- 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.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Kyle Ancowitz, David DelGrosso and I were interviewed by Martin Denton about When is a Clock (which opens on April 15th at the Access Theater).
You can read a little commentary about the interview here.
You can download (right click "save as") or listen to the podcast here.
You can also download it on iTunes.
(For the record, I mention the Brick Theater. It has become my podcast ritual.)
Friday, March 28, 2008
Ask me a question and I will answer it. For you. For you because I care about you.
Leave me this question in the comments section below. Anything you like. I am very good at answering questions about relationships, Star Wars and Professional Wrestling.
Also... the Theatre.
Let me entertain you. Let me make life just a little bit better for you.
Tom, as an actor, has the challenge of negotiating how his character speaks in time. He is the narrator, but plays out scenes that happened years ago, days ago, weeks ago, before and after he describes and introduces them to the audience. When it was decided what the age of Matt Trumbull's character would be (his own) then Tom noted that, if the scene took place years ago, maybe Gordon and Caldwell were closer in age during the scene than Tom and Matt are personally.
Tom got to see how hard it often is to be David DelGrosso, and stare Matt Trumbull in the face while he's delivering lines like "I had a dream about cod." If you saw The White Swallow, you know what a challenge that must be.
Laura has the unenviable task of acting like someone that you probably work with. Being good at it makes you either an excellent mimic, or spending too much time in places no one should be. Like a cubicle.
Tonight, Kyle, Dave and I are recording a podcast at the nytheatrecast to promote and discuss the play. I'll send a link when the interview is live.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Kyle swore, before the cast, that he wouldn't speak to me because I would blog what he says. I am, in this moment, proving him right.
Still a few odd lines inconsistencies: legacy issues from old drafts. Got to hammer that stuff out.
The question becomes how much do I manage the writing at this point? The play, as originally written, is not told in a linear fashion. With each succeeding draft, the play has become more and more linear (although I'm sure it's only more linear to me) and I've been trying to maintain the original tone of the thing while attending to the realities of presenting something that has reveals, builds, and information that needs to be doled out in a careful way. I'm definitely noticing what flows and what is held back far more: the narrative of a journey or mystery story.
But it's not about mystery. Mystery is a tone, a genre. It's not content. It's form.
Of course, sometimes you just need to set the play and leave it in peace. One can fiddle until the fiddling becomes mistaken for work.
At this point, I'm sure I'll get a call when I'm needed.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
David DelGrosso is playing a character named Cop. As this is a police officer in Pennsylvania, it's likely that we will get close to an authentic Pennsylvania State Trooper costume.
Kyle, the director, seems very excited by this detail. He has a fondness for Cop that goes beyond costuming.
David DelGrosso seems enthusiastic that he may do some, as he puts it, "hat acting."
If you're a sucker for horror fare, but are a bit turned off by the fetish-for-icky-dummies thing that's been dominating scary movies as of late, I definitely recommend checking The Mist out.
It's for adults. And it made me nervous.
Seems David Johnston felt the same way, back when it was in release.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
First thought: I am ambivalent about attending rehearsals.
This play has already gone through four and a half drafts since I started writing it (which was in...January? I think?) and it contains ideas that have been stolen/lifted/borrowed/sampled from two earlier plays of mine, one of which I wrote nearly ten years ago. I've hashed it out with Kyle, added characters, reordered the scenes, added and subtracted text.
Now, the play will be performed in just about three weeks. The actors and the director are working on it. I often feel like an intrusion when I'm in the room, watching them work... even though I've never had anyone complain about me being there, the expectation is that I am perfectly welcome, and I tend to work with people I know well and trust.
The flip side of it is that I truly enjoy being in the room.
I've spent a great deal of time on stage. I love acting and love the social and collaborative dynamics of rehearsal. As a playwright, I'm outside those dynamics. I can be invited in; I can observe and enjoy; I can even, when I feel its necessary, contribute. I cannot, or at least should not, upset the dynamics between the actors, make choices for them, undermine Kyle's process, or fill in gaps that are not filled in by the script.
For example...Monday night I attended rehearsal and was asked by one of the actors if two characters were having an affair. It is not, expressly, revealed in the script. These characters certainly have an intimacy, but the nature of it is shrouded by the construction of the play: it's never completely made clear to the audience. So... the actors need to decide for themselves.
I could, in that circumstance, come down on one side or another, which would do a disservice to those rehearsing. Part of their process is that discovery, that decision making. What they propose without me is almost always better than how I might box them in.
So... throughout the coming weeks there are rehearsals. The team that's been assembled is wonderful and I love to be around, be helpful, and most of all, I love to watch them wrestle with and act the hell out of something that existed, until now, only on the page or in my head.
Adding to my desire to be a hanger-on is that the cast has wound up being a mish-mash of old friends from different times in my life, and people both new to me and new to my work:
Tom Staggs, who plays Gordon, played Mordred in The Death of King Arthur in 2001.
Tracy Gilbert, who plays Bronwyn, has never bee in one of my plays before, but her husband, Bob, played Henry in The Great Escape. She's terrific.
Ian Gould, who plays Sean, is someone I've known since we went to Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts together in 1992. This is the first time we've worked together since then.
Laura Desmond, who plays Caroline, was in The White Swallow, The Most Wonderful Love and The Great Escape.
Beau Allulli, who plays Alex, is someone who was nearly cast in The Americans, and I'm excited to finally be working with.
Megan Tusing, who plays Lucy, is entirely new to my work, but we met her during The Baby Jesus One-Act Jubilee at the Brick Theater in December.
And, of course, Matthew Trumbull and David DelGrosso (who you might remember from any number of my plays) will both be there to ruin the entire evening with their incompetence.
Suffice to say... when I read about theater tribes, I don't have to look far.
So, as you could guess, it's a roomful of people I enjoy being around.
But they are, in this case, actors working on a play that isn't easy... how much do I indulge my own sense of fun, so to speak, at the expense of interrupting the process? And how much do I need, truly, to tread lightly? Is my self-consciousness unwarranted?
Rehearsals have been going since last week, but tonight is our first read-through (the first time the entire cast can sit down together as such.) Exciting.
For those interested in things like editing and what have you: the first draft, which I think was completed in November, was about 104 pages. The draft we're working with now is 86 pages. So we've lost around 18 pages, give or take stage directions, since last year.
More to come.
I'm curious if readers of this blog would be interested to hear my thoughts on the development up through opening and, if so, what sort of postings you'd be interested in reading?
Monday, March 24, 2008
Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”
"But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to."
The "black hustlers" line is of course ridiculously racist.
But my real issue is with the second line. Of course the first is pure hate speech. The second is the insidious argument that has kept racism alive and well in this country for years. The premise is that there is a unified front called "White America" and that unified front's voice is being oppressed by any conversation that relates to civil rights.
I'm preaching to the converted here, no doubt, but the idea that Pat Buchanan or George Bush, as wealthy white men, have some direct unified front with people, white or otherwise, who are disenfranchised, poor, or even middle class is an utterly false assertion. But beyond that, the idea that somehow white people in this country have somehow not been HEARD from is entirely insane.
There will always been people at the top who want to divide the poor into groups and set them against one another. Any talk of "White America" is simply that: an attempt to gloss over real social and economic injustice and inequality, and force truly oppressed people, regardless of their race, into an adversarial position.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Is it possible...possible... that Obama's calling for rational discussion is inspiring even those who politically disagree with him... to speak...like this? Like adults?
Call Me Anne
written and performed by Phillip Taratula
Saturday, March 29th, 8pm
sponsored in part by GuS Soda
in the Access Gallery
380 Broadway, 4th Fl.
New York, New York, 10013
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
My contribution is... when is the last time you asked yourself what the value of a painting was? Or the value of the movies? Or the value of opera? Or PBS? Maybe you said "Christ why is there American Idol?" but you weren't being serious. You know why it exists: the same reason the Christians were fed to the Lions.
We simply know, in our bones, that in order to live full lives, we must engage with something beyond ourselves, something that expresses abstractions and feelings. There is a difference between understanding something and experiencing it. We may be able to know where "fear" comes from by studying the brain and evolution; but to feel "fear" is something else. We may be able to track the chemistry of love through the body; but when you see and feel love, you are a whole, not the sum of your parts.
Theatre is simply one more way in which we experience the world. We slow it down, break it a part, present it as a re-enactment, through the lens of some creative impulses.
It's another way to write poetry, to tell stories, to paint a picture.
And, despite the almost constant cries that it is endangered, we make quite a bit of it, every day, all over the world.
Does its value have a measure? Ask yourself: is it valuable to you? If it is, it has value. You are no less or more important than any other person. I am not sure why or how to quantify that. I just feel that it is so.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God bless America’? No, no, no. Not God bless America. God Damn America.”
This statement doesn't bother me. I don't see what the big deal is here. Except that a black leader was angry at the government on TV.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I'll write more substantively about what's up soon.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Let's check in on the state of one of our great American playwrights:
1. Makes TV shows and movies about the military
2. Next film is about... jiu-jitsu.
3. Latest New York stage offering: harmless Nathan Lane sketch comedy about the Presidency after perhaps the most egregious Administration in the history of the US.
4. Is no longer a "brain-dead liberal." As if he represented, until now, deeply liberal values.
I'm sorry, but is liberalism so prevalent in this country that it needs to be rebelled against? One of the world's most intellectually lazy stances must be "I'm against everyone."
Mamet, is, as usual, mooing about himself.
Monday, March 10, 2008
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
I certainly hope both former Vice Presidential nominee Ferraro and Senator Clinton have the good sense to apologize outright for this statement.
Clinton has made it worse. She (through her campaign manager) has accused Obama of making attacks by objecting to these statements. Then, Ferraro went on to say this:
Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?
Holy shit. How bad is that?
Last week we had a second reading of a new draft of When is a Clock. The play will be going up in mid-April, and we're beginning the casting process right away. So keep that in mind as you make your theatergoing plans in the upcoming month.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Here's the rules -
Here's the deal:
Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, I cross it off the list.
This is my ultra-goddamn geek list. I mean, seriously. All of this is easy and just what I thought of while sitting here. I would not call it a "list of my favorite films." But heck, it's fun.
1. There is no civility, only politics.
- Russ Marcel got this.
2. This is a snake skin jacket. It's a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom. Hill!
3. A strange man defecated on my sister. (Ok, I can't figure out how to make this strikethrough. I'm a tool. Anyone know how? I'm turning it to Red in the meantime. Well done, Matthew.
4. -Have you ever heard of the Emancipation Proclamation?
- I don't listen to Hip-Hop! Hill!
5. I was not just fondling my lamb's wool sweater!
Troubador gets this one.
6. - Jack Flack always escapes!
That's right Frogeh. Cloak and Dagger.
7. - I guess I just don't fit the new corporate profile?
- Which is?
- ... Competence.
- You got it Adam.
8. - Home? I have no home! Hunted, despised. Living like an animal. The jungle is my home. But I will show the world that I can be it’s master! I shall perfect my own race of people. A race of atomic supermen which will conquier the world!Pull the string! Pull the string! Hill!
9. The only way to win is not to play. Hill!
10. Suave! Goddamn, you are one suave fucker! Hill!
11. I mean, hell, Hank, I've never even kissed a girl. You know, if me becoming rich is gonna change all that, you know I'm all for it.
Art scores with this one.
12. We are gathered here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. But it should be noted that this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human.
13. - Oh God.
- Zod! Hill!
14. Wings? I don't have wings!
- Of course not! You're a boy!
Isaac Butler got this one. Because he's a Gelfling.
- We've met before, haven't we. I don't think so. Where was it you think we met?
- At your house. Don't you remember?
- No. No, I don't. Are you sure?
- Of course. As a matter of fact, I'm there right now.
- What do you mean? You're where right now?
- At your house.
If what I'm reading is right, the pledged delegate count is almost in exactly the same place. She's still not, in actuality, in the lead among pledged delegates. She never has been.
Onwards. Endlessly. To arguments about fuzzy math and weird triangulations.
I'm sure John McCain is thrilled.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
In addition: Newsweek makes it perfectly clear.
So... why is Clinton still in the race... besides hubris?
Note: After Super Tuesday, it was plainly declared that Clinton had drawn with/lost to Obama overall. He was expected to have a string of victories (he had all those, by large margins) and Hillary was expected to have to come up strong...today. She was always expected to win both Texas and Ohio, but the question became numbers: it was said that if she didn't win both by more than 16 points... she would never catch up to him in pledged delegates. Suffice to say: even a victory by a few points for her in Ohio doesn't add up to victory for Hillary Clinton.
Then came the few days of bad press for Obama (Rezko being on trail; the NAFTA-Canada controversy), Saturday Night Live comes out for Clinton, and Clinton makes big waves about media bias. So what do we have now? The narrative has become about the possible scenarios that keep Hillary Clinton in the race. Including narrow victories in Texas and Ohio, or splitting the states.
Now who's complaining about the power of words versus action? If you look at all logical scenarios, the chances of Hillary Clinton winning more delegates than Obama is slim-to-none. And, of course, he's won all over the country, and she's been winning (and is expected to continue to win) traditional democratic strongholds by thin margins. The race hasn't changed, only the narrative.
So what if Hillary Clinton does force a big fumble for Obama, changes the rules to get Michigan and Florida's delegates to count, moves all the superdelegates into her camp, and wins a long, bloody race to the convention. What do we get?
Senator Clinton versus Senator McCain. Thank God. The Democratic Party wouldn't want to win. It would take away our street cred.
We shall see. Personally, I'm hoping for an end to the race tonight.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Actor's Choice: Monologues for Teens
Both of these collections feature pieces from The Death of King Arthur.
Lots of great writers are represented in these books. Fantastic for auditions. Buy one. For yourself. And your school district. Today.
How bleak is my valley? Quite apparently. Except, of course, for those of us having a great time despite the obvious and painfully unfair circumstances. I want to see them changed. And I applaud the changes that people are trying to make. But I also think that there's lots of wonderful stuff out there going on, and we can be too quick to commit ritual love-suicide.
Anyone out there having a lovely time seeing great plays and making great plays?
Even though (see below) I didn't pee with glee over August: Osage County...it's a three and a half hour American play on Broadway that it's considered important to see. In fact, the straight play is doing rather well on Broadway as of late, no?
Encouraging I think.
What's some stuff you find encouraging lately?
- It's fun enough, flashy, punchy, soapy, and ultimately like watching HBO in a very big doll house. I like HBO. It's not really about anything you could put in capital letters. It's not about "The American Family" or "America" or "Addiction" or whatever. Whenever it tries to be, it sort of comes off hollow. You immediately want it to return to nastiness and laugh lines.
- Didn't dig the Indian/Native American Johnna character. Someone please tell me what she is supposed to represent in a cogent way. Clearly, I missed something. On the surface, it's an expediently dull portrayal of the housekeeper/minority: she has nothing but blank care for the far-more-fucked-up-but-three-dimensional white folks around her and, when not needed, sits upstairs dutifully reading T.S. Eliot or comes downstairs to cook great meals. I'm sure there's supposed to be some commentary on racism there, but it seemed pretty thin.
- Thought the twists were pretty mundane fare but the audience around me gasped at them. People had a blast. That's awesome to see when watching a play, especially on Broadway. The play as excellent entertainment is incredibly rare these days. I think that's what all the excitement is about: watching a play that doesn't feel like homework.
- The expectations game, in all things, is a painful one.