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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.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What is Indie Theatre?

Because there are things in the works in the New York Theatre scene, I wanted to ask this open question:

If you had to define something called "Indie Theatre" who would you do so?

Let's put aside questions of "Is there such a thing" because that's an endless and circular debate. Let's just say there was going to be a new label, and it was called "Indie" for theatre. What would would you say defines "Indie" in the world of theatre?

Think it over. My comments is your playground. Oh, and I'm sure this will be used, by all evidence, here in NYC.


Lucas Krech said...

Isn't 'indie' rather 90's?

Freeman said...

Might be. But isn't everything. That aside, I don't want to really discuss the term (because that's been taken off the table) but how you'd define it if you had to. Let's say, for Lucas' sake, it's 1995.

Lucas Krech said...

But then a more contemporary take could use this as the soundtrack.

Joshua said...

without studio (in the case of film) or label (in the case of music) financing, which is how it's defined in other areas. So in theatre, we'd have to say, without mainstream financing (without the shuberts or the public or playwright's horizons footing the bill) is my view.

I was at the indie-theatre convocation, btw. About ninety people in one room, and when we went around and introduced ourselves, about eighty of them were artistic directors slash managing directors slash actors slash writers.

for real, most of them were artistic directors. Of course, like you and I, only poorer.

parabasis said...


I think if you wanted to define it really strictly and legally, you'd say "Theater produced by companies/people who have yet to get their 501(c)3 status"... you know, all of those companies that are overseen by The Field and Fractured Atlas.

The weird thing is, of course, that we all seem to leap to *financial* rather than *aesthetic* defniitions of what Indie Theater is... but if you used Aesthetic definitions, than certainly the work coming out of The Ohio or Soho Rep counts as "indie" and is in fact *more* indie than "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" that's self produced at The Krane or The Red Room. But both of those organizations are theaters with spaces and long histories and clearly wouldn't count.

An interesting conundrum, my friend.


Mark said...

I agree with Isaac here. The group of people coming together to create this "indie" theater movement is so strikingly broad that I sometimes wonder what they can have in common with one another. There's obviously a real need and passion from people to produce Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and other 80s-90s greatest hits in acting showcases with people they went to college with, but that's not at all what some of us would choose to identify with as a peer community. (I'm parsing words, because I really don't mean to sound snobby, but it is an important distinction.)

Freeman said...

I think, gents, this is precisely why I ask. It's a tough thing to bring under one umbrella. Right now, that's sort of the problem with the term Off-Off Broadway... that it means anything and everything, up to and including vanity piece and well-funded Fringe Shows with press agents.

So perhaps the goal is narrow the focus. To say "Indie" theatre isn't just doing plays with your college friends, but it ain't cats either.

Lucas Krech said...

Some of the problem is that there is no unifying movement. This is what George talks about here. Movements can be harmful in their tendency to normalize everything within their sphere of influence. On the other hand they lend a strong coherence and group unity to otherwise individual works. Strength in numbers. Without that strong sense of focus, many good works can get lost in a sea of undifferentiated mass.