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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, June 30, 2006

An article from the bowels of...well...just from someone's bowels

I abhor this article in Showbusiness Weekly.

If this is STILL the perception of Off-Off Broadway, that's a damn shame. The fact that the gent from OOBR referred to his bread and butter as a string of "vanity productions" is just awful. Even suggesting that in a quick online article you can tell someone "How to Mount a Show So Casting Agents Can See You!" makes me want to chop off my own head in shame. This view of Off-Off Broadway is for those that see Disney as Legitimate Theater and Richard Foreman as that guy who sells Low-Fat Grills.


Adam said...

I bought a grill from Richard Foreman and it was wild. I can't cook on it because each time I have to figure out how to attach the strings the right way.

Ian said...

Wow. This is just horrible. And I'm really disappointed with John Chatterton's comments - makes me wonder if the OOBR award I got was really for artistic merit or because I got the most "industry buzz". I wonder if the Equity Showcase Code, in addition to being revised, also needs to be renamed. Because let's face it, calling it a "showcase" does imply that it is indeed...a showcase. Let's be realistic - we all want to be successful and to become involved in that hit that catapults us to success and recognition from the public at large. And many (though by no means all) of the people in the off-off scene deserve to be making a living in the theatre; the theatre world has a lot more talent than it can financially support. But no one does a "showcase" in order to "showcase" themselves to agents and casting folk. How many of us have been involved with a showcase that got any "industry" attention at all? Show of hands, please... Yeah, not many. We'd all like it to happen, but it almost never does, and I like to think most of us have other reasons for doing "showcases".

I think it's difficult in this commerce-centered world for some people to grasp that working on a showcase actually can present artistically rewarding opportunities for those involved, and if all goes well, those opportunities are their own reward. Many people cannot get their heads around enterprises that are not in some way "profit-oriented"; meaning enterprises that are tailored to produce money, fame, power, all of those things that we learn are Important in the Real World. Such people usually go into lucrative, soul-sucking professions, betting that the money, fame and power they acquire will comfort them in their old age and make up for the decades they squandered doing things they'd rather not with people they dislike, because that's called Being Responsible. But some of that mentality creeps into people in the arts too, leading to arts professionals who sincerely believe in the artistic merit of "Beauty and the Beast" based simply on the fact that it does well in the marketplace, and who believe that a showcase should live up to its name as a dog-and-pony show for the benefit of Impressing the Powers that Be. Otherwise, why bother?

Making art that isn't reliant on market forces is an idea too subversive for many to get their heads around, even in the arts. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to imply that there's anything inherently noble about starving for your art in obscurity or that succeeding at making a living in the arts equals selling out. I'm just saying that we need to have other reasons for doing what we do besides fame and fortune, although they're probably both pretty cool things to acquire in their way. If I ever come across either, I'll tell you more clearly what it's like. People who go into the Do-It-Yourself world of off-off aren't likely to be there as a "vanity project", a statement that calls all of OOBR.com's journalism into question. Yeah, I've seen some vanity projects crash and burn at an off-off theatre, but that's certainly not the only place to find them (remember Suzanne Somers's one-woman show? On Broadway?) For actors at least, it's far less time-consuming and cheaper to go to agent or CD seminar/audition at one of the various studios around town, if the goal is solely to network with agents and CDs. And I do, so I'm not knocking them. But for off-off to function as a viable artistic forum we have to get past the idea that its only purpose is to allow us to "strut our stuff" for casting folks. I'm sorry to see that the head of one of off-off's biggest website doesn't seem to see that.

david d. said...

I also think the article's writer would have been more persuasive if they had done some fact-checking: Rent was never a showcase. It was workshopped and developed by NYTW, which is a situation that couldn't be more different than the kind of "typical showcase" this person is trying to describe.

And clearly the writer has no interest or knowledge of the many indie theatre playwrights and director/producers for whom the show at hand IS the point.

Ah well. Showbusiness Weekly place is read by actors on those weeks where they have actually been so bored (or feeling so desperate) that they've read Backstage cover to cover and think, 'I must be able to throw more money at my problems!' And Showbusiness Weekly is there, waiting for them.

Kevin said...

John Chatterton's comment at the top of the article is very disappointing. But the quote at the end of that first paragraph is something people should know: "in a showcase code it is almost impossible to break even." The word "almost" seems misleading, actually.

Jamespeak said...

Yyyyup. This article is crap; so bootsy and precious. I mean, if Pete and I read this article when we first came to the city and were talking about staging our first play, I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have helped us at all. This is written by someone who knows nothing about the Off-off theatre world for people who know nothing about said world.

david d. said...

I think another telling thing in the article is this paragraph:

"The casting process for your show should be a collaboration between the producer, the director, and in some cases, the writer. Most showcases are cast by placing ads in the trade papers. This is a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large pool of actors. Your add should be brief and should give potential actors an idea, or breakdown, of their character. While some producers prefer to have open calls, which let them sift through a great deal of head shots, others like to receive head shots in advance so they can decide who will come to the audition."

Which, to me, is probably most of the reason this article was done. Since they are suggesting to the actors buying their paper that most showcases will post casting notices there (which we all know is not true- most showcases are cast with people the director or company knows. And, to the would-be showcase producer supposedly reading the article, it says, "You should buy a casting notice with us"