bit of the theater blogsphere and theatrical reviews have a great deal to do with the writer, which is in stark contrast to film reviews, where the actors and directors hands are very clear and often most reviewed and commented upon. Writers are the lifeblood of theatre, and it's wonderful to see them (us) given so much weight.

That being said (and inspiried a bit by Superfluities), I'd like to turn the subject to reviewing direction. In my reviews for nytheatre.com, I find this is one of the most difficult aspects of watching theater to elaborate upon. Unless you're reviewing a well-known director with a distinctive style (Peter Brook, Robert Wilson), it can be hard to know how much of what you're watching can be credited to the success and failure of direction.

For example, in watching a new play that presents relatively conventional themes (let's say a relationship play about dating) how much of what is working can be attributed to direction as opposed to successful writing or solid performances. Because we're often watching relatively unknown talent, it can be hard to say whether or not the director is getting performances out of actors that would otherwise flounder, or if the script is being raised above its potential on the page, or if the direction is just putting band aids on dramaturgical broken legs. It takes a leap of imagination and some educated guessing, often, to see where the direction is apparent, where it's invisibly working magic, or where it is falling apart.

Sometimes failures of direction are obvious: everyone is clumped upstage, the actors all seem to be in different plays, there's too much shouting or too little sound, etc. Things that leap out.

But what if a scene is working wonderfully, and the scene is relatively simple? It's easy to say that the actors made the scene work, but not being the rehearsal room, who is to say that every thing happening on the stage wasn't the result of a truly gifted director making the actors and the play work at their highest level?

There are exceptions to this: often when seeing a play with a long shelf-life the direction is obvious. Watch any Shakespeare play and the director is the true star of the show. How is the play cast? What version of the text are they using? What interpretations are we seeing of these classic themes?

But with a new play, interesting ideas can be failed by lack of imagination, and simplistic ones can be improved upon by creative staging.

As a director myself, I've added and subtracted in small ways to plays I've been a part of, in order to iron out edges or create a sense of urgency on the stage that might not have been natural on the page. At times, directing my own work, I've encouraged intreprations of characters that might not be readily apparent by simply reading the text. The results were partially my work, and the results rarely wind up reviewed as such.

I'd love to hear what directors out there think of their experiences with reviews, of how much of their work appears on the stage. I'd also like to hear from anyone who has written a review and felt stymied as to how the director has factored into what they have seen.