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

Monday, December 17, 2007

A strange sentiment

Over at the Guardian, in a post titled "Why America has no national theater," George Hunka writes about the strength of the European theatrical tradition as opposed to the tradition in the US. I've often found this sort of logic puzzling: the divide between European history and American history is pretty damn thin. In fact, the US citizenry is made up of thousands of traditions, including and especially British ones.

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.


George Hunka said...

I think you misconstrue my points, Matthew. First, I never say that European theatre culture is better than the US theatre culture -- only that it's different, based upon the history of the form on those continents. Different does not mean superior. It only means different. (And by the way I do in fact say quite bluntly that "Any population, especially a population as heterogenous as America's, is a collection of communities and subcultures, not a generic 'whole community' of which broad assumptions can be made about its taste," so I'm aware that the US citizenry is made up of thousands of traditions. That only supports my argument that the definition of a "national" theatre in the US would be unnecessarily reductive in its definition.)

Second, I'm not hostile to the US theatrical and dramatic community. I do question efforts to say that any kind of theatre (or any kind of hegemonic empire-building) is "American"; to do so in a national theatre would be to implicitly define the theatre excluded as "unAmerican." And I'm hostile to any attempts to tar that kind of theatre with that xenophobic brush.

Leonard Jacobs said...

Why be baffled by George Hunka? He is most hostile to the US theatre, thinks he knows what he's talking about insofar as critics go, and is doing a great job positioning himself as an intellectual poseur.

His comment (that parenthetical in particular) is also impenetrable.

Freeman said...

Hey there everyone:

I think it's fair to say I was a little hasty in my reading, although I still detect some hostility in the statement. Let's not be too quick to be personal.