About Me

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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, October 31, 2006

The New York Times - In Public / Review

Butler wrote this letter. It's well-articulated.

Short version: Kendt and Hunka are both bloggers that are aware of each other, and freelance writers for the New York Times. The Times sent Kendt to review the run, and then decided not to publish the review because the two were considered "colleagues." Butler, the director of In Public, takes issue with this decision as inconsistent with past practice and bad policy.

More thoughts about it can be found here.

There are comments all around for your reading enjoyment.

My question would be: If, in the estimation of the blogging community, this was overstepping and unfair on the part of the Times...when would it be considered a conflict of interest for one person to review another's. Charles Isherwood reviewing a play by Ben Brantley?

I'm dicey on where the line is.

EDIT: I will add that I feel it presents a difficult choice for someone trying to make their way as a voice both critically and creatively. This does force someone who writes for the Times to choose, on some level, between one ambition or another.

Halloween just got more terrifying

Bush signs a bill that gives him the right to declare martial law.

I thought that "checks and balances" meant that too much power should not reside in the Executive Office. Apparently, with this Congress, it means that they should give as much power as possible to the King.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


While In Public is going into its final performances (get your tickets!), I'm struck by one of the compliments I've heard a few times about it. It's certainly not backhanded, in fact, this compliment struck me as sincere...

"It's not too long."

In the midst of talking informally about any given play running in New York City, lack of length is often considered high praise. (Not to overstate, I'm sure this often means "We can all drink earlier.") In my self-conscious way, though, I think about The Death of King Arthur and The Most Wonderful Love, both of which run at around 2 and a half hours, and wonder how often that was viewed as a failing of the work.

We're in an era when we can receive more, faster, and with less effort. For everyone Coast of Utopia (three parts and hours long) , there are many more Wrecks (75 minute monologues for one actor.) Somewhere in between is the typical, songless play, which is now, I fear, expected to fall more within the length of the latter than the former.

This trend towards shorter works strikes me as a concession to the ease by which we consume other media. (It may be that people don't mind something longer if they see uniform excellence.) It may simply also be that the shorter works are those that have the least fat on them, and therefore, are direct and elegant in a way that flabbier works are not.

Sometimes, though, there is power in some weight and length, and stories need to develop in a way that is firmly edited. Imagine trying to turn Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? into a more compact, sixty-five minute evening. How much of the play could be lost in order to get across the major ideas? Plenty? How much of the exhaustion and bullishness would be lost in a trimmer version... all of it.

I'm also concerned that we're teaching new playwrights to push an elephant through the eye of a needle: that their thoughts should be bite-sized to be tolerated, and that if they write a play that is five-hours long, it is hubris, as opposed to ambition.

This is not to say, of course, that a compact play is not capable of large and complex thoughts (far from it.) In fact, some of the best works of the modern theatre have been shorter works by Beckett or Pinter or Albee. (In Public certainly doesn't trade in light-fare.) It's simply an observation...or more accurately a reservation.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Responses to the subject of responses

The overall feeling I'm receiving is that critical response to the work of "blogger-peers" is best left in the magical world of "real life" and for private consumption.

My guess is that as the blogosphere expands, and includes more peope like Garrett, the measured self-discipline of journalism will become more necessary.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Can't Stop the Signal

Isaac brings up an important question about the identity of the blogosphere and the difficulty of open criticism here.

The fact is, blogging creates community, it creates awareness and, hopefully, stimulates conversation. It is, though, still teetering between (at least in the theatrical blogosphere) a message board on steriods and "new media."

We can't go backwards... this new and immediate media is here, along with it's off-line chatter and personalities. We're often quite open in criticizing culture and politics and other theatre artists. We are, though, challenged to find ways of discussing one another's work without fear of breaking some sort of code.

I know, for example, that The Most Wonderful Love got nothing but friendly responses on the blogosphere, but that, in truth, many of my colleagues had mixed feelings about it (length, structure, pace, what-have-you). Maybe in the thrill of a production, it would have been hard to hear tough talk about it. But there is a difference between criticism and comment or discussion.

One wonderful opportunity here is that there are many smart artists on this medium, and audiences, who have a new opportunity to engage with one another about the work in an active and immediate way. To talk about it (not judge it) and really enjoy the sort of spirited defenses and statements that come BEST from actual plays, not esoterica. Of course, when real productions happen, we almost all, on the blogosphere, immediately move into polite back-slapping.

So... since we can't stop the flow of information...I am interested in what bloggers and readers think is the best direction to consider. For example, should we:

1. Accept the inevitable awkwardness of discussing the work of peers, and simply avoid the issue as best we can?
2. Support one another online, and leave doubts or quibbles for private conversation.
3. Air all critiques with aplomb, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead?
4. Come up with some ground rules that work for us... only respond when a response is asked for...

I'll say that I think criticizing others is generally NOT what we need to be doing. I think there can be a difference between responding honestly to someone's play, and not approaching like a reviewer and thinking of it in terms of approval.

What do you think?

Monday, October 23, 2006

In Public

Got a chance to see George Hunka's IN PUBLIC on Saturday night, with a few friends.

First of all, I'll say that I thought the play was tight, well-crafted, beautifully acted and directed with a sure hand. It's funny and it shows off George's deftness with a turn of phrase. Dramatically, it works entirely... you feel invested in the play's climax, and interested in the emotional life of these characters.

A friend of mine joked that the play is written around a dirty joke. Which, I must say, is absolutely true.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Utterly Random 10

I've been remiss in updating this blog with any substantive material of late. So I thought I'd take a moment to put up 10 blurbs, thoughts I've had, interests, what-have-you, for your weekend enjoyment. Thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

1. I'll be attending In Public on Saturday. I'm excited to see George and Isaac's work. I have to say, of course, that it highlights the muddy lines between new media, mainstream media, and artists that blogging creates. George and Isaac are prominent bloggers, George has a relationship with the New York Times, and has his own identity as a playwright. I'm curious how the response to the play is going to be handled (if you'll excuse me) privately and publicly.

2. Still watching LOST. Oh the glorious cartoon. Bring on the ridiculous. I eat it up with a spoon.

3. Dear Representative Foley,

It hurts me to hear that you not only abuse alcohol, and that you were sexually abused as altar boy, but that you are living in a world that is permissive to homosexuality. It must have made it hard for you to succeed in life, much less become a Congressman.

I can only conclude, therefore, that the charges against you are false. Thank you for clearing that all up.


4. Phantasmaphile's day job gave us a scare, but she's come through it all right. Phew. I can now resume worrying about things that are far less important.


6. Richard Foreman is blogging here. As always, Foreman baffles and uses CAPITAL LETTERS. I kid. Obviously, he's a formidable theatrical artist and it's worthy reading. I agree, though, with Jason Grote that his journals are more engaging to me than his actual productions.

It strikes me that the goal of distancing should be to aid in objective observation of something that is too easily made subjective. If both the manner of presentation and the content are distancing, then you've got very little to invest in.

7. The Republicans are shaking in their boots about November 7th. Therefore, there is a call to claim that a Democratic victory (which I refuse to think of as remotely assured) would mean nothing about the Democrats. The spin is that it would simply be a referendum AGAINST the GOP, and that the Democrats aren't offering true reform or other options.

Frankly, a strategy that wins is a good one. Watching the GOP implode is far better than putting plans on the table so that the GOP can attack them and control the debate. At least, when the Democrats attack...they don't have to make things up.

8. Political Theater around town. Good stuff.

9. Last week I, as a part of my day job, gave a seminar on increasing pledges to local parish ministries. I am not kidding.

10. Buy Playing with Canons and The Death of King Arthur! It's good karma, crew. Good karma.

Onwards! Upwards! Mush! Mush!

Today's Lies

Check out my friend Will's new political blog Today's Lies. Good stuff Will!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Habeas Corpus: No Longer Needed

The One-Party System in action.

If it first you break the law, change it.

For more detail on this issue... Human Rights Watch.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ah ha!

I found the CD that will get "The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag" written.

Yes, I said CD. I am 1) the last man on earth without an iPod and 2) thrilled.

As for "The Shadow," that doesn't need a CD. That needs a bottle of six-dollar, gut rotting red and an evening to myself. I'll supply the noise.

(My friend Matt Trumbull often says: "Sometimes, when I'm at work, I hear someone crying. And I just want him to shut up. I want him to stop crying. To just shut up. He's so loud. And then I realize...it's me.")

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Broadway.com takes the term "Populist" too literally

Via Rob Kendt and MattJ...

Broadway.com is now employing this happy troupe of intrepid people to be a focus group of "real" people.

Somewhere, Peter Brook is laughing in a very nice glass of wine.

Edward Albee, on the other hand, just crushed a walnut between his head and hand.

Whose idea was this? What, exactly, does it say on his or her MBA?

Bush Speech Generator - Enjoy!


From Phantasmaphile...

Let's see who can create the very best one. Eh?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Isaac's Musings / My Responses

Issac posts a series of maxims.

We'll be working together soon, so I wanted to respond and talk about those points. See what bubbles up. Here goes...

(1) The solution to directors trying to copyright their interpretations of texts is for everyone to have less control over how work is interpreted, not for directors to have a copyright interest.

The issue of directorial copyright isn't one I'm that close to. I will say, though, that as an author, it's important to have as much control as I choose over my work. If I see merit in surrendering certain powers to a director (which is OFTEN the case) I'm happy to. There are some authors that are uncomfortable with directors approaching their work as a sort of blueprint. I understand that as well. I don't feel remotely comfortable with directors copyrighting productions, if it EVER comes in conflict with an author's copyright. Which it inevitably would.

(2) The highest goal of art is not the realization and fulfillment of authorial intent.

No, it isn't. But the highest goal of a single production may be best served by the author's intent. Often, the original intent of the original creative force behind a project is a very good thing to pay attention to. That doesn't mean there is a "correct" answer.

I'm often nervous about directoral competition with the importance of the author.

(3) Collaboration is a skill that must be developed over time. As is creativity.

I would say that collaboration is more of a skill than creativity. I'd completely agree that practice hones both of these.

(4) The director is not omnipotent in the rehearsal process. There is a difference between leadership and dictatorship.

True. I think we all know, though, that it's not a democratic process and doesn't work particularly well as one. I'm always happy with a director who is a strong leader.

(5) Genre is a useful tool, not a series of rules. So is style.

Style seems more personal, either way. A writer's style is often not very conscious. Self-conscious style is often simply affectation. The challenge for a director and actor often is to find a style that works for them WITHIN a writer's style.

Genre, though, is like wearing a suit. You put it on, it fits a certain way.

(6) Intellectual property and copyright law is out of control and hindering creativity

I'm not sure if that's true. In fact, I would make the case that while the internet is fostering a sense of freedom and sharing, there is a point at which it tramples copyright law rather wantonly. In the age of open source, how does an artist have ownership of his or her work?

(7) The director's primary job is to create an environment in which the group can be collectively creative.

I'd be curious if there are examples where this is not true. The question I have is the word "primary." Are there times where that is secondary?

(8) Being talented is not an excuse for behaving badly. Someone's talent is not an excuse to indulge their poor behavior.

God bless it. Dead on.

(9) There is nothing wrong with the audience enjoying themselves. There is nothing wrong with art being fun.

I'd go so far as to say that if you are creating an environment that is unpleasant for the audience on purpose... there is something wrong.

(10) The insistance that individual works of theater be "important" directly coincides with the decline of theater's importance as an art form.

Interesting. Not sure if it's true, again. I would completely agree that insisting on one's own importance is the surest clue that you're sold on the idea.

(11) Originality is an overrated virtue. Creativity is an underrated one.

Originality is a non-existent virtue. Nothing comes from nothing.

(12) Whether or not a piece of art "works" is purely subjective.

Entirely. Although there are some people who have a subjective opinion I find terrifying. Still, it's theirs. They can watch all the "Survivor" they want.

(13) Theater's temporality is its greatest tragedy, but can also be its greatest asset.

It's an odd thing that we thing of transience and temporality as this tragedy. We're uncomfortable with death, and the loss of moments and of things. Therefore, if something can be held, repeated, archived... it is more "valuable." Of course, a moment in time that is singular unto itself, impossible to repeat... that is the one moment we talk about for the rest of our lives.

Good stuff, Isaac. Love to hear other thoughts.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Apocalypse SOON!

It would be funny if it were not so terribly unfunny.

Herein lies our new favorite pasttime...hoping for the Money Shot of religous fire.

Now appearing on the blogroll

Theaterboy! Hello!

Two plays, two weeks

I've got deadlines for "The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag" and "The Shadow" over the next two weeks.

I am not a writer who writes constantly. Sort of a fits and starts, when-the-spirit-moves-me style. The Spirit now moves me. It has no choice.

Attend, muses. Attend.

So...all ye other writers... to what do you turn to for inspiration, when inspiration must be "conjured?"

And with that...

The O'Neil issue resolves.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Moyers/McKibbon on Religion and Climate Change

At the New York Public Library on Tuesday evening, Bill Moyers (promoting Welcome to Doomsday) and Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature) spoke on the bizarre criss-cross between the need for immediate environmental action regarding climate change; and the centralization of apocalyptic Darbyists who believe that the Earth won't be around after the conflagration anyhow.

Obviously, it's a fringe religion, embraced by a fringe government, supported wholeheartedly, in its rejection of good science, by big business. On one had, you have those that believe that the Left Behind books are Harry Potter prophecy. On the other hand, people so greedy that they will deny the leading climatologists in the World in order to make more money before they die. Together, they are guiding the earth as quickly towards it's own early demise as they possibly can.

McKibbon noted that he felt that in order to enact the sort of gigantic change necessary to reverse climate change in time, one may need to appeal to the religious, as opposed to try to circumvent them. That, say what you will about evangelicals, once mobilized, they get things done.

Moyers noted that those who believe in the Rapture were too far gone to be spoken to, but that there were many perfectly sane religious people to whom one could appeal.

I agree, first and foremost, that it is a mistake to treat the religous fringe as the religious center. As I've said before, it's been a mistake of the progressive movement to cede all talk of religion to those who are unreasonable and hypocritical. Religion is a fundamental part of human nature, like it or not, and many powerful and good things have come from staunch religious faith. To engage with and respect the religious may well be the best hope of broad mobilization TOWARDS progressive behavior.

Beyond this, as well, is the value of art. One gentleman asked Moyers if the reason that Climate Change didn't seem to worry most people, or that most people seemed uninterested in real action, was that it failed to affect their day-to-day lives in a way that seemed immediate. By that logic, of course, by the time we notice the problems of rising carbon and warming, it will be too late to do anything about it.

Moyers response was that it was the value of journalists, writers, artists and storytellers to engage with the imaginations of those who could not see outside their own experience. To place those of us in a small context, shall we say, into a larger one.

I hadn't heard a better and more compelling example of the need for political and activist art and theatre in a very long time. Furthermore, art that embraces it's essential desire to see past didactic truths and simple political realities and into discourses that are more substantial. (i.e. Why should we protect the earth? Just because we're Democrats? Because of legislation? Or because of something sacred?)

It's noteworthy, to me, that both religion and art find themselves at cross-purposes here. Both of them are, essentially, an effort to reach beyond that which is within our experience, into something we see by way of feeling. The best of religion and of art strikes something in us that we can neither substantially explain nor disprove. We know that we have been struck by something truthful, and that experience is profound and of the spirit.

One might find great relationship between writings that are theatrically theoretical and theological study.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Doug Rand on the Playwright's Minimum Wage

Adam Szymkowicz made note of this last week...I certainly think it's worth attention and discussion.

Here is a piece written by one of the co-founders of Playscripts.com, which addresses the issue of royalties for playwrights.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Show of hands

So, I was talking with Adam Szymkowicz last night before he went to a fundraiser at the Brick. (Which you can read about all over the blogosphere today, I'm sure.) We noted how even though there's quite a bit of potential in the theatrical blogosphere, that our impression that we didn't know who was reading the blogs besides, essentially, other bloggers.

So, if you're game, I'd love anyone who is not a blogger but is a regular reader of theatre blogs to comment below. Say whatever you want, of course... that's the beauty of these magical glowing boxes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

TRUTH is on the way

Go see TRUTH, Mike Daisey's newest. Sounds cool.

Why? Because Mike Daisey sent me an e-mail about it and he's as cool as a cucumber. Also, he's pretty much universally renowned as terribly good at this sort of thing.

Blogging Panel - Prelude 06

Quite a bit of chatter around the 'sphere from those gents who were involved with a panel on theatre blogging. Much ado about what blogs are, their relationship to the New York Times, their relationship to editorials, and their potential. Worthy reading. Apparently there's an MP3 of it on the way, so I'll keep a look out for that and post it when it appears. In the meantime, check it out...

Garrett Eisler
David Cote
George Hunka
Isaac Butler
Tweed and Sharkskin Girl (previously unbeknownst to moi)

I didn't attend, but I'm looking forward to hearing more. I'm ambivalent about this, honestly. There are some of us that would like blogging to become another acknowledged place for journalism and opinion. Fair enough. Those things have value. I, personally, would love to provide those interested with insight into what it's like to do the sorts of things I do, and get a ground level look at the Indie scene in New York, and obviously whoever wants my opinion will likely hear it in this space. Those with higher ambitions for blogging are out there... and more power to them.

I get a little nervous about the accountability factor, though. Then again, Wikipedia works because it's a healthy, trusting, self-monitoring community. Perhaps oversight is built in to a system with enough different personalities.

We shall see.

One a side note: Interesting to think of Alexis Soloski of the Village Voice as representing the traditional media in any way, but there you have it... paper and an editor is apparently all you need to be considered traditional media these days.

CultureBot Sign-Off

I'm usually the last one to link to stuff like this. Yet again, this is true. Nonetheless, worth a read.