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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.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pro Wrestling

Does anyone else think that Professional Wrestling falls under the common definition of Theatre that most of us use?

1. Pro Wrestling has lines, characters and stories.
2. Pro Wrestling constructs dramatic narratives.
3. Pro Wrestling has actors (such as they are.)
4. (here's the kicker) Pro Wrestling is inherently live. It cannot function without interaction between an audience and the live performer. Imagine it without a live audience.
5. Pro Wrestling is as "real" as any play or musical.

What else, exactly, defines theatre?

I think it's important to remember that theatre is not an inherently upper class behavior, and requires exactly (apparently) no knowledge of literature or scholarly background to engage in it.

And if what I'm saying is correct...I demand Ben Brantley, Charles Isherwood or Jason Zioman review the next WWE show that comes to Madison Square Garden.

Come on. It would be brilliant.


MattJ said...

You're definitely right. It is theatre. And a very specific kind of theatre; with audience participation, and a small amount of the uncalculable.

Not to get overly academic or anything, but in many ways it is very much like the kind of environmental theatre that Richard Schechner has advocated and created for so long... with one giant difference:

Wrestling thrives on archetypes and the producers manipulate the audience they involve in a very calculated way. WWE comes down to Heros, villains, and capitalism. Vince McMahon puts an emphasis on establishing his characters with fixed archetypical qualities so as to fix audience perception. For example, one wrestler this week may be the "heel" (villainous) but next week he does something very calculated (and highly theatrical) to get the audience "on his side." He takes on the good guy role and someone else will be a heel, completely based on that wrestlers relationship with the audience. Audiences boo for villains and cheer for heros (And, indeed heros act kindly to the audience, and heels insult it). They rotate around to keep it fresh and make Americans keep watching. This is where the capitalism plays in, along with the very strong use of sex, violence, TONS of spectacle, and commercialism.

um, I was really into it in High School.

Really interesting topic Freeman, lots to discover about the Theatrical clientele, among other things.

MattJ said...

ps. Agreed on Isherwood or Brantley going to the Garden. The blogosphere will provide them with the necessary posterboard to make signs, and beer.

Freeman said...


Full disclosure. I used to write about wrestling on Wrestleline.com. No, seriously. Before it went belly up.

Also...I have a friend who writes for them.

Plus, I saw an ECW show in Philly. Or two.

All shameful. All true.

George Hunka said...

Well, you know, theater's always been connected with sport in a way: the Globe competed for audiences with bear-baiting arenas, and Brecht insisted, at least early in his career, that he wanted audiences to approach his plays as if they were boxing matches. The Little Mahagonny was first staged in a boxing ring, for heaven's sake.

Scott Walters said...

Roland Barthes wrote a fantastic essay in Mythologies on wrestling, comparing it to melodrama. He convinced me!

devore said...

my dad was a pro wrestling announcer in mexico during the early 1960's.

i don't remember when i exactly found out santa didn't exist, but i remember distinctly when my dad sat me aside and told me wrestling was staged.

anyway, i'm a fan, if only to honor my dad's memory.

i call it "redneck broadway" -- in the most loving of ways.

it's the appreciation of bodies bounding through space.

Dan said...

And let's not forget that the Greeks invented both Western drama and wrestling.

Jason Grote said...

Evan Cabnet once told me that Richard Foreman is into pro wrestling. That and he's been watching General Hospital for 30 years. Both of which make sense.