- 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, April 30, 2007
I've seen two of Jimmy Comtois' plays The Adventures of Nervous Boy and now Suburban Peepshow. I remember talking to him about this new production, and how he felt it was his lighter fare. The quirky, quick-and-dirty comedy to contrast the darker work of Nervous Boy.
What I found, instead, is that his voice is very much the same, and perhaps, a little more free, in Suburban Peepshow. Without any particular statement to make about alienation and Urban Ennui, he winds up writing a play full of alienation and ennui, which somehow manages to be hilarious and messy and intricate... without any strain or anxiety in the craft. It was very much like The Adventures of Nervous Boy, without being an repeat performacne, which is a very good thing.
I might add that Zack Calhoon was fabulous as Bill, and was new to the Nosedive crew. Great job on his part as well.
(Trailers, too, was very funny. Don't want to leave that out. Rebecca Comtois, the younger sibling, would make milk come out of my nose if she were at my lunch table. This young lady ain't half bad either.)
I'd also like to say a word about the direction (which will likely please Michael). Pete Boisvert has impressed the hell out of me with his creative use of limited spaces (he made the Red Room work with a fair amount of ingenuity and some really lovely staging) and does great work with actors, very clearly. The casts for both shows were not only funny, and inventive, but affecting and truthful in outlandish situations. That's, I'm sure, in no small part to his work.
So, bravo Nosedive and thanks for a fine time.
Friday, April 27, 2007
After Virgina Tech, there was a disturbing and all-too-familiar trend: talk-show hosts and radio callers and newspaper editorials spoke about early detection. They spoke of extra protections and new standards. They treated bad plays and disturbing creative writing as, somehow, evidence of a person capable of the worst crimes. That is a trend that is far more disturbing than a teenage boy writing about shooting stuff.
We have not heard any real talk of an uptick in the gun control laws. We should. But we won't. (For an excellent essay about this, try this one.)
I don't tend to comment on things like this. Especially not publically. I'm not connected to anyone at Virginia Tech, and I'm not qualified or connected enough to claim some expertise on campus security, gun laws and violence.
I will say, though, that we will never, ever be able to prevent violent crime by treating creative writing, no matter how "disturbing" as dangerous. A free society is not a society that places safety above freedom. It can't be. If you want to be entirely safe from harm, you are welcome to enter solitary confinement.
Personally, I think they make a very strong appeal for their vision. They will, though, need more than guys like me applauding them. They'll need people to e-mail them and say "I want to help."
Their email address is loindependenttheater (at ) gmail.com.
Their website? Here it is! Click!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
One thing I think is telling, speaking of the mainstream media, is how this whole affair exposes, in many ways, the strengths and weaknesses of the blogosphere. It's fast to the trigger.
Obviously, the blogosphere helped to get the word out that this was an important story, and drove the conversation quite a bit. It was, though, actual journalism (remember that?) which uncovered the facts that now begin to shape the truth behind the story.
It goes to the heart of the matter in many ways. As of now, blogs are a place to create a sense of urgency and activity that might not have existed beforehand. Then again, they are easily driven to a sort of distanced outrage. It's not, obviously, my job to call up public schools, write up articles, and go through fact checking. So it's my choice to take certain facts at face value, or reject certain facts, and my responsibility to respond when new facts arise. It's also a perfectly reasonable response to wait until the facts are out there before commenting on them second or third hand.
What I think Playgoer was actively responding to was the sense that this incident amounted to a mythic cultural standoff between Daisey and the Christian Right. It's noteworthy, though, that Eisler's independent response garnered as much, if not more, actual response than the incident itself. The story became, rather quickly, dissention in the unofficial ranks, from one the blogosphere's leaders, as opposed to a true interest in what actually happened.
We became far more interested in our own commentary than we became interested in what happened in Boston. Probably because argument is more entertaining (and drives more hits) than is reporting.
Perhaps that's because as the story unfolded, the facts appeared far more mundane, less sensational, and even a little depressing. This wasn't a battle about free speech, it was an isolated incident between a confused, uncommunicative school group and an artist whose work depends on conversation and a sense of openness.
I think Daisey's response was absolutely understandable. He felt accosted, hijacked, and fundamentally dismissed. He takes himself and his work seriously, and he is focused, clearly, on getting something new from this. He's a storyteller, and for better or worse, this is grist for his mill.
From what I've read thus far, though, I think the school group seemed also a bit hijacked and dumbfounded. In a restrictive and quiet setting, with no easy exit, they made a group decision that was probably one I wouldn't have made. And the individual (called only David on Daisey's blog) who acted with the most vitriol is clearly someone who needs to think hard about how he acts out in public and what he's so afraid of. Why, for example, does this man feel able to walk right up to Daisey and pour water on his work? Because, it seems, that he feels superior to Daisey or in the midst of a conflict with Daisey's choice of language and values.
I certainly don't think that everyone in that room was looking for a fight. If anything, they were looking for the doors. Maybe that's the wrong impulse...maybe for a group chaperoning students, they felt it was the only choice they could make.
Nonetheless, this isn't a case of Us versus Them. The more we can refuse that sort of language (a language the offending party, David, seems comfortable with), the more we can get to the actual conflicts. People are still afraid of certain words, certain attitudes, and that's a shame. But David, a father of three, clearly feels as if he is holding the line against a world that he sees as corrupting his kids and challenging his worldview.
If we're going to keep this kind of thing from happening, we need to address David's concerns, not treat them as so much bigotry. He needs to know that people like Mike Daisey are the good guys, people who want to spread experience and tolerance and a sense of a larger world. That's good for kids, and good for all of us.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
One of the participants: Yours Truly, Matthew Freeman. You will, of course, attend the performances. You are a person of taste.
Furthermore, the Pretentious Festival is wholeheartedly embracing the blogometric scale of marketing with this important piece of New Media.
More info to come about my show, An Interview with the Author, as it develops.
Don't forget, all those who love Pretentiousness, to submit to The MFer Awards!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The 2006 Grand Prize winner?
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.Jim Guigli
Anyhow... this has inspired me to being an unofficial award of my very own. I shall call it the MFer Award (for now, until I come up with a better name.) Here's how it will work:
1. I would like the title and single-sentence premise of the worst play you can think of. It should conjure, instantly, a failed and hilariously bad evening of Theatre.
2. We'll have three genres and an "overall" prize. Drama, Comedy, and Performance Art.
3. Each genre award winner will receive a check for $18! Overall winner will receive an additional prize of... $18. Which means you'll get $36 bucks. Hell yeah. All winners will have their picture posted on my blog and money straight from my personal checking account.
4. E-mail your Title and Premise to email@example.com.
Let's see how this goes.
Winners will be announced (if there's enough interest) on May 1st 2007.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Irony Department. The cowardly "protestors" who screwed with Mike Daisey have, instead, spread a lot of love around for the man. I'll bet you any money that his future performances won't have much trouble selling out. Perhaps because of the actions of these few, next time, they won't be able to score so many seats.
UPDATED YET AGAIN:
Looks like I spoke too soon. Just when it looked like Blogs were a monolithic collection of do-gooders, Garrett Eisler has to launch into an independent opinion of the event. And here as well. Note the links at the bottom of his post for more discussion on it.
Personally, I think that Mr. Daisey's response was pretty much the only right one he could have. I get a little wary of the view that the only response to right-wing nutjobs is to calmly rise above it. Sometimes, people are cowards and should be called cowards. Sometimes we are insulted and its perfectly reasonable to say "I am offended by your childish behavior." If anything, he kept his cool. He didn't, for example, throw stuff at them.
Now...do I think this single event represents some larger sign that there is a world of conspiratorial "Christians" that are looking to Censor the work of various artists? No. From this distance (and I know absolutely nothing, of course) it looks like a pack of people with nothing better to do, who felt like they could make a statement about...cursing. Or something.
I'd really like to know... what is it that they were protesting? Did they just THINK he was Eric Bogosian?
I'd love it if someone involved in the protest would, anonymously or otherwise, e-mail Mike or Playgoer or me or any Blogger, or even the mainstream press, and just let us know what they heck you were thinking. I'd be truly curious, more than anything, to find out what you were trying to say.
YET ANOTHER ANOTHER UPDATE:
Playgoer states his case here. Interesting read. Personally, again, I feel like Daisey is absolutely entitled to his response, as he was the one treated disrespectfully. I do agree that this isn't a censorship issue (as yet) but it is disturbing.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
He doesn't connect these two issues, but something in me does.
A few rambling thoughts:
The issue of class, although I didn't post on it when it first came up in March, has been at the forefront of my own life and work for quite some time. Partially because, as I've gotten older and more self-aware, it's become clear to me that my most prominent prejudice is related specifically to class envy and class inequity.
Compared to some (or maybe that comparison is simply perceived by me) I have lack of a solid foundation in the liberal arts, and a catch-as-catch-can education. My schooling was in Acting, and my education was at a public high school with very little depth or challenge. Reading theory was always a matter of personal choice and curiousity, and it was never taught to me in a structured way. Because of this, I've often felt hostile to those that were given, perhaps, a better systemic education. I am, for the most part, a self-taught playwright and self-taught reader.
Because of this, I've often affected the tone of the populist, to counteract what I felt was a sort of class barrier. To protect myself, I'm sure, from charges of being undereducated.
I've often, also, felt hostile to those with money. Especially those in that 18-35 range, that have financial security through an accident of birth. I've been known to be dismissive of anyone with financial advantages, treating their successes as somehow false, calling their dedication into question.
I remember reading, for example, a profile of Arielle Tepper and being incensed. How many of us, with far more credentials and elbow grease, would kill to produce at her level? I thought, and said to others, that I found it revolting that someone who was simply wealthy could control that much of the New York stage, at her whim. Then again... who else could do it? And... are her choices bad? Does she make mistakes, or does she try to promote new work? My gut response was and is a sort of adolescent churlishness. The reality is that she could spend her money on anything, and she spends it on new playwrights and exciting theater. Is it fair that her tastes are reflected over those who might have sacrificed more? No. Is it fair to dismiss her own choices because she is able to make them? No.
Paul Auster is one of my favorite writers. A few years ago, though, I read Hand-To-Mouth, which is subtitled "A Chronicle of Early Failure." I found the work disingenous at best. His story was one of a child of privilege who chooses to struggle, and then tries to impress upon the reader that this struggle was, in a sense, real. The book stuck in my craw. Isn't it privilege itself to choose struggle? Isn't it, in a sense, hubris to imitate the troubles of those less fortunate?
Isaac used the term Upper Middle Class to describe himself in his original posting. That's a loaded term in and of itself. For example, when reading Within the Context of No Context by George W.S. Trow, Trow assigns himself to the Upper Middle Class as well. He also notes a long and connected family history, and a private school, top-flight education. I thought to myself ... why does he insist on the word "Middle?" Is he not, in many ways, a representative of Upper Class? By way of his thinking, his dismissal and removal from the troubles of the broader culture, his breeding, his world-class education? Again, it's a comparative term. To whom are Trow and Auster comparing themselves?
I would venture to say a rather wealthy elite.
Growing up in Boyertown, PA, with a mother who taught at the public high school...no one could call us wealthy. Not by those standards. Then again, the teachers in our area were often considered overpaid, a wealthy citizenry who had summers off. This was by the "middle class" of our community, who worked in factories or ran small businessnes, and struggle to make ends meet and keep track of large families.
Then again, I wasn't from Boyertown. I went to elementary school in Maplewood, NJ, with is an affluent and multi-cultural community. There were times I was acutely aware that much of the racial prejudice in the community in Boyertown was simply the result of insulation that I had been privileged enough to avoid. So should I feel superior to these people for not being a racist? Or lucky? Or, in fact, is it a combination of a variety of factors, and not just "where you grew up and how much your parents made?"
My father, for example, may not be Bill Gates, but he isn't about to starve to death either. He's worked at the wealthiest and most iconic institutions in the Episcopal Church: Trinity Church on Wall Street and the Washington National Cathedral. As a rector, he's lived and worked in very wealthy communities, like Short Hills, NJ and now Orono, Minnesota, which is a sort of Short Hills of the Midwest. Suffice to say, even though he's been the minister to CEOs and Powerbrokers, he has had access to them and hasn't done badly because of it. (For the record, his background is decidedly less affluent, growing up in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which was, briefly, the arson capital of the US.)
How does this connect to the "victim mentality?" Is it possible that it's easier to dismiss certain kinds of complaint as a "victim mentality" if you have an easier time participating in culture? It seems to be a mantra of those with a certain amount of privilege that those who engage in a certain amount of hand-wringing about systemic problems are simply crying victim.
But what does it mean to actually be a victim? Is it, in fact, finding yourself in circumstances that are antithetical to your own success, or that are actively harmful to you, through no fault of your own? Isn't it easier to avoid this attitude if you can, for example, spend your way out of those circumstances?
There are certainly people who can purchase a production at Theater Row, regardless of their background, resume, artistic credentials. There are many out there who could not to this, regardless of the same issues.
If what it takes to make it in the world of art in the US is free time to do ones work, the ability to pay (at times) for one's own way, and access to excellent education and information... then those with financial advantages simply have easier access into the Arts and an easier time developing their work. That isn't to say the results won't be the same in the end. It means that time, for example, that a few can spend reading over the great books and rehearsing and doing script analysis is time that many are doing overnight or giving up sleep for. To believe that having financial security doesn't affect the longevity and effectiveness of many young artists in the US would be folly.
This isn't to devalue Isaac's opinion at all. He's brave to bring up his own class issues, because having privilege can be just as difficult a position as not having it, when trying to feel a member of a peer group. I also applaud his honesty and his absolute dedication to the art that I'm dedicated to. We share that value, whether or not he has to temp occasionally or if he had to work the night shift. All of us in theatre have the same basic goals, which is to be successful and to be heard. But the dynamics of the debates going on, and the issues we all face in a culture that does not properly subsidize the arts, are directly related to a certain amount of privilege.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
So here's something a bit more fun I've been thinking about...
What makes something, or someone, Pretentious?
Currently, I'm developing a piece for the Pretentious Festival called "An Interview with the Author" which is an interview with myself about my work, more or less. In an effort to crack open what the content of the piece will truly be, Kyle and I sat down and said "Well... what makes this deserve a place in this particular festival?"
My first instinct: Speaking of my own work and life as if they are unique and important is somehow comical. Kyle challenged that notion. His thought was that while it was, of course, self-aggrandizing... it's also not that uncommon in contemporary society to assume one's own life is worthy of public display. In fact, it's the very center of whatever's driving the new media culture. It's hard to appear pretentious when you are aping the same impulse as everyone who's on myspace.
Is pretention simply inflated self-importance? Or is it something else? We bandied about the idea that pretentiousness is the assumption that your own knowledge is somehow inaccessible to the audience. Or that your own views, while common, have a weight that could not be understood by others simply because of some secret, self-prescribed pact you have with a certain "truth." Is it the assumption that your taste and insight have more depth than that of your peers or audience?
Or is it just wearing black?
Or is it writing poems about how hard it is to have a Dad that doesn't understand you?
Anyhow... what does it really mean when we call someone or something pretentious? Is it just a dismissal of someone who we find intimidating? Is it something quantifiable? Or is it just like pornography ("I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it" - David Johnston)? Have you any stories that might illuminate it...someone you found especially pretentious is your life or reading?
Is being pretentious...having a blog?
Very cool aggregator of Theater Related Blog content. Worthy of your bookmark.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
2001 - Proof by David Auburn
2002 - Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
2003 - Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz
2004 - I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright
2005 - Doubt, a parable by John Patrick Shanley
2006 - No Award Given
2007 - Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire
And there you have it.
So...that's a list from the 2000 on. I'd be curious if there were American plays from these past seven years you found more deserving of this honor.
Playgoer thickens the plot a bit.
ANOTHER UPDATE -
The Playgoer shows exactly what blogs are good for. Stirring the pot and added analysis.
Friday, April 13, 2007
First off, a piece of mine has been chosen to appear in the Pretentious Festival at the Brick Theater this summer. Kyle and I are developing it as we speak. It's called An Interview With The Author and it will be, essentially, a sort of interview with myself about my work. Which is, as we all know, navel-gazing, meta-meta pretention in its purest form.
I'll keep everyone up to date as that progresses. It should be fun. I still have to sign all the agreements and go to the meetings and whatnot. The ideas Kyle and I are shooting back and forth are, so far, rather exciting.
Second, Kyle and I got past the first round for the New Directors/New Works series at the Drama League with my play, Bluebeard. I actually rather quickly turned over the first draft in order to give them a sense of what we are trying to develop. Even if they don't decide to go for the piece, I'm proud of what it is shaping up to be. It's, so far, rather dark and hazy and grisly. We'll see how it all shapes up.
Sorry I've been posting very lightly, by the way. I just had some dental work done. Oh, and we closed "Dream of a Ridiculous Man" which turned out to be something I'm rather proud of.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Martin makes a distinction between being a critic and being a reviewer. Would you say that's a valid and useful distinction?
Monday, April 09, 2007
Matt and Karl have basically buried themselves in the piece for the past two weeks. I'm proud of their work, and would love to see how people respond to this piece. Come check it out, and, since it's only 45 minutes long, we'll have plenty of time for Monday Night drinking.
That's the National Sport.
You might want to read the translation I worked from, so you can have some sense of what I've added and subtracted and simply made up entirely.
Dream of a Ridiculous Man
Adapted by Matthew Freeman
Directed by Matthew Johnston
Featuring Karl Miller
Manhattan Theatre Source
April 9th and 10th, 2007. 8pm.
A man, ostracized by society and at his ends rope with humanity has made the decision to kill himself. The revolver lay on the table in front of him, as he accidentally drifts into sleep and dreams a dream that will change him forever.
This courageous, philosophical story by Dostoevsky examines the societal and political implications of faith, science, and human nature. Is the true nature of man good? What responsibility do we have as citizens of the world? What is religious faith and what is its potential to create or destroy human existence?
Playwright Matthew Freeman adapts the Constance Garnett translation of Dostoevsky’s short story for the stage. Freeman’s past works for the stage include The Most Wonderful Love, The Americans, The Great Escape, Genesis, Reasons for Moving and The Death of King Arthur.
Dream of a Ridiculous Man will be performed at Manhattan Theatre Source (
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I can't, honestly, take issue with Isherwood's assessment because I haven't seen these shows and know no one involved. I do think he could have been...nicer? Is that terribly naive?
It's not like people are producing these plays to personally piss him off.
They're located in a rather affluent community in New Jersey, which should set off some alarm bells. If this theater, in its location, isn't able to support itself, we're all in big trouble.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I was once a member of Emerson College's "This is Pathetic" an uber dark theatre sketch troupe with a long history of being totally inappropriate.
I'd love to get in contact with past and current members and see what they're up to. So if anyone should Google "This is Pathetic" and "Emerson College" perhaps, just perhaps, they shall find this posting and be encouraged to drop me a line.
Message in a bottle (blog)...
Monday, April 02, 2007
I was prepared, therefore, to have this reaction: "Isaac's direction is excellent, the design in beautiful, the play leaves something to be desired."
The reaction I actually had was: "Isaac's direction is top-notch, the design and look of the show is on par with the best you'll see on this scale, the cast was uniformly entertaining and heartfelt, and Clay McLeod's Chapman's play is lovely."
volume of smoke is, essentially, Spoon River Anthology for the Great Richmond Theater Fire of 1811. It's a tribute to that work, or, more specifically, to the theatrical adaptation. If you're a fan of Spoon River, then you'll probably love this piece.
You might not be. volume of smoke, just like Spoon River, lacks many of the things that we've come to expect out of new works. We expect tricks of time, we expect characters that shock us, we expect a subversion of genre, a wink to the audience, something to come in and smash up the sincerity. volume of smoke does none of these things... it's utterly sincere. Which is, in this day and age, a blessing and a curse. It's hard, I know, to get a truly emotional moment to register with an audience so innundated with emotional manipultion and so steeled against tragedy. It's also a worthy undertaking to find something specific and true, and anthologize it, and remember it.
Is the play perfect? None are. But it's a rare sort of play to see in the New York circuit these days... a brave choice and a fine, fine production.
One can, I'm told, purchase tickets hereabouts.