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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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why To Join The Drama Guild

Although I irresponsibly let my own membership lapse a few years ago, I'll remedy that posthaste.

Check out this deserved drubbing.


Ian G. said...

How terrible. The Sun-Times should let her go, but it sounds like they've been letting her get away with this kind of thing for years.

hpmelon said...

Any idea if she, or the Sun Times has written a response to the Dramatisits Guild, or any of the numerous letters that I am sure have come in since?

Larry Kunofsky said...

Excellent post.

I have to renew my DG membership, as well.

I think a precedent for this kind of behavior began a few years ago when a notoriously bitchy reviewer for a daily New York newspaper (not the Times) went to see a developing Stephen Sondheim piece OUT OF TOWN just to be the first to give it a bad notice.

This practice was, of course, unheard of when there was a real system in place for productions - plays were usually "tried-out" before they reached a targeted venue, and the press stayed away until the producers announced that the piece was ready.

What's even more troubling than the dissolution of production standards is the outright hostility and sheer malice of writing a subjectve piece about something that the people involved have asked the press not to write about.

Technically, that's very similar to a reporter quoting what someone has said "off the record." I'm finding it kind of impossible to interpret this reviewer's actions otherwise.

Perhaps this particular example is simply just one more in a small number of jerks sticking their tongues out at easy targets, but these jerks are supported by publications. It adds an eerie legitimacy to bad schoolyard behavior.

In the case of the weasel who dissed Sondheim, the smug and self-congratulatory tone that the reviewer took (he made it clear that he covered his own travel expenses to cover the out of town Sondheim piece) seemed based (from my perspective) on the reviewer seeing himself as a kind of underdog, firing his slingshot at the Goliath of Sondheim.

This is a grotesquely absurd presumption, of course. Forgetting about the profound contributions Sondheim has given to the theatre, a reviewer for a large daily publication has a vast readership, one that surely outnumbers the combined audience of a whole Off-Broadway run.

I, myself, see the playwright in our culture as the ultimate underdog, but I try to apply serious scrutiny to that idea whenever possible, since I don't want to have a myopic view, losing perspective of larger issues.

Still, sometimes it does seem as if they're ganging up on us!

It's tough to be paranoid when everyone's out to get you, as the old borscht belt routine goes.

Americans have historically always had very dubious opinions of the arts. Artists are viewed as con-men in Washington Irving, Hawthorne, Twain, Melville, etc. It's almost part of the American mythos. This may help create a context for this kind of arts-assassination on behalf of the press. But it doesn't excuse it.

Beyond the arts, though, I fear that society-at-large has a kind of Underdog Syndrome, which disingenuously allows virtually everyone to take on an Us-vs.-Them attitude, and which then creates a feeling of self-justification in almost any kind of behavior.

It's narcissistic. It's nasty. It's downright ugly.

And, too often, it comes from a place of entitlement and power.

Calling attention to this situation is yet another good reason for the individual voices in the blogosphere.

Oh, and also for paying your Dramatists Guild dues.

hpmelon said...

She has posted a response...


Curiouser and curiouser...I still shudder at the idea of being reviewed on 10 minutes of a performance.

Ian G. said...

Okay, now, hold on...
There's an article about this in the NYTimes today. The company hosting the workshops never said they couldn't be reviewed, and in fact gave her a press kit and photos when she arrived. What were they expecting? Plus, she reviewed their stuff before to no objection. I agree you shouldn't review a workshop, and that Ms. Weiss should have known better than to review unfinished stuff that she didn't even stay to the end of, even if she was asked, but in light of the Times article it's a bit disingenuous for the theatre to get all huffy and question her professional ethics because, basically, they didn't like what she wrote. Easy solution: next time, state explicitly that the workshop is not open for review, and don't invite critics and provide them with press kits. Problem solved.