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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, March 15, 2006


Scanning over Dan Trujillo and George Hunka's posts today, and reading my own bullshit from a few days ago, it occurs to me that the act of actually writing a play is so divorced from what I'm reading and saying myself... that it's probably unhealthy and unuseful for me to be reading and blogging about it.

I'll be back when I feel like I'm done with my work (which includes work for this guy.) I might show up in some comments sections, but in the meantime, I'm off. If only for a little while.

If anyone would like to use this space for a discussion, here's one to grow on:

It's impossible to be rid of influence, and the search for the truly 'original' voice is just an exercise in self-consciousness.



david d. said...

I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that The Sopranos are back on. And that we are approaching Wrestlemania/ Summer Slam season...

Dan said...

Tossing in the bomb and then running for it, eh Freeman? ;)

Of course none of us can completely escape our influences, nor should we. Many great writers started out self-consciously imitating their idols.

But, while the act of seeking an original voice could make one too self-conscious, there's also the possibility that it could unlock ones unconscious, and bring about more interesting results. I don't sit down in front of my computer and think, "Now to find an original voice!" But when I go over my work at the end, I do ask myself, "Did I slip into an impression of someone else, because that was the quick and easy path?"

Tried-and-true devices and language can work, do work, but I think that -- at least in my case -- use of them requires a thourough questioning of their purpose.

Good luck on the writing. Is their a "Break a leg" expression for that? Break a keyboard?

Scott Walters said...

I'm thinking about a hiatus myself -- the blogosphere has become so rhetorically overheated of late...

George Hunka said...

"Voice" is the first thing one finds, I think; it constitutes the poetic, creative self, and as none of us is an island, of course we find ourselves beholden to the past voices that have spoken to us. Nor does Bloom indicate that once individual voice is found one sheds these accretions of influence. It's really quite impossible to do so.

Most of the rest of the career is spent exploring why you have the quite individual voice that you have, and this leads down deeper corridors of identity, with many other doors.

P'tit Boo said...

Hiatis ( ? heh...) are good sometimes but don't leave !
Glad you're doing work !

Scott, that seems like a very passive agressive comment and I'd rather you pointed instead of eluding.
That said, It would be sad to have your voice leave and I've missed your long posts.

Also, If we don't get rhetorical on the blogs , where are we going to do it ?
I think all of us are actually being fueled by the conversations and my sense is that everyone is blogging *and* doing their work also , which is important so we aren't just critics and reviewers. Though some of us are and that 's ok too.

A little rhetoric has never hurt.

Alison Croggon said...

Have fun on your break, Matt.

I suppose I take an Eliotic view - ie, that true originality can only stem from profound immersion in your chosen traditions.

Actually, I have a lot of problems with the idea of "voice". The only way in which it makes sense to me is literally, transposing how Karen Linkater (?), the voice teacher, speaks of the voice: as your physical, emotional and intellectual capacity as a writer, which you seek all your life to use to its fullest and most skilled extent.

When I was a young poet, people used to tell me that I would find my "voice". I began to wonder how this would happen, and how I would know: would angels descend from on high and anunciate me? It was the source of a lot of confusion for me, until I realised that people meant that I would find that I wrote a particular way, and then I could write that particular way for the rest of my life.

By this time, I was aware that I didn't want to write in any particular way. I write as me, always; I have no choice about that. But the rest is up for grabs; as a poet I have written everything from formal rhymed and metrical verse, to bricolage to free verse to anything else. In Australia people called me a conservative poet; in the UK I am associated with innovative poetries. To make it worse, I write prose that varies from straight popular narrative to unstraight poetic meditations. And more rarely these days, various kinds of texts for theatre. Most often it means that people who have read my work are only aware of a small part of what I do. I'm not complaining about that, because I kind of like being able to vanish from one self into another. But there's no singularity that I can identify about my "voice".

In the end, I just decided the idea of voice was just a hangover from 19C romantic ideas of the self. Anyway, it doesn't suit me.

George Hunka said...

I'm reminded, in all this, that in 1999 Harold Pinter put together a book called Various Voices--not, interestingly, a collection of plays, but a collection of nondramatic work: poetry, fiction, speeches and essays.

On the other hand, what the title posits the byline takes away: "by Harold Pinter." I suspect that it is this Pinter, the Pinter of the byline, who takes out his pen and ruthlessly crosses out a line of dialogue or an inept phraseology in an essay, as he put it in the recent interview.

Even if we admit that "Harold Pinter" is a social construct, an assumed and illusory singularity as Alison might have it (and I say "might," I could be quite wrong), a name to which this language has attached itself, or vice versa, all these various selves and voices operate unconciously. And, not to shrink the circle too small, I hope, even that hand that crosses out the line is one voice cancelling another, for whatever purpose. And however necessarily, for in that the necessary shape and discipline inheres in the composition. (Selection, not censorship, done honestly enough.)

So far as when we write "by Dan Trujillo," or "by Alison Croggon," or "by George Hunka" on our plays or our poems, are we perhaps attributing them to a sensibility, a social construct ... something other than Linklater's voice (a definition well-taken, by the way)?

At the same time, I am proud (in the Seven Deadly Sins sense, not in the flag-waving American sense) and selfish, not one of those who would prefer to issue my work anonymously. I contain multitudes, say I.

Alison Croggon said...

I'm quite happy to all be Alison Croggon. No bunch of heteronyms, I. Though Pessoa is interesting to think about in this discussion...

Actually, I thought initially of writing my YA novels under a pseudonym or variant author name (AJ Croggon? Alison J Croggon? or something else entirely? An anagram? etc) but in the end, when I saw my real name in error on the proof of the book cover, decided it was silly to differentiate in that way, and perhaps a little pusillaminous. That is probably an admission in itself that although I explore different forms, it is the same sensibility at work in all of them.

Jason Grote said...

Enjoy the break, Matt.

I'm of the opinion that one's personal experiences provide the uniqueness of vision, but everything else - structure, character, imagery - comes from a sort of wellspring of art that includes the collective inconscious, Western and non-Western art, and popular culture. I think that, instead of resisting it, we should diversify what we're channeling. I get awfully bored with playwrights that only know theatre, poets that only know poetry, artists who only know the art world. The culture of MFAs has created a sort of laserlike focus on one's own art, but in great historical movements there has usually been some kind of crossover between literature, music, visual and performing arts... I think everyone should be forced to switch every couple of months - all the theater people can only go to museums, all the painters have can only go to opera, all the heavy metal guitarists can only go to fashion shows. Maybe not that last one.

George Hunka said...

Point well taken, Jason, and it's also important that dramatists (and every other artist) search out those sensibilities in other forms which can inform their own inward sensibilities. In this way, the dramatist can join with the history of their own form as well as those of others. I've found more affinity to my sensibility in painters like van Dyck and Rothko and composers like von Biber, Schoenberg and Feldman than in many of my contemporaries.

Lucas Krech said...

Jason and George make a good point that is summed up rather nicely in this post. An awareness of different arts and discipline, of politics and world events, of sports and technology all feed into ones own life and thus their art.