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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rule Britannia?

This posting from the Guardian (thanks Mark) takes stock of the American Playwrights' Plight.

Noteworthy to me is that Dying City is rightly noted as a British Import, even though it's by a young American-born writer, Christopher Shinn.

What does this tell us? We all need to start producing further East, maybe? Maybe the next Arthur Miller should write a play about Minnesota and have it produced in London?

1 comment:

Ian G said...

This is a tough one. The wife and I saw "Coram Boy" last Friday, and we both though that it represented some real problems with the economics of Broadway; I found it interesting that it was cited so often in the Guardian article. "Coram Boy" arrives with an impeccable pedigree: it was a huge hit at the RNT in London, an epic with a large cast, a choir, and a full orchestra all decked out in 18th century finery. It's a straight play, but it features over an hour of music. It has a sweeping, epic story, an eye-popping design, several strong performances and some really beautiful staging. It has everything going for it.

Except a script.

The writing of "Coram Boy" is a mess. Overwrought, dramaturgically confusing, full of unintentionally funny bits of completely unearned melodrama of the "No, Luke, I AM YOUR FATHER" school, it hamstrings the actors and is utterly uninvolving. We left completely gobsmacked at the amount of time, talent, energy and, yes, money lavished on the enterprise. It's a straight play that costs at least as much as a Broadway musical, fer crissakes. A play with plot holes you could drive a truck through and a 90-minute Act 1 that serves as nothing but prologue to Act 2, which is when the plot actually begins. (Seriously - there's an article in the Playbill that includes a quick plot summary, and the action it describes all takes place in Act 2). So I had to wonder - what if this was an American play? Suppose a writer came up with a promising-but-rickety, 3-hour play about 18th-century child welfare, a play that needed 20 actors, a 25-member choir, and a full Baroque orchestra? Can you say "development hell"? But because of the imprimatur of the RNT and praise from London, the play get brought over here and mounted on freakin' Broadway at a cost of millions. I'm not a writer, but sitting there all I could think of was how maddening it must be for all the diligent, careful playwright who work so hard to craft a play, only to see such incredibly sloppy work get laurels and a Broadway production. I don't know what the answer is here, and don't want to disparage the British, who I think produce about the same amount of excellent theatrical work per capita as anywhere else. But American producers are dazzled by the Brits - there's the old, true joke about American producers: "How does a producer define genius?" "Anyone from England". And unfortunately, American writers have to make way and get fewer productions as a result. Ironically, British theatres seem to be much more open and interested in new American work - I know you were half-joking, Matt, but if I was a young playwright looking for a break, I'd absolutely try to get my stuff to the Royal Court, or the Tricycle, or Donmar, or even the RSC and RNT - I think the odds of those places taking a new American playwright seriously are probably much better. Worked for Chris Shinn, Neil LaBute, whole buncha folks.