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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A New Trujillo

Good news!

A round of applause for Dan Trujillo for the birth of his second daughter, Josephine. Word from reliable sources is that she's 6lbs and 2 oz. And that both Mother and baby are doing just fine.

Born August 28th, for those keeping those sorts of important records.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bob Dylan - "Modern Times"

Just picked up Bob Dylan's newest album, "Modern Times." I've heard it suggested that this is the final piece of a trilogy of albums that started with "Time Out of Mind." It's wager that's a false assumption, and Dylan himself put the lie to it in his recent interview in Rolling Stone. It sounds much more like a brother to "Love and Theft." "Time Out of Mind" is a dusty, jagged album. "Love and Theft" and this new addition are rambling, with music that sounds like it could have been written 50 years ago, almost joyful. It's like Dylan took old standards (like he did literally with "Good As I Been To You" and "World Gone Wrong") and rewrote them in his old voice. That, of course, is what Dylan has been since his birth as an artist. If there was any better way to describe his history than "Love and Theft," I'll be damned if I know what it is.

It just puts me on cloud nine. My uncle introduced me to Dylan as a kid and even left me his old Guild guitar in his will. I might be 30 and too short-in-the-tooth to know one-true-thing about Dylan...but I love him like I discovered him myself. Isn't that how most of his fans feel about him?

I'll be grandioise and say something indefensible. Dylan is the essential American artist. He is a fan, and a charlatan, and he's for sale and he's independent. He's insisted that his whims and his works are entirely according to his own set of rules...but he's stolen whoever he is from a list of bigger personalities than he's ever displayed on his own. Over the years he's been Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Alan Ginsberg, a Gypsy, A Born-Again Christian, and, lately, something of Mark Twain. He's taken the pop art of self mythology from Andy Warhol and implemented it without the self-conscious construction of other single named artists (Madonna is an identity artist...Dylan is a filter.) He belongs so entirely to the American rock/pop/folk/blues canon that he's actually taken ownership over it. It's like he's wrestled away history from his heroes, simply by paying strict and loving homage to them.

What more could any writer learn from him, but to learn from what you love, use it liberally, and love it completely, without ego or competition. Become what you believe in. If you stop believing in it, move along. Life's to short to hang on, once something has passed through you.

Can you think of anything more essentially American than that? Or at least, the best of what we're supposed to be? It's the opposite of ego. It's the externalizing of your entire body of work. It's about being and audience and an interpreter all at once.

Short version... buy this record. At a record shop. Take it home. And don't listen to it on the train or in your car on the way to work. The first time you listen to it, listen to it with a cup of your drug of choice, sitting up, in a quiet room.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Murder Mystery

A gent from this band works in my office. Take a listen. It's pretty darn good.

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.

Monday, August 28, 2006



"The Shadow"

Since Isaac isn't looking, I think I'll post the first (unedited, first draft) scene of the adaptation of "The Shadow" that he and I have been working on. As stated here and here, feel free to comment on the text... we're working on this play together and have decided to open up the process publicly.

Here is the first scene I posted, which, for now, comes chronologically second.

Again, a translation of the actual story is here.

Here, then, is the scene that will open the play...

(SKIRIBENT, a writer, sits in his book-strewn room. A large central window overlooks the street. It is in a city that looks vaguely European. This is the hot country. Fans are all over the room, but turn lazily, slowly and ineffectively. Odd paperweights keep the pages from flying all over the place. It is getting dark, and candles, strategically placed, adorn the room.

SKIRIBENT is accompanied by his Shadow, named SKYGGEN. SKYGGEN looks precisely like SKIRIBENT, except for his dark gray clothes.)

It’s hot. Makes you wish you could lie down in a bucket of ice water and just dream of a world without any sun at all.


It has been said that it won’t be some great cataclysm that will destroy this planet. It’s that the sun will balloon to a tremendous size and all its light will just make burnt little cinders of everything that ever was. History, art, music, human experience…all just lit up like a great series of firecrackers.


Oh well. What’s the difference, right? Because even if we’re going to die, we’re also going to live.


What are you looking at?

(He walks to SKYGGEN, who isn’t moving at all.)

I’m sorry, I thought, for a second, that you might actually say something. Can you imagine that? Spooked by my own shadow. What would my friends say back home?

(More to himself than to SKYGGEN:)

I’m sure they’d tell me to dunk my face in a barrel of ice.

(He laughs to himself.)

I must say, though, it’s nice that it’s gotten a little dark out there. Because you do love the candles don’t you? All day long, with the sun in this country, I have to try to keep in the shade, and so, lo and behold, you’re off like a thief in the day. Then hear we go, sure as you’re born, a couple of candles and I have someone to talk to besides all these books.


I do wonder what you get up to when you’re not around. But you know what, sometimes, when I go outside, I almost think I see you everywhere. Everyone here is burnt almost black by the sun. Fair skin turns tans, olive turns brown, brown looks like a walking rook. I think I’m even getting the smallest amount of color. Which I absolutely avoid. I don’t like the way it feels at all.


But that’s how it is here… everyone looks a little like a shadow, so whatever you’re off doing, I’m sure you blend in perfectly.


What are you looking at? Did I ask that already?


You can’t be looking at that music, can you? You can’t look at music, Skyggen. It is something that must be heard. If you had ears, you’d know that. You may not even hear me, for all I know. In fact, if I use my wits, I know you can’t. But I’ll go on talking to you, won’t I. That’s the way of things. I know some things, and find them preposterous. Then I act preposterously.


Over there… across the street, in that room with all those flowers. Who is playing that music? It is just as if some one was practicing a piece that he could not manage; it is always the same piece. He thinks, I suppose, that he will be able to manage it at last; but I do not think so, however long he may play it.

(He looks across at the balcony and is suddenly startled.)

Wait! Look! Did you see that?

(He falls back into his chair and calls SKYGGEN to him.)

Do you see her? My sweet Lord I have never…I didn’t expect it at all. She’s so…it is as if the light streams from her. Isn’t it? As if the flower are spraying light onto her. I didn’t think, under any circumstances, that a slender maiden could be found in this country of cobblers and cooks. Not at all. If she is the one who is tediously playing her music, I shall instantly, instantly forgive her.

(Turning to SKYGGEN.)

Would you like to be pushed up against the wall of her house, spread out on all those books?

(Looking back again.)

Now she… disappeared.


Well, perhaps she was a figment of my exhaustion.

(SKIRIBENT smiles.)

Now that, my friend, is how one becomes inspired to write poetry! Disappearing women made of light, softly framed by flowers, in the middle of a heat wave. What further inspiration is required? And doesn’t the music sound just a little more manageable now? A little more mastered by whomever fingers are strumming it?

(He moves to a few pieces of paper, and beckons SKYGGEN.)

Perfect. Come here so I can work. How can a man write without his darker half?

(He pulls out a pen and begins to work.)

Take a look at this… “A woman made of light, across the way, her balcony framed by flowers, disappeared from me tonight.” Now that is worth a bottle of red wine, I’d say.

(He turns to look at the window.)

Still, what else have I got?


Experience, beauty and a shadow. That is what it takes. So what do I lack? Oh, yes. Experience. What is it that I lack? I am lacking in so many ways, and not just because of some myth of original sin. I’m lazy and I dream and I have no…what is the word? Yes…I’m at a loss for words. Which is death for a writer, I promise you.


Sometimes I feel like all I can do is make up stories for children. Can you imagine that?


I sold one story…about a town in which all the children had their face applied with make up. Until one day, they ran out of ink and the babies had no faces at all. Until one brave girl decided that being faceless was better than having a face made of dye. They tore her apart, but she had her convictions.


You know that story, yes? Well, I sold that two years ago. And residuals are not what I’d hoped. I think it’s about quantity sometimes, but I can’t produce quantity. Because…well…I’m lazy. Aren’t I? And getting fat. I took a look at my picture from before we came to this place, and I was so thin and lovely. Now, look at my face. I thought that all this heat would sweat off my waistline, but it hasn’t worked out that way. In the least.


Why am I telling you this?

(He stands, crumpling the paper in his hand.)

I think I want you to do something for me. With me? No. For me.

(He places a candle behind him.)

I think we need you to go there…across to that balcony. To the flowers. I need to see what is there, and I think, if we’re honest, you’re the one who can get in there unannounced. Aren’t you?

(SKYGGEN smiles at him and nods.)


(He smoothes out the crumpled paper in his hand.)

Perhaps this won’t have been a pipe dream. I had a sense of… well…perhaps something good will come from all of this sun and all this flame.

(He moves a candle behind him and he faces the window.)

Are you ready?

(SKYGGEN nods and opens the window. He turns back with a wink.)

Enjoy it.

(SKYGGEN exits. SKIRIBENT waves and sits. He looks at his paper and back out the window.)

No shadow? For once in my life. It’s a lonely sort of weightless, isn’t it?

(He smiles.)

But weightless all the same.


Hey everyone, happy dreary Monday.

I picked up a copy of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" on Saturday, which I'm currently writing a response to. Hopefully that will be of interest.

Before I post that, I'd like to direct everyone to the Mother Courage debate that I find fun going on with Rob Kendt and Garrett Eisler.


Friday, August 25, 2006

I just flew in from Orlando

...and boy are my arms tired!

Thank you. I'll be here all week(end).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Open Thread

It's 5:45am and I'm about to leave for a business trip to Orlando. Will be back to the computer Friday, as far as I can tell. In the meantime, I leave you nice people with this open thread for discussion and entertainment.

Here's a topic to get things moving...

What do you think of the Summer Play Festival (SPF)? Has anyone been involved with it that can tell us all a little bit about it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fringe Review - "We Love You, Johnny Hero"

For those who might be interested... my review of "We Love You, Johnny Hero," can be located as a part of nytheatre.com's Fringe Festival coverage. Here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"The Burning Cities Project"

Some friends of mine are working on the timely "Burning Cities Project"... here's a quick chat I had with them, via e-mail, about it.

1. So tell me about The Burning Cities Project. What inspired it?

Brad Raimondo ("BCP" ensemble member/producer and Dreamscape's Producing Artistic Director)

I've been carrying this idea in the back of my head since September 11th, 2001. I was in Manhattan that day--about five blocks from Ground Zero whe the planes hit and, like everyone else in Lower Manhattan, I spent most of the day walking uptown, trying to figure out where I was going to spend the night, trying to get in touch with my friends to make sure everyone was okay and, most of all, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I looked around and realized that there were all of these people who were neither victims nor "survivors" (in the sense that, as frightened as we all felt, very few of us were ever in any real danger that morning). We were by-standers, or eye-witnesses. And that meant that our stories were most likely going to be forgotten. Our experiences of that day would not become a part f the official history. And I realized that there must be stories like that in all of the catastrophes throughout history. So I thought we could create a piece of theater that would seek out and tell those kinds of stories.

The other objective of the project was to show that, whatever politcians or commentators might say, I don't think it was fair to call the attacks of September 11th "unprecedented" or "unique." Because, if anything, on that day I felt that I suddenly had more in common with people in other countries and times than I had before. So, finding those psychological and emotional connections was also important.

And I carried those twin ideas in the back of my head for a couple of years and then, on July 7, 2005, when the London Tube was attacked, all these ideas came back into the forefront of my mind and I sent out some e-mails and made some phone calls and put together an esemble of people interested in collaborating to create this show about catastrophes and individual stories and how people respond emotionally to these things.

2. From whom did you gather your linked stories?

Brad Raimondo

The research took many different forms. One member of the ensemble became an utter expert on the firebombing o Dresden--mostly through secondary sources such as books of interviews and writings by survivors and eyewitnesses. I went through a similar process with the destruction of Hiroshima. But in some cases, there was much more primary source work. One of the most affecting pieces, I think, in the project, was created by an ensemble member who is a native of New Orleans and is based on interviews that she conducted with her family and four of her friends from growing up about the differences and similaritis in their experiences in the days after Hurricane Katrina. But in both cases, whether it's the Katrina piece based on direct conversations, or the Dresden piece, constructed from material that has been recorded and written down, what ends up on stage are the words of people who were actualy there on the ground, when things wer! e happening--filtered, of course, through whatever artistic lens the authors or creators chose to apply.

3. What can you tell us about the ensemble's process in transforming these elements into a coherent evening of theatre?

Jennifer McGrath (Director)

In regards to the ensemble's process, I think one of the biggest challenges was trying to create a clear story with an arc. Because the pieces were all devised from different specific events or reactions to events, there was a bit of a broken up feeling. We would see individual pieces that were engaging or enjoyable or intelligent but where was the link? How do we fit them all together to tell one complete whole story? The monologues created from actual interviews with the cast highlighted all of the different approaches people were taking, how they were feeling and what was personal to them. In creating a script we worked on using them to shape the arc by showing us the different feelings and emotions people had while examining this work and creating the pieces and the project as a whole. It not only allowed us to see the shared humanity in all of these atrocious events that we were remembering and reflecting on, but also allowed the ensemble to step back and look at themselves and the personal journeys that they were taking during the creation process. As an outsider coming on to the project to direct, I encouraged them to find the commonalities of both the experiences in the events they examined and also in the experiences they went through personally while creating a piece on this sort of subject matter. We not only see the people that experienced their cities burning, but also the journey of those people that choose to rise up and examine these stories.

The other greatest challenge, of course was editing and having people let go of their work. As a director entering a room where 90 percent of the actors were also the writers of the entire play, I was completely overwhelmed. It took a while for people to begin to trust me with their work and to realize that there was much editing and shaping to be done. Having the writer in the room as you rehearse is both a blessing and a curse. If you come to an obstacle, the writer can offer suggestions or changes on the spot to make things better and help further the story. At the same time, if they disagree with what you as a director are doing, it can be disastrous. It's particularly difficult dealing with writing that has come from such deeply personal and visceral emotions. Things are very raw and there's a weight that goes along with that. When the group, however, thinks about the overall picture and what we are trying to do, and can let go of their work and keep the best interest of the overall project in mind, that is when things that are truly magical can happen.

4. Where can the show be seen?

Brad Raimondo

We're performing August 22nd through 27th at Dance New Amsterdam.
The showtimes are 8/22 at 5:45, 8/23 at 4:30, 8/24 at 8:30, 8/25 at 10 pm and 8/27 at 4:15.
Technically the address of teh theater is 280 Broadway, but the entrance is on Chambers Street, smack in the middle of the block between Broadway and Elk Street. It's a very nice, newly rennovated sapce that we're thrilled to be in.

We're part of this year's 10th Annual New York Fringe Festival, FringeNYC--which is very exciting for us. This is the third show we've submitted to FringeNYC and the first one to be accepted. Which I'm thrilled about, since this project is so important to me personally. So, for tickets you should check out www.fringenyc.org or follow the link from our website.

5. Tell us about Dreamscape, its history and what's next for you.

Zack Calhoon ("BCP" co-producer and Dreamscape's General Manager)

The Dreamscape Theatre is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting the work of young and emerging directors. I was first introduced to Dreamscape when I got cast as Banquo in their inaugural production of "Macbeth" in 2002. Over the years, I kept getting cast in more challenging roles like Antonio in "The Merchant of Venice" and then Jamie in "The Credeaux Canvas." Then I had the great pleasure of playing the title role in Dreamscape's critically acclaimed production of "Hamlet" last year, and this October I'll be playing Lee in "True West"--which is part of our second three play season. We're also producing "Marisol" by Jose Rivera and a world premiere called "Truce On Uranus."

I've grown to love the work this company produces so much that I signed on as its General Manager this year. And a lot of people have had that same experience of working with Dreamscape again and again and becoming part of the family. We're very excited about our 5 seasons and our future in the Indie theatre community. For more info visit Dreamscape.

(Thanks to Zack Calhoon for alerting me to this piece.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Fringe Festival - Open Thread

Is it just me, or is the Fringe making very little noise this year? Isn't it their 10th Anniversary?

So...for all y'all who've been making the Rounds at the Fringe Festival...what have you seen that you've felt strongly about? Anything you'd like to promote now that we're in the midst? Any thoughts about the Fringe as a whole? Anything you saw that you felt really didn't work?

(As always, I'll direct readers, for inspiration and information, to www.nytheatre.com which has posted 70 reviews of Fringe Festival shows.)

Hit up the comments section! Ahoy-hoy!

EDIT: How many more years will it be until there is an article about the Fringe that doesn't mention "Urinetown?"

New Cats

Remedios ("Remmy")


God I love them. Christ...it's too much...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Other places

George and Isaac have lively discussions going on today. Enjoy them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Scene from "The Shadow" - Skribent/Publisher

Unfinished and unedited...here is the scene alluded to in the previous post.

(SKIRIBENT and A PUBLISHER speak excitedly together in a restaurant.)

SKIRIBENT There’s nothing more to say about it. I won’t change a word. After all this time, far from that old country, I’ve come to see the amazing beauty of things. To be generous and see the world as generous. To see the world as conspiring at every turn to bring us joy and pleasure and laughter. (He opens a page of his book.) You see, this began as a story about a woman I had seen when living in a very hot country. But instead, now, you see… it turns into a tale about flowers and music. Stories about women always end with suicide or sex, which, honestly, I can see as a form of violence and suicide. There is no making love in the world of the novel. Until now. For I have invented it. You see? Nothing at all distasteful, but it isn’t chaste either. I’m not using sex for a thrill, but not avoiding it either. It is simply the best description of the act of lovemaking I am capable of, and I haven’t seen the like. (He closes the book.) I know I’m being ridiculously immodest.

PUBLISHER It’s well earned. Listen, I don’t want blow smoke up your ass…

SKIRIBENT No, it’s all right. My ass adores pipe smoke.

PUBLISHER This work is strange, because of its beauty, and that has merit. The truth is, Skribent, the arts are addicted to depression. There is something solitary about most writers, and that leads them to think of this as a universal experience. As if the whole world, as if everyone, went through their lives thinking deeply about human experience. As if no one had a happy marriage or children that turned out well.

SKIRIBENT Precisely! Precisely!

PUBLISHER Of course there are dangerous things, there are distant women who want us to think of them as untouchable. There are dark corners and dark places. But could that make up the entire world. As far as I can tell, the sun casts more light than the moon, if you catch my meaning.

SKIRIBENT I do. I absolutely do. And I promise you, it is a new experience for me to think this way. Over the last few years, I’ve come to admire the sun, and the things it shines on. I’ve come to see glass bottles and cobble stone and sweat and the odors of the city in a generous and joyful way. (Pause.) The truth is...when my spirit lifted, for a while, I thought it was the end of me as a writer. Absolutely the end. I almost found my happiness counterproductive to my own art. Can you imagine? It’s the sort of thing they teach you in grade school, you know? The tortured, smelly fart of a man, who hates the newspaper and writes about the stink and the grime and the unfairness of it all. All humor is sarcasm, or it is light. All knowledge is made proof of my derision of other ideas.

PUBLISHER What turned the corner for you?

SKIRIBENT I wrote a story about a Mermaid. And it was beautiful and made of cotton. The way a young girl, with shimmering fins, find the heart of a boy from the land. And I will tell you, it took every effort for me not to end it badly. But then, I said to myself, “You don’t see the world this way!” I knew that, damn it to hell, the world could be as lovely as I wanted it to be. So I wrote an ending where they shared a kiss, and she grew legs and all was right. All was joyful.

PUBLISHER Why don’t you show me that story?

SKIRIBENT Truthfully...I’m unhappy with it. It’s clumsy. But, sometimes you must go through the pain of inferior art to perfect yourself. And now, at last, I’ve written something I truly think expresses joy, without self-consciously apologizing for it. I refuse to apologize for my happiness.
PUBLISHER Well, of course, a toast to happiness. It will sell like shoeshine in a shitstorm! You’ve finally found something rare and cornered the market. This will make people smile. Even scholars!

SKIRIBENT Well...let’s not hope for winter in the desert. (Their glasses touch.)

PUBLISHER Skiribent, my dear, may I ask you one thing?

SKIRIBENT My friend, you’re publishing my book?


SKIRIBENT You may ask.

The Shadow - a public process - Part 2

Isaac posted these questions for me to respond to.

"What appeals to you about this process?"

First of all, I've never done anything remotely like it and I think, because of the nature of the technology we're using, it's not something that could be done in this way before, well, now. So there's an appeal to "new ground" I think.

Second, and in the sense of full disclosure, I think there is something that appeals about getting people interested and knowledgeable about a project from its inception. As I've said in the past, audience building is what I feel is a key component to most of our concerns about the health of theatre. I'd love to see increased interest in a project simply because the project has been opened up to the scrutiny of its intended audience.

Which begs the addedum, what doesn't appeal... which is that my writing process is something I think is very private and idiosyncratic and hard to describe and quantify. So opening it up in this case may be dangerous to my health as a writer or, worse, toxic to the integrity of the piece. Who can say? There are dangers in any project. Also, simply put, I rarely collaborate. There's one director I've worked with I feel very comfortable collaborating with. So there's risk all around.

"What do you hope to accomplish with it?"

I hope to write a very good play. My interest in it is more of the question of idealism and knowledge and how, at times, they seem incompatible.


That being said, I'm going to post one of Isaac comments about a piece of the initial draft and then the piece in question.

Hopefully, Isaac, you won't mind me posting these comments from an e-mail you sent to me:

"I think the thing that struck me the most was the conversation b/w Skirbent and the Publisher. One thing i like about all of your work is its rhythm. I can't really explain it, it just has a rhythm that clicks with me. And this is most clear in that dialogue. Does that make sense?

I also think you do a good job of creating that environment of loneliness and entropy in the first scene. And then contrasting it with the second, makes Skirbent's position in that scene feel like bullshit (that he's happy, I mean, which, it seems to me the lady doth protest too much).

Do you mean to end scene two with the publisher asking if he can ask a question, but not telling us what the question is?"

My reponse to this, in part, was...

"Skribent Publisher scene really opened up the play for me, so I'm glad it works for you. It's all my dialogue obviously, so it let me shape things a bit. That's not the ending of the scene (didn't come up with a good one yet) but hopefully I will.

I think that there is a lot going on in this story...sort of Jungian fever dream. A man with his shadow, a man losing his shadow, a shadow becoming a man, a man losing ideals, the real world versus the idealistic world, art as beauty versus art as savage... it's all in there. So it's fun to just throw it all out there and see what works.

I'm curious how my style and Andersen's come together in the end to create the "sound" of the play. Not sure if it's TOO jarring, but I like sort of just letting my stuff sit next to his without any veil."


Do these gents seem like "dreamers" to you?

The Fringe Begins


As always, follow the amazing efforts of www.nytheatre.com during the Fringe. Ever darn show reviewed. How can you NOT love that?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Turning 30

My friend Dave is turning 30 today. I did that a few months ago and it promoted this type of thing. Ugh. Fuck me.

My friend Matt turned 30 last month and we went out to BBQ and gave him books about great military blunders. Then he went to the gym in order to show 30 he's not afraid of it.

I think Dave's taking it kinda tough, though.

He's an actor, a great guy, one of the best, and he nearly stole the show as the "Jack the Gentleman Caller" in "The Most Wonderful Love" (for those of you that saw it.)

So, friendly readers, I ask you to send Dave some words of friendly encouragement. Below.

The Shadow - a public process

So Isaac Butler (who blogs about this here) and I had a bit of coffee and then he showed me a copy of "The Shadow" by Hans Christen Andersen. A very dark story, one that appealed to me instantly. So I agreed to write a version of it for him to direct. Which I've begun to do.

I was speaking to my longer-time-collaborator and pal Kyle at a bar the other night (while Devore got drunk) and he mentioned that blogging struck him as a place where work could really be discussed and opened up and artists could talk about their art, but instead, he saw it often as a series of discussions about other bloggers and the occasional "topic" of outside interest.

So, it occured to me that Isaac and I, both being bloggers, were good candidates to open up our process together to the public. I've written about 15 pages of the script so far, pieces of which I'm sure I'll post as they evolve. Our thought is we'll write about this from birth (now) until it hits the actual stage. Hopefully, everyone will feel free to comment on this process, engage with Isaac and I on it, and we'll see what happens.

Of course, usually I'd hesitate to open up my work to this sort of scrutiny. What frees me of that (and I'll be open with this) is that I feel involved with and passionate about the piece, but it's not a play that I feel is so precious and personal to me that I don't think it can't take on this little experiment. Also, I'm getting stubborn as I get older... so I figure I'll write it the way I write it and everyone will get a chance to see two young artists hashing their shit out. Will blogging the process change it? Undoubtedly. But hey, that's part of the ride.

So... for a start, here's a link to a copy of a translation of the text that I've been using while working on the play. It's not a pretty translation, which is something that appeals to me. Take a look, and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Open Thread

I'm going to try an experiment here...sort of to ape what goes on with Daily Kos and some other blogs.

I'm creating a post just for comments.

There are many readers without blogs of their own but plenty to say.

What's on your mind, crew?

Parabasis asks...

...his friend, under the name "Zack," why he doesn't attend the theatre in Boston.

Summation: Ticket prices aren't as big a factor as not knowing what is happening. Also, basically, he doesn't like live performers as much as he likes the movies.

Grim? A bit.

Really? That's News to Me!

Well, well, well... look what's happened. Ned Lamont beats Joe Lieberman and instantly this appears on CNN.COM. Apparently, it's now ok to acknowledge that the war is unpopular.

I'm pleased as a punch in the nose that Ned Lamont won. Let's hope that Lieberman's pride doesn't KILL a congressional seat by running independent, and let's hope that the DNC notices what kind of wonders a netroots, anti-war candidate can do in this political landscape.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lieberman/Lamont Race in CT

This, obviously, is an important race in terms of how the Democratic Party will view its own "party line." The prevailing view (a baffling one) is that Democrats should move to the middle in order to combat the supremecy of the Right.

The problem with this is, of course, that the Right is wrong, and also not on the side of public opinion. Public opinion is against the conservative side on Stem Cell Research, Social Security reform, and especially the war in Iraq. Lieberman represents compromise with the Republicans against public opinion. He is a Democrat that doesn't represent his own constituents and is one of the many politicians that believe that public sentiment against the war in Iraq should not have a bearing on their own personal beliefs. Guess what? Politicians are elected to REPRESENT people, not to make decisions against the will of the people.

So if Lieberman goes (an incumbent with a national name who has firm ties with the DNC) then the glorious move towards sanity is upon us. The message will be: "Vote with the Republicans, and you are voting against our wishes."

I certainly don't think that all decisions should be us vs. them. But the Republican party has proven corrupt, incompotent, and dishonest. We should be trying to move the nation TOWARDS liberal values, not accept the brush that the Red Scare has painted us with.

To follow what's happening over there, I'd send you to Daily Kos, unabashedly liberal and utterly sane.

Cross your fingers.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I'm just going to say one thing

Can we just forget this ever happened and go back to talking about Hamlet, Political Theatre and Actor's Equity? I just moved in with my girlfriend, and I'd LOVE to talk about that some more. I've got two plays heading for publication within the Month. Love to talk about that. I'm a jerk for missing Food for Fish... I can apologize for that here.

I was actually feeling lately like the theatrical blogsphere was becoming a very positive, friendly and useful place. Let's not make a liar of my instincts.

If the point of this was that people defend themselves when they feel attacked... I'm not actually surprised to hear that. If the point of it was that Scott feels he needs to fool people...that's really not my problem. I've never met Scott, and at this point, I feel like the only reason to do so is drink away ill will.

If this was what I think it was (Scott wrote something that was mostly a diatribe that he hadn't thought a ton about/Everyone goes apeshit for no reason/Scott tries to Justify His Behavior and Paint Everyone Else as a Team of Jerks) then I think I am suddenly reminded of audition season for the Musical Theatre Mainstage in college. Ugly...and pointless.

So, goodnight to this. I hope we see some Theatre Ideas from theatreideas.blogspot.com very soon. If not...you won't hear one more word from me about it.

Loss of Rights? Not So Fast, Lefties!

Sure, we lefty bloggers complain that we're losing the right to privacy, that voting rights are constantly impeded by underhanded means, that the right to a same-sex marriage is being squelched by bigotry, that freedom of assembly and freedom of the press are under attack, that the right for a woman to choose an abortion is being made impossibly difficult by moralistic simpletons...

there is, though, one right that is being expanded!


The right to SHOOT someone if you FEEL threatened. The right to SHOOT FIRST! At last, an issue of freedoms that is finally taken seriously!

On a more positive note...

Speaking of innovation... I'd like to recommend the podcast of nytheatre.com (called Nytheatrecast.)

It's a fine way to keep up on what's happening around the Downtown NY theatre scene, as well as listen to directors, actors, producers and writers discuss what they're up to and why. Great stuff, and they're just getting started. I'm sure they'd welcome feedback and suggestions regard future podcast subjects as well.

Of late there have been discussions about the American Living Room Festival at HERE Arts Center, a chat with the composer of Titus X (a punk rock Titus), previews of the New York International Fringe Festival, a talk with Ian W. Hill about his piece at the $ellout Festival earlier this summer, and even (on an early podcast) an interview with me and my pals about "The Most Wonderful Love."

Subscribe on iTunes here.

Download individual episodes here.

Innovation (or "Leave it to Scott...")

Scott Walters has taken a moment to express his disinterest/anger at the lack of innovation in theatre over the last few decades. Responses came quickly, most of them taking exception to his tone and dismissal of Off-Off Broadway. You can find them...

Ian (in full-blown fury mode)
PLUS: James chimes in.

I won't repeat their points or take particularly angry issue with Scott. It's been done so many times now, we might as well identify that Scott is TRYING to rile people up and is good at it. Sometimes he does it by being dismissive, which is a shame, but it's all right with me.

What I took particular note of, though, was his clarification in his comments section.

"Matt and Isaac are right, however: OOB is not ONLY about saying fuck in an empty theatre -- there is another chunk that is as conservative as regional theatre. There is a small contingent struggling to say something worthwhile -- my question is: are they saying something worthwhile in an innovative way?"

To which I might reply: Does it matter?

If a piece of theatre is effective, and communicates well, and entertains, and makes the audience feel something... it doesn't matter if it's performed in three acts, or one act, or 4 minutes, or full-nude, or in complete silence, or with Brechtian distance or with Pinter Pauses, or with a sense of revolution or a need to protect the status quo. All of these things are tools, and their value is judged by how they are used within the context of a piece of actual theatre. Ideas are important if they drive us to action. George Hunka has a particular aesthetic that he believes in, and while he's creating a series of essays to define it, it's true test will be on its feet, performed. Only then will he, and anyone else, know if the ideas create an effective piece of theatre. He's taking action, which I absolutely respect. The originality/innovation is secondary (even tertiary) to however he might define it beforehand.

Innovation, in and of itself, is not a goal. It comes from a need. Beckett followed a line that included Irish storytelling tradition, Joyce, World War II and Buster Keaton. Together, they make up his voice. He did not innovate out of thin air, and did not proport a theory. In fact, he was maddeningly elusive, probably because he didn't know any better than anyone else WHY he wrote they way he did. He simply wrote in his own voice, and that voice was unique because it was only his. The plays are the result of his life, and his ability to stay true to what sounded best to him. What more can anyone ask of himself or herself?

The best plays do not innovate, they illuminate. If by attempting to illuminate, the writer is forced to innovate, then so be it. If the play illuminates within the context of an existing form, I honestly don't care. A well-made play, a verse play, a play written in the jangly tones of spoken word, a "movement piece" that has voice over, a deconstruction of Greek tragedy, a reconstruction of Greek Tragedy, a mythic epic about Indian folklore, a "Fringe" play, a play on Broadway, a Musical about Tarzan, Blue Man Group, a one-woman show about public education or the immigrant experience, a one-man show about meeting Spalding Gray, a translation of a Polish classic by an Australian company, a new version of Dead Poet's Society featuring a pedophile, a Bob Dylan dance show, two characters standing at music stands reading the text to the audience affectlessly... it's all the same. Does it work? Is it moving? Do you leave the theatre thinking "Seeing that made me feel something."

Innovation will come when a writer or director says "Given the tools in front of me, knowing what is outside these walls, I must invent new tools." If the tools are sufficient, what is the point of new ones? It's vanity and folly to invent for invention's own sake, and it always looks that way on stage.

That is not to say if one seeks to innovate, they should not explore that urge. They should use the tools of exploration to find something new, if that's what they are looking for. Let's restrain ourselves, though, from decrying a lack of effort, if no effort is required. It's inspiring for me, each day, to see so much work being done, and so many people trying to get the word out about that work, and so many new ways to communicating the existence of that work to the audience.

Whomever sees a hole in this art where a new idea should be, it is their own responsibility to call attention to it, specifically, and if they can, fill it himself or herself. To lambast others for failing to do the work is, shall we say, counterproductive. No one gets graded in real life...we do our best, and try to speak with our own voices as best we can. I find the tools that help me speak in my own way around me. Maybe someday, those tools will fail me and I'll either rise to it or find myself frustrated. Either way, that's my journey, and, happily, I don't have anyone to answer to but myself.

Friday, August 04, 2006

American Girl - Equity Actors

Well, since we discuss the Actor's Equity Union, here's an example of actors who work in a very commerical atmosphere who are in the midst of an attempt to organize.

Read about it in the NY Times, here.

Thanks to Matt Trumbull for bringing this to my attention.

My thoughts...

First, this illuminates that Professional Acting is a very broad church. These are performers who use their talents to make a great deal of money for a major corporation. If they shouldn't be unionized, who should? Unions were created precisely for protecting the interests of these performers. (Another question might be, is it doing so here?)

This also illustrates just how far away Equity's interests lie from downtown theater and indie theater. These performers perform advertising.

I'd love to hear some perspectives on this.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What makes effective political theater?

Ian Gould sent me this conversation starter.

Take a gander.

Well...watcha think?

This Made Me Laugh

On the first season of "The League of Gentlemen"... (if you haven't seen them, you should) two little girls named Chloe and Radcliffe, say, simultaneously, about their father:

"You shouldn't make him angry. We once saw him beat a man until he and the man were both crying."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Truth Comes Out

How George Hunka and I actually feel about the Masscult.

George, forgive me...I couldn't help it.

Now, back to being serious...

Photo taken by Boo.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Masscult, Branding and Marketing

Mixed feelings about this. I don't think I'm as disgusted as everyone else is.

I've written about the need for Off-Off to rebrand itself and think in practical terms to reach and audience. That discussion garnered some fickle, light response... the idea of the "real artists" speaking in marketing terms somehow distasteful to some. Then comes word that the Neilsen system is being brought to Broadway and the consensus is that it's another sign of the assimilation of theatre into the (as George puts it here) "masscult."

I'm going to be straight up about my belief that rebranding (or renaming if that makes some more comfortable) "Off-Off Broadway" as "Indie Theatre" is a very good idea. We're quickly becoming a tree that is falling in a distant forest. The term "markets" and "popular" are just ways to say "What people are paying to see" and "Who is coming" and "What do they want to see."

The problem, truthfully, is that the people that use the tools of marketing are, generally, those putting a big red ribbon on derivative nonsense. Does that mean, therefore, that the tools are cursed, somehow cursed, untouchable. That because Disney markets Tarzan effectively... does that mean that those who want to bring a large audience to "Waiting for Godot" should attempt to do so with ancient methods? Just as new media is exploding, and the power of individuals to shape the public's perception is starting to move closer to the power of Gray Advertising... should we quickly switch to dusty typewriters when we could be using Macintosh processors?

In short: I do not equate all sorts of marketing and branding. I do think that using a derogatory term for smaller theatre in NY (Off-Off) harms it in a way that using a more complimentary and accurate term (Independent) will not. If that's the logic of the masscult...so be it.

There are places I think we should not go (like live commericals on the stage) so I'm not an absolutist at all. I just think we need to think practically and engage with the times such as they are.

As far as Broadway wasting tons of money on Market Research...let them. I do not care what they do to determine who goes to see Wicked. Broadway is about as artistically oriented a venture as the Billboard Top 100. Lots of people paid to purchase Ashlee Simpson's last album I'm sure. That does not make it music. We all agree there. Then again, a lot of people buy Tom Waits and David Byrne and Bob Dylan. And so they should.

So, I say instead of decrying the discussion about theater marketing, let's try to keep it on course and keep it honest. Let's identify that Broadway is moving further and further away from anything resembling what many of us actually do... and that's ok. We just need to make sure that in rejecting Broadway's core values (Mamma Mia!) we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. We do need audiences.

If we naively think that the best way to capture audiences is just to do very good plays...that's a slippery slope. That logic means that Mammia Mia is good because many people come to see it. It isn't, and they do. Which means...tada...marketing trumps quality. Terrible, terrible sad truth. Which means if you have something you believe in, you'd better be willing to creatively market it if you DON'T want your friends and family to be your only audience.

There's no shame in the desire to bring people in the room to experience what you have to offer. To offer it to the right people, to people who will appreciate it, you need to know where they are and how to reach them. You have to help them find your play. There are crass and elegant ways to go about this...but it's the reality of an art that was always meant to be shown to a group.

So let's not treat market research as some sort of untouchable evil. It's there. Using the principles of modern media and marketing (perhaps without using awful yellow checklists) might do us all a bit of good.

I demand

The immediate return of Zay Amsbury to his blogging post.

...and air conditioning without guilt or shame.