I'm sitting here trying to write a bit of a little outside project, and also mulling "The Shadow" and "The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag." Perhaps I'll do a little public discussion of where I am with the creative work, and how I'm feeling.
First of all, my self-imposed deadlines came and went for both "The Shadow" and "The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag." Neither play is finished. Certainly not good practice or discipline, and it underscores to me (and should to anyone reading this) how vital even INVENTED deadlines are. Life is full of priorities, wizzers, buzzers, flashing lights and travel issues. It is incredibly easy to let the creative process fall on the list of immediate needs, and then get derailed.
I'm feeling, more than ever, that this has happened to "The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag." Every time I sit down to write it, it seems a bit more alien and distant to me... a bit less like a play I should be writing now, and a bit less like I know how to write it. I love the ideas and the language of it thus far, I think, at its core, it is a play that would allow me to get involved in some of my own intellectual fetishes and emotional trouble spots. Nonetheless, it might be that I don't have the will or wherewithal to write something of that sort at the moment.
One of the interesting things about writing plays is that you are, as you write it, anticipating the end result. Certain elements can be in place that can protect a play from total failure. For example, a well-constructed narrative can often give a director and actors enough to cover up oddly or poorly written moments. Sometimes, the writing can be strong enough to make construction less important... a single conceit can be carried simply by powerful wordplay and little else.
"The Man Who Caught Death in a Bag" intimidates me because it requires four neatly constructed narratives, that are presented by three characters onstage, at once. Each character plays the same person, Matthew Connon. Each Matthew Connon tells of finding a story that his missing father wrote. Then, we hear the story, and the story of each different Connon's engagement with this story. Each version of Connon is unique (one is married, one is not, one is aware that he is a construction of the playwright, the other two are not, etc.) but shares common elements. Each of them is reading the same story, and each of them goes about responding to that story in a different way.
That's the ambition.
The truth is, telling someone that and actually constructing this thing are entirely different. There is no correlation, unfortunately, between explaining the idea of a play and actually writing the thing. None, as far as I can tell, at all. Because, as we speak, this idea has failed to be born properly. Something intangible is lost between the concept and the execution. It could be confidence, or self-doubt, or just that I need to write something funny right now and this feels to serious.
I'm honestly not sure. That's the beauty and horror of the whole enterprise. No one actually knows how to do any of this.
"The Shadow" on the other hand, isn't done simply because I haven't finished it. It would probably take about two hours to complete a first draft. No excuses...that's just laziness. And the guy who's waiting for it (this guy) is a bit busy anyhow.
To add to these things is a 10 minute play I've bee commissioned to write for Blue Coyote. Hm. Due November 15th. Hm. Better write that one.
Is it just me, or could I have written that play in the time it took me to write this entry?
Onwards and upwards. Thanks for your indulgence.
- 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.