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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.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Rehearsals Begin

Wednesday was our first rehearsal and read-through of MWL, and it went swimmingly. Of course, I still feel like certain things aren't clear enough, even in this shorter draft. So it's back to the desk to work on it. Can't be handing them a rewritten script any later than this... after the beginning of a four week rehearsal schedule.

Right now the rewrites are focused on Mother's arc throughout the play. What's odd about her is that her motivation is ambiguous. As the center of the play, that makes the rest of the action hard to nail down. Ambiguity is a good thing, of course, but right now it's just making the other characters much more vividly "of their mind." So the next draft should hopefully remedy that.

On my comments section someone asked why white playwrights rarely write about black characters. I'm not sure. Anyone have a thought about this, I'd love to hear it. Maybe there's a big obvious exception. And don't include Genet's "The Blacks." I think that's not really what Kyle was talking about.


parabasis said...

Two thoughts:

1) They're scared to.

2) They don't think on some level that those stories are worth telling. that's for black people to tell to black audiences. (i dont' mean this in an overt way, but more a subconscious, indoctrinated-by-the-racism-of-our-culture way. The same way there is a difference between being racist, which every experiences in themself to some level and being A racist, someone dedicated to the perpetuation of racist systems and racism)

jones said...

I don't think it's necessarily a problem of not writing about black people, it's a problem of not writing about non-white non-male people.

To an extent, playwrights are all white men. They have a hard time not writing about other white men, and the people that might be around. How many times in the theater world do you hear "there aren't enough good roles for women"? Same thing.

In fact, I would say it's more of a problem for women -- there are many playwrights who, when creating their stories, don't actually care what race of person plays each role. I know my brother has always made sure that any race, creed, or color could fit in anywhere in his plays and not raise an eyebrow. And I don't think there's enough credit given to those playwrights who work invisibly to do this... possibly because the vast majority of actors they have to put on their shows are white.

On the other hand, it's pretty rare for a role to be purposefully non-gender specific. And because so few men feel like they are capable of writing convincing women, well, you get a dearth of meaty female roles.

I would say that good Parabasis is maybe on to something; I do think that any (for the sake of example) white writer trying to tell a very specificly black story will end up pissing off more people than he pleases. Were he to stray anywhere near a potentially controversial issue, the immediate cry would be "who is this white man to say what it's like?" It's too much trouble, even potentially dangerous, so they stay away.

P'tit Boo said...

What Isaac said.

I think that writers are scared to write outside of their experience in a way.
In my last play , I have a character who is an older Mexican woman. When she came to me , i was terrified. I was like "who am i to write a mexican woman ?!!!". And actually, that's our job isn't it ?
To write outside our experience as well as from our experience.
People love that character. I've had actresses who are latinas read her and tell me that her rythm and english mistakes are just right.
But I was very self conscious about it . I was scared to offend.
I'd say that's the biggest reason.

Adam said...

I can name 3 white male writers who specifically write outside of their ethnicity and do it well. This is rare however. I think mostly people write about people they know. So i think the bigger question is why don't we know each other that well? Is it hard for different cultures to know each other here, even in new york and I think it is.

And of course isaac is right too.

Abe Pogos said...

My observations as an Australian are that when white audiences or critics see a black character on stage there's an expectation that they aren't just a character, but a symbol, that the writer has put them on stage to represent all black people and that they've been created to make a statement about race relations.

It's a heavy burden for a writer to bear and is one aspect of our fear. We feel we need to justify why we wrote a black character. Years ago I wrote a non-race specific three hander. The first actor I considered approaching for the female lead was a Koori actor I'd gone to drama school with. But as soon as I thought of her in the role I began thinking I had to re-write the play, that I had to comment on the fact that my female lead was black. In the end I left the play as written, but the impulse to change it was very strong and was in fact evidence of a certain racism on my part.

And that of course is the biggest fear we have, that if white writers get black characters "wrong", we'll be branded as racist.

Joshua James said...

I write outside of my ethnicity ALL the time, outside of my sex and sexuality, outside of everything . . . I've shown up for first meets regarding TALLBOY WALKIN' and had directors look at me in shock and say "You're white!" even though only two of the five characters in that play are black.