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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.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Standards of Decency Closes

Not sure yet if we're going to bring it back for an encore in January, but it seems possible.

Thanks to everyone who came out to see the work. We're all proud of it, and it seemed very well-received and worthy of the conversation it was meant to inspire.

Thanks, especially, to Kyle, Cat*, Matt and Joe, who put together my quickly written play with skill and verve. Made me look like I knew what I was doing. That's all a writer can ask for.

A couple of thoughts from the experience for both of my readers:

There's been a great deal said recently on the blogosphere about "Development Hell." Standards of Decency certainly was the opposite: untested, commissioned works, that were put on their feet, essentially as-written. Lots of imperfect writing, unneccessary beats, oddball moments, messiness. Speeches that could have been cut in half. It had tons of life in it. I wouldn't say anyone walked away feeling like they saw anything polished on the part of the writers...but polish certainly isn't the only virture.

I did talk to one actress who was wrestling with a play that she felt had language that felt intuitive and unclear and she couldn't make sense of each word. I, personally, love both writing that is careful and clean, and writing that seems to come from a place of impulse. Writing that is impulsive can be very difficult for an actor to parse, of course. It's a bit silly to think, though, that the playwrights job is to justify every word for an actor, or the audience, or a director, or a lab.

The goal of perfection often seems to be reductive: take out all that doesn't work, leave what is justified and proven correct and good, the rest is first draft impulse and meant for the red pen. Certainly makes for compact, direct, narrowcast plays and seem far more clear than my life ever has been to me.

Should our art surpass our thoughts or reflect them?

3 comments:

Joshua James said...

I believe it should do both!

Sorry I couldn't make the show, man, I heard it was good. I hope to be there the next go-around.

Ian G. said...

As a seasoned veteran of more workshops than I care to count, I've seen them be used as really helpful testing grounds that lead to full productions, and I've seen playwrights (big "name" playwrights as well as others) in absolute despair over a piece they love being quite literally trapped, Dante-style, in development hell. I think part of the problem is we've elevated directors to a pedestal well above where they should be in the creative team. Directors are looked to with a sort of awe that supports a level of paternalism that makes my skin crawl. I'm not advocating abolishing directors; I think they do useful and necessary work. But the best ones are interested in collaboration, not control, whilst the poor ones are interested in getting all the neurotic/untrained/incompetent acotrs/writers to do/write the piece the way she/he wants it. Unfortunately, many of this latter type are wildly successful and lavishly praised, and unfortunately, directors are so deeply kowtowed to that they are the only ones deemed fit to be artistic directors at America's major theatres. Can you imagine a big American theatre headed by a playwright? Or, God help us, an actor? Some of my favorite directors on Earth have always worked from the point of view of a facilitator, and a cog in the big machine just like the rest of us, and those are the people who should be training the next generation. Sadly, many directors learn at the feet of those who believe directors are rightly the Supreme and Final Arbiters of Every Freaking Thing. Actors and playwrights take it as a matter of course that they will be routinely told how to do their jobs by people who may or may not have any idea what in the hell they're talking about. Can you imagine a playwright interrupting mid-rehearsal to tell a director how to direct a scene?

I'm sorry I missed "Standards" too. I do hope you get another go.

Tara said...

Hi Matt--

If only to show that you have more than two readers, I wanted to say that I saw Standards of Decency on Saturday night and particularly enjoyed your piece. It was clever, offbeat, and really, really funny. Kudos to all involved!