About Me

My photo
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, April 25, 2006

What is "The Problem?"

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything just happens to be 42. The problem, of course, is that this answer is useless without a real sense of the question.

Over on Parabasis yesterday, Isaac posted a question about the "ideal solution" and a few of us posted our thoughts. It occurred to me that the essential assumption of that question is that there is a universally acknowleged Problem and that we must work together to solve it.

The essential conflict becomes...just what is this "Problem" and can it be solved and does it actually exist? Is it a universal problem, or is it regionally specific? Are the problems facing theatre in Australia, or Africa or London the same ones faced by New York artists? Are the problems of a playwright in Los Angeles the same as those of a director in Chicago?

Are we, on the blogosphere, each universalizing our personal taste, in an effort to unwittingly (or knowingly) promote change that matches our taste?

Is there a Universal Problem to which there is a Hidden Solution?

7 comments:

Alison Croggon said...

Interesting question Matt. I don't think there is a universal problem, there can't be. You have your problems over there, we have ours over here, they have different problems in Europe and the UK: and all those problems are quite specific (although they are linked - we all live in post-capitalist etc societies and some don't especially value and support the kinds of art that perhaps some of us might like to see -and others do it better).

I find, as an outsider, I'm often trying to second-guess the assumptions underneath what people are saying here. All the same, it's kind of interesting to talk and see what we have in common as well as the differences.

parabasis said...

Matt-

I don't think there's a universally acknowledged problem at all...

What I noticed was that with all these manifestos and articles and critics think pieces and what not everyone was asserting that they felt something was deeply wrong with American Theater. God knows I think there is So what is it? And how would you fix it? I hoped for a plethora of answers, if that makes sense...

I hope that people's ideas for what a possible theater could be would help illuminate what they thought the problem(s) is(are) if that makes sense.

And yes, an interesting question, and one I hope to get to on my blog very soon... to me, many people think the problem is product. I'm almost positive its process (at least for me) and the way the system is set up to encourage antagonism amongst collaborators...

Freeman said...

I think that's actually an important thing to uncover, which is "What do we mean when we say problem?" Meaning any one of us.

I guess I wanted to just have a sort of tandem discussion with the one on Parabasis. The question of "What do you want to see?" and the question of "Why do you want to see that?"

As for what we have in common and what are the differences... that's exactly what I'm after. What is it that we all see? When George talks about the individual and I take a populist tack, it might be because we see the "problem" differently.

I see the problem as dwindling interest. Perhaps George sees "the problem" as plays that aren't often worthy of interest. Isaac seems to think the problem is process based. I'd love to hear about that.

Lucas said...

I see the problem . . . George sees "the problem" . . . Isaac . . .

And I think the problem is money.

Freeman said...

I think my views are very much in line Lucas's.

George Hunka said...

I'm not so sure, either, that there's a Universal Problem (and even less sure that, were there such a problem, there'd be a Hidden Solution). Except for what Lucas mentions, and he's right, but when haven't the arts starved?

You're right, Matt, when you say that I'm evangelizing for a personal theater (not to put a label on it) and you for a populist theater, and that's fine. There are plenty of plays that I find worthy of interest even when I don't think they're necessarily brilliant pieces of genius.

There are lots of things I'd like to see happen, not the least of them the creation of those small lyrical theaters I mentioned over at Isaac's blog. But is it a problem that they don't exist? No, not really. The problems arise in creating them, not least in gathering like-minded people to explore these issues in tandem, but that's another issue.

Scott Walters said...

If a magic wand was waved and money was no longer The Problem, would there be another problem lurking beneath it that our focus on money is preventing us from seeing?