- 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.
Friday, December 28, 2007
For example... if my New Year's Resolution was "I resolve to stop staring into the refrigerator when no one's around as if food will magically appear" it would tell you all a great deal about me.
If my New Year's Resolution was "I resolve to stop purchasing DVDs that I will only watch once just because one of the characters was in a comic book" that would be telling.
If my New Year's Resolution was "I resolve to finally write that play about the severed heads" it would make your minds expand with amazing possibilities. Wouldn't it? You know it would.
So... what are your New Year's Resolutions, oh readership-of-my-heart?
Don't pretend you've got better things to do. It's Friday and all the other theater blogs are "closed" until after the New Year. Let's just be honest with each other about that.
My Comments Section is Your Disappointment Playground.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
1. Iraq - Yup. Still there. We suckle huge balls! And not even for fun!
2. Spider Man 3 - Man, oh man. Wasn't that a massive letdown. Yes, yes it was. It was down, and it let me down, and they really shouldn't have bothered with all that Topher Grace shit. Also, I don't like that he calls himself Topher. My name is Matthew. No one calls me "Thew" for short, do they? No, no they don't.
3. Tracy Letts
4. Democrats Running for President - There are some. That's nifty. I wish Kucinich could astrally project his soul into someone electable.
5. Republicans Running for President - Even though Tancredo, the bigot, is out, he was able to astrally project his evil into the other candidates. Kucinich...take notes!
6. 100 Saints You Should Know - Oh the places we went! Like the lobby! And to the bar!
7. The Pretentious Festival - That was fun, no? Yes? You wouldn't understand.
8. Travels with Pammy. I went to Paris with my ladyfriend and it was exactly what you'd hope it would be. Also, we went to Sedona. That was good too. That's all under 8. It could be under 8 and 9, but forget it. It's all just one big "8."
9. Mike Daisey and a glass of water.
10. In Rainbows
Yes. Yes that's what is on this list. I will revise it in my head, periodically, but not on this webpage.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
So, I ask you to send me a Haiku. Make this Haiku about your respect for this blog. If you do so, I shall be overwhelmington. The joyfulness will strike me like Mjolnir. I will weep and beg for less happiness because it is driving me batsh*t insane.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
If he Googles himself, perhaps he will find this posting and send a message to mattfr at gmail dot com.
If you know him (name is distinctive, no?) then let me know.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I used to think of it as crass. I've changed my mind. In our culture, it seems to me that we can listen to frank talk about sexual fetishes, about violence, about religious differences and about politics. We can talk about personal health struggles and we can talk about our innermost thoughts on stage. But ask someone their salary, or how much they gave to the Red Cross, or why they're unable to give... that's considered too personal or too private to discuss.
It's an odd hang-up. One that I think the American public should examine.
So...how about you? Do you find this hard to talk about?
Monday, December 17, 2007
Donate to my crew at Blue Coyote Theater Group! Even a small donation goes a long, long way! It will take you mere moments to make a gift online!
In 2007, we:
- Continued to nurture the next generation of great American playwrights with acclaimed productions of David Johnston's The Oresteia, Matthew Freeman's award-winning Interview With The Author, and Kristen Palmer's Departures.
- Extended our wildly successful Standards of Decency Project, featuring nine original short plays by our favorite playwrights.
- Won a promotional grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to redesign our website and install a BCTG sign on Broadway!
- Were named 2006 People Of The Year by NYTheatre.com!
- …and with our October presentation of Kristen Palmer's Departures, we reached an remarkable milestone: our 20th full-scale production.
All the best to you and yours this holiday season,
(Bob, Kyle, Gary & Stephen)
Add yourself to the Blue Coyote Mailing List here!
The Chocolate Factory
Electric Pear Productions (I went to college with Melanie Sylvan. Go Melanie!)
Cyndy A. Marion
Edith O'Hara (if you do not have an entertaining story about 13th Street Rep, raise your hand)
T. Schreiber Studio
So...what do we think of the list?
I was on this list way back in 2004, for those who care.
I could go on, but most of it is standard Europe > US stuff.
It's the final paragraph that made me scratch my head:
"Given limited resources and simple practical production considerations, any national theatre must necessarily be exclusionary - exclusionary of work and production methods that don't conform to an ideology that any national theatre must necessarily reflect. The ideology of production informs any theatre, national or autonomous, of course. But given what's been done to the geopolitical scene by the American military and cultural power structure in the name of its citizens over the past 10 years, I'm loathe to think what might be done by the theatrical and dramatic community in the name of its citizens as well."
Besides being logically tenuous, this is unjustifiably hostile. To say the least. Strangely, it's not hostile towards the US government, so much as the US "theatrical and dramatic community." I'm baffled.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
nytheatre.com raves: "...HUMANE..."
Now that's a horse of a color that is different!
Come and see the festival to end all festivals of lights!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Note: Matthew Trumbull as Lobster, David DelGrosso as the Rabbi.
Come to see this here play. It is a hoot. We are "Josephs."
Monday, December 10, 2007
What I got:
A Star Wars Lightsaber Battle Game that you can hook up to your TV. It's for 8 year olds. I love it.
The Twin Peaks Gold Edition Full Series DVDs
A Chimay Sampler
What I didn't get:
There was a fair amount of chatter and meetings about the issue of Showcase Code Reform this year, including articles in Time Out and the Village Voice. Since then, I'm not sure what progress has been made. Maybe I'm just out of the loop, maybe things are quiet.
Anyone out there a part of putting together the white paper, or on the front lines, have an update? You can e-mail me or comment. Certainly not an issue that should be allowed to drop.
What about The League of Independent Theater?
UPDATE: Great comments from Leonard Jacobs and John Clancy in response to this post. Take a look. Sounds like exciting stuff. Like by-laws. I'm thrilled to see so many names I recognize involved.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I recommend heartily that you check out "Local Story" at the Access Theater, produced by Overlap, directed by Susanna Harris and written by the talented Kristen Palmer.
I am hearing great things, like this review, and I'm looking forward to seeing it myself after this weekend.
You can get tickets for the production here.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
I'd also suggest spreading out your giving. Give yourself a budget ($100? $200?) and spread your giving out among the various companies that you feel strongly about up to that budget.
I'd also love to leave my comments section for this post open for those who are in the midst of fund-drive, or know of a company they would like to see supported, to provide links and information.
Ticket sales serve primarily, for most companies, to recoup investment. Grant writing is costly and often tied to specific mission-driven projects (marketing, administrative costs, eduction). Your un-restricted gifts provide smaller, passionate companies with the means to make the artistic decisions, to take risks, and to continue to expand their audiences. It's vital that we, as a community, show our peers that we support them with more than just our words. Giving is a form of political speech and action. Take action and be generous.
Blue Coyote Theater Group - Blue Coyote Theater Group has produced five of my plays. They work with wonderful writers like David Johnston, Kristen Palmer and David Foley. Their Standards of Decency Project, last year at this time, put 23 actors, four directors and nine authors to work. If you want to support me, this is the way to do it. If you want to support wonderful and aggressive plays, that are produced, not developed, I'd urge you to donate here.
Nosedive Productions - James Comtois makes his home here. They're wonderful. Suburban Peepshow, Blood Brothers: Pulp, Adventures of Nervous Boy; all joyfully perverse. They're in the midst of a fund-drive (read all about it on their website.) Support this crew here.
New York Theatre Experience - They publish books, they publish nytheatre.com, they publish indietheatre.org, and they produce podcasts. They're the most active and vocal advocates for Indie Theatre in New York City. Your dollars help everyone if they go here. Read Martin Denton's fundraising letter for this year here, and find out how to support them.
Vampire Cowboys - On the up-and-up, these guys kick serious ass and are all over the downtown scene. Send a spinning side kick of death to the establishment with your donation to them here.
The Brick Theater - Vibrant, active, exciting, independent, edgy, blah blah blah. This company produces more than one festival per year (so far), fantastic new works, and is one of the few places you'll find the true spirit of anarchist fun in the New York metropolitan area. They've been heralded as one of the best venues for Off-Off in New York. There's a reason for that, crew. They are. Support them here.
That's just a few thoughts. I may add as the spirit moves me. Feel free to comment and share your suggestions.
The Baby Jesus One Act Jubilee opens this Friday at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and features works by Jason Grote, Qui Nguyen and myself, among many others. Come check it out!
There are two series (Marys and Josephs) that run at 7pm and 9pm on an alternating schedule. $10 per program, or $15 to see both programs on the same evening.
Herein lies the schedule and breakdown.
My play, TRAYF, is the Chanukah-themed play of the series and can be found among the Josephs.
Come on Friday night. It's my birthday. Then afterwards you can buy me a beer and tell me how young I look and how much you love reading this blog.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Instead, go and see my new "YouTube" Floyd, and learn how to watch a play. (Floyd's mother is blind, so don't worry about leaving comments that shame him.)
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
This one is particularly chilling-hilarious. It notes that 2007 will be this hemisphere's warmest in 127 years of record keeping. Scary huh? We're all going to f*cking die.
Then it asks the readers the obvious question:
How do you like your winters? Nice and frosty? As warm as possible? Somewhere in between?
Could we please add D) a sign of our impending extinction?
By naming the play with gusto, dear readers.
Heretoforthwith, we shall delve (reference to Stoppard) into the naming of things, the power of names, and how naming and titling are related.
First... we shall look at the great titles.
Hamlet is the title of a play. So is Death of a Salesman. Other play titles one might note are Doubt, Waiting for Godot, and The Odd Couple. There are many more titles of playworks. They include Bug, King Lear and, of course, Fences.
What do these titles have in common? So very much.
Hamlet is the name of the most important character in all of modern history and the first human mind expressed in its fullness. So much so that he even impressed Harold Bloom. No small feat. If your main character is capable of impressing Harold Bloom and interesting Peter Brook, name the play after this character. For example, Beckett did not name Waiting for Godot "Estragon." Why? Because Estragon isn't, in and of himself, capable of hanging himself. Hamlet is perfectly capable of killing himself. Hence, title character.
Death of a Salesman is an excellent title because it gives away the ending. People aren't interested in being surprised. Give away as much as you can without being cheeky.
Doubt, a more recently play, names itself after the theme of the play. While at some point in time this might have been frowned upon (should Shakespeare have called Hamlet "Indecision?"), these days, high school English teachers are overmatched by the reductive power of text messaging and YouTube. As a playwright that is alive, you are well-served to consider the theme of your play as its title. It will only help underpaid teachers explain what the hell is going on.
The Odd Couple is such a good title they turned it into a TV show. Write that down. These days, that play would have been written by Paul Rudnick. Shame that it wasn't, in a way.
Let us move past the examples of the past and think more forward-like. You have written a new play that is untitled. Let us say this play is three acts long and the plot revolves around the sun. Meaning, it is a history of our study of the sun. The main character is Copernicus, but you have named him Nicky Copper, and put him in 1930s Chicago.
Call the play Chicago Sun Times.
You see? Simple math. One word for each act.
Or, perhaps, you have written a ten minute thriller about the history of Tibet. In ten short minutes, you are able to sum up the history of the struggle for Tibet Freedom. It is a hit at parties, this play, and you can tell it will be beloved by the Actor's Theater of Louisville.
Call the play Ten Minutes in Tibet. So everyone knows what you're up to.
Or, dear dramatist, you have written a political masterpiece, which uses devilishly disguised figures with names like Decider and BlossomPoo and Mary Queen of Scots. The play spans the lifespan of the spanned life of a fictional kingdom called the Universal Capitalist Tribes and its many wars over plastic toys in the Middle Desert. It is an alternate history of sorts, barely researched and therefore unclouded by anything but fresh thinking.
Call the play The United States of America. That will really show them.
Regardless of how you go about titling your masterwork of new drama, you must remember that it is as much science as art. Precision and testing do the trick. Ask you Mother what she finds most memorable. Look for important phrases in songs and rework them to match your needs. Name your play Title for a bit of metatheatrical giggle-laugh-riotry. But most of all: Be Yourself.
To close, and to be generous, other play titles you can use are:
Lucinda's Dog Walking Business
The Big Red Balloon
Christ is Watching The Eyes That Are Watching God
They Still Boil Lobsters, Don't They?
The Historical Tragedy of Amerigo Vespucci
This, I Should Not Have Sniffed
Dedicated to My Mentor, Freeman
James Comtois and Qui Nguyen: With Fights!
Endgame (which you are trying to write anyway)
Kickstand: The Bicycle Cycle
Ten Short Plays Copywritten
I'm writing to nytheatre.com's readers and supporters to update you about what we've been up to, and to ask for your help in making 2008 our best year ever.
This year has been particularly exciting for us, as we've transformed from web publisher to new media producer. Most of you probably know me as the editor and founder of nytheatre.com, but I am also its designer-webmaster-systems developer, and the changes in my job over the past 12 months have been numerous and important.
Because we are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, your contribution is deductible as allowed by state and federal income tax laws.
P.O. Box 1606
Murray Hill Station
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I'm not one to criticize the critics. I'm also sorry you feel underwhelmed by the theatrical leftovers you're finding this Thanksgiving. I can only hope that, in the midst of the strike, it's not your intention to drive audiences away from all the plays that are currently up-and-running all over the city.
All the best,
PS - You're not having Thanksgiving Dinner with Sarah Ruhl and her family? Color me shocked.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
RULES FOR THE WRITING OF PLAYS
1. Do not write "Chapter 1" at the top of a scene. Instead write "Scene 1."
2. When writing a play, remember that the operative word is "play." Have fun. For example, Samuel Beckett wrote a play called "Play." That play is a hoot. Enjoy yourself.
3. All the characters are "you," just as everyone in a dream is "you." Even if you are 19 years old and currently attending college in Connecticut, when you describe a character as "a 59 year old housewife with a mournful eye on her past as an alcoholic;" "she" is "you."
4. When you write "The End" or "Blackout" at the end of the play, remember that your work is not yet done. Soon, the vipers will descend, teeth full of venom.
5. Choose whether or not you will write a Drama or a Comedy before you decide if anyone in the play has cancer.
6. That joke you heard over coffee that seemed so darn great when your friend explained it in detail, his eyebrows going up and down while he did all the funny voices? Do not use that joke. It is not as good as you think.
7. Tell the truth. Except when caught. Then lie.
8. Your precious God will not help you. Prayer will only lead to revision. Avoid revision. Your first draft is your "vision." Revisioning your vision is also known as compromise. Do not compromise. Even for your precious "God."
9. If you are a playwright that is also a woman you are a "lady writer" and therefore must write about Abortion. If you do not, you are missing the whole point.
10. Tell long stories about drinking, but do not drink. Then you will have the edge in this poker game we call "The American Theater."
11. All of your best play ideas will come from the Utne Reader.
12. Dialogue is a cloud, whispy and soft. You can tell the way the wind is blowing by looking at this cloud. The higher the cloud, the further from the earth it is. The further from the earth, the less like fog. Fog is not dialogue; fog is a monologue.
13. Aristotle doesn't really "get" you. He's never played a single game on the Xbox and didn't have to pay student loans. F*ck him.
14. Write plays about issues. These issues include: war, sexism, racism and "those idiots in the Bible Belt."
15. You'll be told to write what you know. Think about it, though...do you really know anything? Does that mean you shouldn't write anything? I mean, seriously, we're all completely blind. So write about being blind. Try taking a tie and wrapping it around your eyes and wandering around for a day, trying to remember where all the light switches are and how many steps there are to get up to your room. Write about that.
16. There are dogs in the streets, howling. Heed them, oh Playwright.
17. Microsoft Word really helps the Dada in you. Cut and Paste, baby. Cut and Paste.
18. All plays have a beginning, middle and an end. Should the end come in the middle, and the middle after that, you've screwed up.
19. Keep a chart of the irony.
20. When you feel, deep in your heart, that you have completed the finest work of which you are capable... quit. Immediately. Who needs that next play, and the feeling of being over-the-hill. Trust your instincts. It won't get better.
Let's put it this way: the story has become who is hitting hardest and whose debate performance is best. Guess what? Winning debates never helped John Kerry against George Bush. In fact, the worse Bush did, the more his supporters seemed bolstered at the time. Defeat can be easily snatched from the jaws of victory by failing to control the narrative.
The problem, of course, is that the narrative is not substantive. It's all about style. When Hillary Clinton "hits back," and the press insists that Obama isn't tough enough... the story is the fight and the blood on the stage. There's nothing remotely valuable about Obama being tough except to the press. The more the candidates act like boxers, the more fun it is for CNN and the more pundits justify their paychecks. Even sexist questions like "Diamonds or Pearls" only add a little fake blood to this B-Grade Slasher flick.
Is this how we would like to determine who should be holding the executive office when we desperately need visionary leadership? If Hillary Clinton is able, in a debate, to hit back... does that prove she's up to the challenge of amending world opinion about our nation? If Barak Obama seems a little less punchy when on the attack... is that really what we want from him? An attacker? Does someone who is truly inspiring and capable of leading also need to have, in his or her bag of tricks, a cruel streak?
The story we're being told is about which of the candidates is the best at making headlines and soundbites. As usual. Business as usual, when the country and the world are in such turmoil, is a deeply depressing trend. After the debate, listening to analysts ignore Hillary's claims about Obama's health plan, in favor of simply reviewing her as an actress, belies the worst of our news media's impulses.
They've become Entertainment Weekly, when what we truly need is a little more New Yorker.
Wait. Forget I said that.
No really. Periodically, we all have those conversations about how everyone should go make money in TV, and that making a living in theatre is impossible, and the business is shallow and driven by the wrong things, and that the audience just isn't there, etc, etc.
What keeps you going? When you wake up in the middle of the night and think, "Oh no. What have I gotten myself into?" what makes you say "Get up and fight."
Crass? Maybe so. But easy and effective. What if one of these was delicately placed in the lobby of a theater in the city? Would that be a turn off? Would it be economically unfeasible? (Would the costs outweigh the benefits?) Would it raise donations?
Increasingly, checks are being replaced by online banking and direct deposit. Being able to make a donation, immediately after a great performance, with a debit card... it sounds like the future to me. Strangely enough, its being used more by Pentecostal churches than it is major not-for-profits.
Love to hear some thoughts about this sort of unit at...say...New York Theater Workshop. Or the Access. Or the Cherry Lane.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
My thoughts are pretty simple:
Ever heard of a stage hand that... owns 1501 Broadway? Uh huh.
Do you really need to cut costs when one of your producers is Universal Pictures?
Here's a solution: lobby for National Arts Subsidies. Otherwise, if you're going to try to get idiots to pay $450 for the pleasure of watching a movie adaptation in person, you can respect the people on whose backs this work is performed.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
We tend to come from a place, especially in the off-off world, that focuses on selflessness. We ask those who would donate to us to do it either selfishly (Network with us by donating!) or selflessly (You believe in supporting the arts and the importance of keeping young companies like this one alive!) .
The first is cynical and hardly worth worrying about. If those kinds of decisions are being made, it doesn't do a small theater company much good to encourage them.
The second, however idealistic, is not as effective as we'd like it to be. If it was, donations to all of our theater companies would be soaring in from philanthropists with an eye on the arts. As it is, individual donations to the arts are dwarfed by individual donations to religious organizations, health initiatives and social welfare programs.
So what incites people to give? In order to understand, we need to remove the false division between the selfless act and the selfish one. We need to understand that people give in order to feel connected to the things they care about.
When you give someone a hug, is it a purely selfless act? No. You feel nourished and so do they. It's an act of connection. A way of mutually benefiting someone by the act (hugging them) but also receiving benefit yourself. Giving a donation is very much like embracing someone else; you make a connection, and both are the better for it.
Small theaters companies have, for the most part, a limited pool from which to draw for individual donations. There is massive competition for a limited amount of donors. I would argue, though, that the legwork done in cultivating and embracing a large number of donors (even if their donations are initially small) will do far more for a small theater company than dumping resources into grant writing or cultivating a few large donors. It shouldn't replace the need to reach out to large funders, not at all, but currently I see far more focus on the economics of ticket sales and Foundation shopping, and far less focus on the powerful ways in which the care of individuals can be expressed through giving.
Instead of encouraging a friend, family member, or fan of your work to give simply out of a sense of altruism, remember that when they give, they're seeking membership and a sense of connection. To become a member of the mission of your company and the sort of theater that you create.
Membership programs, on any scale, and recognition societies are formal ways are to acknowledge this. An example might be membership benefits such as free t-shirts and two tickets to a preview performance, plus a donors-only party; or simply acknowledgment in some formal way.
I see very few theater companies that publish the names of their donors on their website. With a donors permission, it seems like a fantastic way to encourage giving and show a sense of connection. You don't even have to publish the amounts of the gifts... you can simply publish the list of names. It will mean a lot to the donors, and to potential donors. It shows you're appreciative, not only of money, but of people. You can give the donor tiers, or, better yet, simply include them in a "society" of some sort. If your company were "The Flying Theater" you might have a society called "Birds of a Feather." Gimmicky? Sure. But it shows that you're looking outward, at a sense of larger community, and not simply at how to pay for and plug your next piece.
Even if you don't formally chose to create membership benefits or a recognition society, your company can remain mindful of the reasons people give. If you're asking, in direct mail, for distant, hands-off funding of your mission, you'll get a distant hands-off response. If you're asking for donors to join in your unique vision, and invite them to become a part of that vision, then you'll likely get engagement on a deeper level.
It's never been easier for people to give. With sites like Network for Good, organizations like the Field and Fractured Atlas, with Paypal being simple and effective, the ability of your small theater company to receive immediate, even impulsive, gifts from a broad range of people is expansive. Don't let a single gift go by without acknowledgment, and don't let a single donor feel as if they are making a high-minded moral decision to selflessly part with a couple of dollars for your cause.
Give them what they're giving you: a chance to be heard and a sense that someone out there cares.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
We expect artists, at least in extremis, to admit if not wallow in their humanity. But Mr. Albee stands aloof from all that. He is amazed that people are more interested in Beethoven’s deafness than in Beethoven’s music, and troubled by the pervasive idea that one explains the other. Which is not to say his writing is unaffected by his emotions. It’s just that there’s a kind of air-lock system keeping the worlds separate. Even loss must stand in a queue.
“Wait until the next play,” Mr. Albee said. “I know it’s going to cover a great deal of what we’ve been talking about. It’s not a delayed reaction. It’s a reaction that’s coming at the proper time, when I can handle it with better equanimity. I keep saying that people should be objective enough to write a play in praise of Hitler. Yes, I bet I would be able to do that.”
What I question is the value or even existence of such pure objectivity. Should a writer, or could a writer, divorce his or her own values or perspectives from his or her play? Is the choice of topic, even, a measure of subjectivity? By deciding, for example, to write about the Bush Administration, is a writer not making a subjective choice about what is important to expose or explore?
Removing the question of choice of topic, though, one might ask if objectivity is even the paramount virtue in a day and age when a false sense of balance seems to pervade all other forms of expression. Watching CNN will leave anyone with the impression that Global Warming is debatable; the result of a focus on balance as opposed to fact. Perhaps when all areas seem gray, it's important for artists to have a specific perspective from which to speak. Or perhaps balance and objectivity are entirely different animals.
The flip-side is, of course, that by remaining objective, more perspectives are able to be presented in any given text. Shakespeare, for example, doesn't seem particularly in love with Hamlet... he simply presents a rich patchwork of characters centered around him, and allows us to watch the story unfold without a value placed from the writer on the proceedings. That has lent gravity and depth to myriad interpretations, and given the play itself a life that it never could have achieved if it had presented, by its end, a sort of lesson.
Perhaps the question here is one of fact. Facts do exist (despite all evidence to the contrary) and there is a reason that they seem so resisted by political forces. Facts create both objectivity and perspective. The fact of climate change, for example, can only be seen with objectivity. That objectivity leads, inevitably, to a conclusion. Maybe our addiction to subjectivity, opinion, is a weakness of discourse.
Human nature, though, isn't something that easily lends itself to fact. Or mathematics. Or much objectivity. Perhaps the hardest part of playwrighting is wrestling with that particular Angel... how hard it is to resist loving or hating or siding with or siding against our characters. How hard it is to remain objective in so emotional a landscape.
Shorter dramatic pieces tend not to have this sort of elegance.. Leaving Beckett out of the equation (for once) they tend to be written for younger audiences, as comedy sketches, or seem more like scenes from a larger work. They can be perfectly acceptable in that form, and many of them are funny and successful in their own right.
I'm curious if short pieces, dramatically, can be as successful as longer pieces. Some of the greatest works of fiction and poetry are brief and full of impact. What are some short pieces (less than 30 minutes) that you've found that strike you as attaining some sort of artistic height? Do you think stage performance lends itself, truly, to minimalism?
Short plays in the comments section are especially welcome.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I don't know if George is referring to me or to anyone else. If you're interested to read some insider criticism of the New York blogosphere, it's there for you. I don't feel inclined to change the way I approach this space or how I speak to whomever enjoys reading this blog. I wouldn't want to encourage others to change their output: it's simply not my place to tell others how to behave.
I will note that Superfluities seems to have reactivated comments with this post, which belies a desire to enter into conversation with readers and peers once again. (NOTE: George let me know that his comment were reactivated on October 23rd, and not with this post. Duly noted.)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I'm writing this from an airport in Charlotte, NC. I have just attended a conference about Planned Giving. It was as interesting as all discussions about the tax benefits of charitable remainder unitrusts inevitably are.
I'd like to direct your attention to this nytheatrecast, which features yours truly, and a discussion about Performance on the Web. I use the word "interesting" about 25 times. Do not hold it against me.
Certainly, let me know what you think.
I'm late turning in my final draft of Trayf to the Brick. To make it up to them, I mentioned them repeatedly in the podcast.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Tourists account for 65% of Broadway theatergoers (an increase from last year)
An all-time high of Broadway theatergoers were foreigners
The number of local attendees was at its lowest level in seven seasons
Broadway theatergoers are slightly more diverse than in the past.
Average Age 41
Median Income $98,900.00
Read the short piece here.
So what does this mean? Broadway is essentially a tourist attraction by most measures, and its relationship with the local audience is decreasing.
This isn't really news, other than the gaps are getting more pronounced. The question might really be... is there anything to be done about it? Does Broadway need to be "local" anyhow? Economically, I'm unsure if it would help these expensive shows to turn their attention to NYC-locals and market to them.
But if Broadway audiences should be, in your opinion, younger, less affluent and more local... what are steps to achieve that goal?
UPDATE: As usual, for matters of substance like this one, try Playgoer. Great, in-depth look at this material.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I've read an excerpt of Fruitcake and it's fantastic. For those of you who are looking for a great gift of a book for the holidays, I absolutely recommend it. You can get a copy of it at Barnes & Noble, and/or order it online here.
This is his second book. His first, Homo Domesticus: Notes from a Same-Sex Marriage, is available in bookstores and also here. Definitely check that out as well.
David's a top-notch playwright (you can purchase his play Brave Navigator here) and has had a tremendous impact on me as a human being and an artist. If you're just thinking "Hey, I'm looking for something new to read" I'd love it if you gave either of these a shot. If you like what you read (and you will) recommended his work to friends as well. You won't be disappointed, and you'd be supporting "one of our own" as he brings his bold, bright, wicked words to a wider audience.
Definitely interesting perspectives. One thing I thought was particularly pointed was the question of whether or not using the internet to post videos and performance clips and the like was going to bring more audience into the theater (raise awareness with new outlets) or just move audiences further onto the screens.
We also discussed how new technology can be integrated onto the stage, and add some notes and possibilities that weren't there before about 5 years ago. Definitely check out LiveTheater's site and their work on The Attendants to see what we referenced.
Anyhow, watch this space for the podcast. Love to hear thoughts on any or all of the above.
Weird. That's all I can say.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Certainly, Obama isn't the only Democratic Presidential hopeful who can say this. Essentially, the only one of the candidates who doesn't seem completely clear on how to handle Bush's Iran rhetoric is Hillary.
I actually admire and like Hillary Clinton a great deal. I simply think that this theory of triangulation, while mathematically sound when approaching the general election, is bloodless at best. The medias narrative rewards political skill and "running a good campaign." Stories about clear-headed policies and what sort of person SHOULD be in the White House seem far less forthcoming.
Note, for example, the coverage of the last Democratic debate, that seems obsessed with "blood in the water." The media narrative of Hillary's inevitability has crumbled, replaced with a sense of excitement about the prospects of a vicious horse-race. This has far less to do with the interests of the country than it does the interest of the press itself as a business. A knock-down-drag-out race is simply better television. That's why they pushed so hard to give Obama the bad advice of going on the attack.
Obama, thus far, has done far less attacking than the media would like. It's certainly good to see him draw distinctions and actually run against Hillary. But I think if he did become John Edwards and go after Clinton's character, he'd be up the creek too. You can't be the candidate of hope while you're firing off rounds.
In many ways, Obama has been smarter than people are giving him credit for. First of all, Iowa is a statistical tie, and Iowans are known to shy away from front-runners (see Howard Dean and John Kerry.) So going negative doesn't guarantee him anything but an opportunity for Clinton to make him seem compromised. By doing what he's doing (running a person-to-person campaign on the ground; appealing to the press as a reasonable human being; making fantastic speeches; keeping it cool) he allows the press to eat Clinton all by itself, and let's Edwards do the heavy lifting. Edwards seems perfectly happy to go hard after Clinton.
I personally would not be shocked to see any of the Democrats break out at this point. Dodd and Biden are actually excellent candidates and probably have the status quo thing that will work in the early states. If the Clinton wins Iowa and New Hampshire, more power to her. But Obama's media narrative (he's not fighting hard enough) and reality might be farther apart than we've seen so far. That's at least what I suspect.
I'd also like to add, since I'm rambling, that Kucinich is awesome. Before the UFO "gotcha" moment, every time he opened his mouth in the debate, he was clear-headed, articulate, and dead-right on most everything he said. You'll note how little attention his main point is: that Bush should be impeached. He hammered it home with the little time he was given. What gets on the news? UFOs. Our responsible media, again on display.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Here's the line up, my own play included. More details as they become available!
Thursdays & Saturdays at 7pm, Fridays at 9pm
by Qui Nguyen, directed by Robert Ross Parker
The story of Baby Jesus… with fights!
THE BABY JESUS CONVERSATION
by Jason Craig, directed by Michael Gardner
A call to childhood and remembrances of what the Christmas season meant for our two nostalgic storytellers. Full of wit and piss, this little yuletide yarn summons the miracles that only children maintain surrounding the mystery of the Baby Jesus and his powers.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Jason Grote, director TBA
Seven years have passed since Marley's Christmas death, and Scrooge has not changed a bit. But, on this particular Christmas, the shrimp boats lower their nets. Marley pushes his face against hers. She screams and flees back to Scrooge; on her cheek stands out in red the marks of two rows of teeth.
A BENDER FAMILY CHRISTMAS
by Carolyn Raship, directed by Daniel McKleinfeld
Ghosts, mayhem & midwestern home cooking! Join the Bloody Benders of Kansas for some holiday family fun (from which you may never escape!).
by Eric Sanders, directed by Jake Witlen
Iraq, Christmas Eve. Two American military interrogators slog through a long night away from their families, culminating in the torture of a young Iraqi man who may or may not have been mistakenly arrested. All captured on secret audiotape.
by Marc Spitz, director TBA
In a 12 step-style meeting full of people with sonic as opposed to substance related problems, a Jew from a very conservative family tries to cure his addiction to Christmas music.
Thursdays & Saturdays at 9pm, Fridays at 7pm
AND THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PASSED
by Jakob Holder, directed by David Barth
It’s a typical family Christmas: Mom’s addressing cards, Connie’s dreaming of snow, and Ryan’s patiently awaiting Santa’s arrival. Only, Connie’s sweating like crazy, Ryan’s locked and loaded, Mom won’t listen to anyone but Dad, and Dad is completely two-dimensional.
MOTHER MARY COME TO ME
by Eric Bland, directed by Scott Eckert
Mary did not birth Jesus. Sheila did. But Sheila died and Jesus needs a mother. And Joseph needs a lover. And Mary needs things too.
by Aaron Mack Schloff, director TBA
They *will* celebrate the season. No rest, no peace!
SINCERELY, DR. RAVEN HARTE
by Emily Conbere, directed by Dominic D’andrea
In this musical, a newly married husband and father sits down to write his first family Christmas letter after being barraged by letters from terrifying Christmas Carolers. In writing, he starts to realize horrible, horrible things.
by Matthew Freeman, directed by Kyle Ancowitz
A giant lobster, who has recently converted to Judaism, celebrates his first Hanukkah with the help of his rabbi. As “trayf” (food that is not kosher) the lobster finds himself ostracized by both his family and his new community.
by Bob Saietta, director TBA
On Christmas Eve morn', a love triangle comes unwound as a young man breaks into his former apartment only to find his ex in the arms of another woman. UNCOMPLICATED is a bawdy farce of cross-dressing, sexual hijinks, and identity.
I really don't feel this sentiment. At all, honestly. If anything, playwrights get a pretty good shake in theater, especially compared to TV and Film, where they don't even own or necessarily get credit for their work. But it's a punchy read either way, and not an uncommon sentiment. Take a look.
I haven't seen the show yet...I'm actually not very familiar with Jason Grote's work. But I can say I'm definitely looking forward to it, if this is his sensibility.
Tickets for the show can be purchased here. It's running until November 17th.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Going to see Rasputina tonight in Williamsburg with my ladyfriend.
Are you dressing like anything frightening? Or just attaching a short skirt to a nurse's uniform or cat suit like everyone else in NYC?
I think my favorite ever tasteless Halloween costume was worn, in college, by my friend David DelGrosso. He dressed as a "Stranger." Pockets full of candy. It was a command performance.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I don't care what his justifications might be for a wishy-washy response. Torture is illegal.
Might I add that I increasingly dig Chris Dodd?
1. Get something to write with.
Pencils are ok, but can break. Many people use computers. Old typewriters work, but not if you live in a rental. The neighbors complain.
2. Think of your favorite story then outline the plot.
For example, Harry Potter, Hamlet, Little Red Riding Hood or Lysistrata.
3. Replace names of old characters with names of friends and family. Change details to match your era.
Write this all down in a notebook so you know who is supposed to represent who. (Example: Priam = My Dad, Leonard. Trojan War = Iraq War.)
4. Decide how you want to sell the play.
Then, decide on the Act Structure. If you do not want to sell it, write it in five acts, and so on down. Ten minutes sell well, but you can't fit as much into them. Most writers choose the middle ground. Go for many two acts. That's not too tough. One act at ninety minutes is more popular these days. Seriously, whatever works for you. I mean...how successful can you really be anyway?
5. Replace words of one story with your own words.
"We must refrain from the male altogether.... Nay, why do you turn your backs on me? Where are you going? So, you bite your lips, and shake your heads, eh? Why these pale, sad looks? why these tears? Come, will you do it-yes or no? Do you hesitate?"
Elizabeth Connon (my mother's maiden name) says:
"All I said was don't let them get you on your backs, and you get all up in my grill. You aren't worthy to call yourself women! Control yourselves and end this war in Iraq!"
6. Do this for a while.
Like Mad Libs, only it's art. The longer it takes, the more work you appear to have done. So take your time.
7. Give your play a catchy title.
Put verbs before nouns until you hit it. Examples include Bedding the Beast, Kicking Uncle Swifty, Snorting Heaven, Tearing the Tears, Popping Cherry Blossoms. The combinations are endless.
8. Read over what you've done. HATE it.
Don't like it. If you do like it, you are failing to understand the nature of this world and your tiny, insignificant place in it.
9. Show your play to others.
Explain to them that this play isn't finished, that it's a rough draft, that you think it needs work, that you're hoping the influences aren't too apparent, that you're feeling confident, but would really like their advice.
10. Repeat this process with people who have increasing amounts of money.
Do not improve the play, but change it. This is development.
11. Mail the play to a lot of people.
12. Explain, in detail, to all who would listen, that the reason you aren't produced more often is that you don't have an agent/grant/degree from a good school/connections/rich Father.
13. Enjoy the illegal or legal drug of your choice.
Simple enough? I thought so.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Where do you find excellent "performance on the web?" What does "performance on the web" mean to you? How does it relate to theater? Is it a marketing tool, a new medium to explore? Do you listen to podcasts, download BBC radio plays, watch YouTube channels that I am unaware of that highlight opera or dance?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
We return, nonetheless, with this minimalist feast by the pop star Jewel. According to the fan page from which it was copied and pasted, the poem is either from linear notes to an album, or her book of poetry "A Night Without Armor." As it makes no difference, I will simply share the poem and then we can discuss the merits therein. Pens at the ready, scholars!
I wrote those nice
poems only because
the honest ones
would frighten you
1. When this poet says "I," does she mean, "an MTV generation pop star without even a hint of shame or irony" or does she mean Fiona Apple wearing a fright mask?
2. Jewel adroitly separates the word "nice" and "poems" here. She also separates the words "because" and "the." Explain how this chicanery adds special resonance to those terrifically dull words.
3. When Jewel says "honest," does she mean honest with herself about her skill as a poet?
4. The final word of this poem is "you." Clearly, as a reader, we are being implicated, even accused, of being so weak and sheltered that we would be frightened by true revelations about the singer's life and feelings. Have you seen those photos from Abu Ghraib? Has Jewel?
5. The title of the poem is P.S. What makes that especially precious?
Beat me to death with a CD copy of Pieces of You. Ten extra points for sparing me ever hearing her voice again.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Some quick and unedited thoughts:
The Zoo Story is an American classic and one of the greatest single acts ever written. With this additon of a first act, Albee seems to seek to refocus and deepen The Zoo Story. To give Peter a better balance with Jerry, who absolutely dominates, famously, the action of the original.
How does it work? It's hard to say objectively. The Zoo Story carries not only a rich history, but is a perfect piece in and of itself. Homelife (the first act) isn't necessary. Peter's relative silence is a part of who he is, and giving him context doesn't change how he responds to Jerry on that park bench in Central Park. It didn't, to me, seem as if the play was a 'new' full-length. Peter & Jerry feels more like two separate plays on a theme.
That theme, though, is intact: the thin film between what is civilized and what constitutes animal behavior. With Homelife, Albee presents a conversation between the balled up Peter and his more open wife, Ann. Certainly, in Homelife, Albee retains his ability to shock. But in many ways, it feels like a smaller, less developed version of The Goat or Who is Sylvia? The Zoo Story, by contrast, feels that much more rich and punchy. Not because Homelife deepens it, but because Homelife's stakes are simply lower. Jerry, by contrast, has so little stake in things being as they are, that Ann seems more like a conspirator than a provacateur.
One side note is the grammatical jousting that Peter and Ann engage in ("I would gather my wits about me." "You would gather your wits together"). The echoes with The Goat are rather loud here, and it's not my favorite mode of Albee's newer work. While it might be said to reveal a bit of over-education on the part of our leads, more than that, it seems like Albee channeling Strunk & White. It's a comedy bit, with little teeth, except to remind the audience that precision matters to the author. The Zoo Story more clearly lacks this story of 'red-pen-chic', and it's the better for it. There's no filler and no fetishizing of pedantry.
That all being said, Peter & Jerry does work as an evening. It does create some deepening of Peter's internal struggles, and the tone doesn't feel disjointed, which is a minor miracle considering how many years have passed between the writing of each. A production of Homelife without the Zoo Story seems less likely than the reverse, but it seems that's not a goal of Albee's anyhow.
Certainly worth a look. Glad I saw it. Still mulling the whole thing over.
Anyone out there taken a look at these pieces recently, or as an evening? I'd love your thoughts.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I saw the show on opening night and attended a few of the developmental readings. It's a rather rare show for New York theatre, and it has an enviable realism and humanness that I think most anyone would enjoy.
Departures less tells a story than it gives the audience a peek into an all-too-familiar time and place. Cara is a young American living and going to school abroad, whose visa has run out and must return home. Her boyfriend, a mess of a kid with a charming gift of gab, is full of impossible stories of their future and ill-fated plans for them to stay together. We see these characters with all their young passion and fragility and failings. Our window into their world is a tiny room, and when they leave the room, finally, we can't see them anymore.
One line, in particular, summed up the play for me. In the midst of a late night drunken fight, Cara accuses Andrew of being selfish. His response: "But I spent my entire summer with you." To me, this is the perfect encapsulation of love like this: it lacks any perspective, but it feels so immediate and intense. Spending an hour in their bubble is like spending an hour in any young summer romance: it's rife with desperation, surrender and a joyful sense of freedom. These two are smart and fight smart: they hit each other below the belt, and then go out and get pizza.
The actors both bring their A-game to the play: Keira Keeley makes this fragmented, self-conscious and intimidating Cara incredibly sympathetic; Travis York somehow makes the endlessly overwrought Andrew seemed doomed and magnetic. When he cuts himself shaving (you'll see what I mean) you can see how hard it is not to stay and bandage him up. He's the boy so many of us have been, and the boy so many of us have seen: entertainingly damaged, brilliantly pugnacious, all of his inadequacies just make him more attractive.
Kyle Ancowitz (who has been a partner of mine since around 2003 at this point) does some of this best directing work here. The staging is inventive but never distracts, it only augments the intimacy that the play requires.
Nytheatre.com and Aaron Riccio both have wonderful reviews of the production (far better than this one). You can get tickets here. It's not too long, so there's plenty of time for drinking afterwards, while you compare your own impossible romance with whomever you may bring with you.