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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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I don't know

Tony's discussion made me think a bit about what I know, and what I don't, about content and writing.

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I do not know if you should begin with a character, or if you should begin with a premise.

I do not know if you should write from a political point of view, or if you should work from a place of ambiguity.

I do not know if you should toss out structure, or if you should choose a structure and slavishly serve it.

I do not know if you should try to ape your heroes, or eradicate them.

I do not know if you should use intermissions, or if you should avoid them.

I do not know if you should write within the context of your peers, or focus on your audience, or imagine an audience, or write as if only you exist.

I do not know if you should create a collage, plan out your play ahead of time, or write off the top of your head.

I couldn't tell you if you should revise ruthlessly, or embrace your messes.

I can't tell if you should work within the frame of genre, or fight it.

I don't know if I would recommend swordfights, a kitchen table, or white robes.

I have no idea if it is harder to be funny or serious.

I don't know if fundamentalism is an absolute evil.

If there are only so many stories to tell, I can't imagine which ones you should be writing.

I don't know how to make a novel into a play, a play into a novel, or to pull a novel out of a play, or put a play into a novel.

I can't tell the difference between a poem and a "language play."

I have no recommendations to make about faith.

I can't tell the difference between David Mamet and David Mamet.

I don't know how to stage Ibsen anymore.

I can't tell you how much school is too much school.

I don't know your motivations; I don't know my motivations.

I don't know if epic plays are better than one-acts.

I don't have any beliefs about tragedy.

I cannot speak to my own experience, because I do not understand myself. And I don't understand your experiences either.

I don't know if you should tell the truth, or lie.

I do not know if I prefer Jung or Freud.

I cannot attest to the importance of songs.

I don't have a rule about sex and violence on-stage.

I don't know the monologue to scene ratio that makes a play work.

I don't have any idea how to achieve the theatrical experiences that I imagined existed when I first fell in love with the theater.

I don't know what you imagined, or what you do imagine.

I cannot interpret dreams accurately.

I don't know how long a play should be.

I don't know how not to repeat myself; but I can't write the same play twice.

I cannot endorse autobiography.

I write what I don't know. I don't know if you should write what you don't know, or do know, or make things up that no one knows.

6 comments:

Tony Adams said...

I think what I do know is that every writer is different.

But sometimes I only know it when I see it. :)

Karen Jeynes said...

Thanks for this Matthew, lovely, I'm going to try and link here from my blog!

Ian G said...

Ooo, this might be my favorite post ever. Anyone in theatre who claims to know even one of these answers should probably find something else to do with their lives, quickly.

RVCBard said...

I think I'm the same way. If I really knew what I was saying or trying to say when I write, I'd just say it instead of dealing with the soup of images and emotions and impression swirling in my head. I'd like to hope there's still room for mystery and enchantment in theater.

Dan Freeman said...

My two cents

Start w/ character introduce premise

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, Stick with structure.

Don’t ape or eradicate your heroes. Become one of them.

I like a good intermission, gives me time to buy a drink and use the bathroom. If there are no concessions available, screw ‘em.

Aim at your audience by imagining your peers. Don’t waste time yelling at an imagined enemy, odds are the people who really disagree with you aren’t reading your book or watching your play and you’ll just be brow beating the converted.

For writing method, use what works.

Revise ruthlessly. Take time away from the project and return to it, don’t get too attached to pet sentences.

If you’re writing creatively, decide what the genre is after you’re done. If you’re working with a specific editor, publisher, etc., the same rules apply to writing that applies everywhere else. As in, do whatever the boss wants you to.

Go with sword fights.

It’s definitely harder to be funny. Seriousness, by comparison is pretty basic.

It is.

Write what you know. Tell the story that interests you the most, just on that zap bang boom sort of level. Don’t over think what you “should” be writing.

Me neither. I say just let a novel be a novel and a leave a play as a play.

Sounds like poets are trying to find new ways to sell themselves, and why shouldn’t they?

Have faith in death and taxes. Aside from that, leave “Faith” to the faithful.

One is a play write that is famous for film, and of course the other is famous screen writer who is thought of as a play write.

Me neither.

There’s never too much school, just too many loans.

You’re motivation is that you’re starving and desperately need to sell this next play.

I prefer one-acts. But then I have no attention span.

Most of the time tragedy is too much like life to be entertaining.

Everything you write comes from you, even when you’re trying to write about something else all you’re doing is using you’re impression of that person place or thing. You can’t escape it, it doesn’t matter if you understand it.

Lie. Clearly no one finds the truth all that relevant.

Go with Jung. Freud is too interested in himself. Compared to Jung he has very little scientific data and in general Freud does very little in the way of observing others and their actual reactions.

What about Dylan?

That’s good, don’t make one. The story just wants to be told.

Youth is unrealistic. Don’t imagine that you should hold yourself to that sort of standard. Growing up and figuring out what can be done, is a damn sight better than being young and simply imagining it.

You probably don’t want to know either.

I don’t honestly think that they’re meant to be interpreted.

As long as it needs to be, in so far as you can keep our attention.

Don’t be overly concerned about making similar points with different stories. Sometimes a point should be made more than once.

Yeah, it is a bit of narcissistic.

Try to write what you don’t know. It will force you to be more imaginative. You will of course inevitably be writing with your own voice and interpretation whether you like it or not. But it is always surprising how accurate reasoning through something you’ve never experienced can come off to someone who has experienced it. It’s all about realism and hardly ever about reality.

Adam said...

sweet!