About Me

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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, September 30, 2008

2nd Annual One-Minute Play Festival

I'll be a part of this...

Dominic D'Andrea presents

The Second Annual One-Minute Play Festival
Saturday, October 25, 2008 through Sunday, October 26, 2008
TBG Arts Center (36th and 8th Ave.)
90 new plays. 40 writers. 9 directors. 1 Minute.

Shoestrng Productions (producers Dominic D'Andrea, Toby Knops, Ashlin Halfnight) presents the 2nd Annual One-Minute Play Festival.

The 2008 One-Minute Play Festival writers are (in no particular order):

Ed Napier, Liz Meriwether , Brian Dykstra, Rachel Axler , Caridad Svich , Bixby Elliot, Chiori Miyagawa, Justin Deabler, Jeff Lewonczyk, Alex Beech, David Zellnik, Matthew Freeman, Jihan Crowther, Ross Maxwell, Sam Forman, Kobun Kaluza , Carla Ching, Graham Gordy, Cassandra Medley , Anna Fields , Ken Urban , Kristoffer Diaz, Susan Bernfield, Leslie Kramer , Michael Sendrow , Victor Lodato, Meghan Mostyn-Brown, Courtney Brooke Lauria , Anton Dudley , Saviana Stanescu, & Rob Urbinati

And Alumni Writers: Kyle Jarrow, Clay McLeod Chapman , James Comtois, Emily Conbere , Bathsheba Doran , Ashlin Halfnight, Michael John Garces, Sibyl Kempson, Rajiv Joseph, & Anna Ziegler

PLUS special surprise guests!

Directed by:Carlos Armesto, Dylan McCullough, Kim Weild, Claire Lundberg, Dominic D'Andrea, Lou Moreno, Shelley Butler, Jacob Krueger, & Michael Gardner.

Tickets can be purchased here.

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I've got two plays in the evening, entitled Last Words and Carbon Footprint. If you don't enjoy them, you won't have to endure them for long.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thoughts on the first debate

- McCain's insistence on earmarks as a major issue just cannot possibly resonate with voters. McCain is a long-term Senator who sees how this inside-baseball issue is a bad thing. All it does is show how terribly out of touch he is. when's the last time you sat around the table with your family and discussed how important fixing the earmark process is?

Obama basically murdered him in the beginning of the debate, the economics issues. I'd bet you any money that after a 45 minutes in, half of the country tuned out.

- Damned if you do; damned if you don't. There have been plenty of substance-free debates over the course of the last year or so. This debate was full of substance, and light on theatrics. Two very serious men showed their differences of opinion. What does the national press say? A bit too dull?

I'd rather a dull, detailed debate than a bunch of gotcha moments. That's because I don't make my money from gotcha moments.

- The foreign policy part was a draw. McCain was absolutely wrong about how he wants to go about things, but he was able to make arguments based on a coherent philosophy. It's just wrong headed. Obama held his own by being confidently in the right about these issues.

I was glad to see that Obama refused to engage on the "surge" question. McCain kept bringing it up, and Obama just steped around it. Perfect way to handle it.

- All in all, I'm not surprised more people thought Obama won, even if I think he could have done better. He's more telegenic, he held his ground easily, and he seemed interested in the needs of regular Americans. This isn't a debate where you win on points; it's about the voters. Obama cares about human beings, McCain cares about his legacy and his "life's work."

- I think McCain's anger with and contempt for Obama comes through all over the place, and its working in Obama's favor. It just classless and it shows a man who takes disagreement personally. That's not the sort of President people want to spend the next four years with.

The Great Schlep

The wonders of smug comedy: when it has a sincere point, it works better.


The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Might I recommend...

NO APPLAUSE, JUST THROW MONEY:
THE SHOW THAT MADE VAUDEVILLE FAMOUS!

Trav S.D., superhero of downtown theater and historian of all things wondrous, presents this original variety revue. Note the amazing language of the press release:

"Based on Trav S.D. ‘s popular book No Applause, Just Throw Money: the Book That Made Vaudeville Famous (Faber & Faber, 2005), No Applause…The Show is an original variety revue with sketches and songs by Trav S.D., a core cast that includes Maggie Cino, Leela Corman, Gyda Arber, Danny Bowes, Michael Criscuolo, Roger Nasser, Mike Rutkoski, Scott Stiffler, Art Wallace, and special guest stars from the cream of New York’s variety scene, including Todd Robbins (Carnival Knowledge), Raven Snook, Goddess Pearlman (Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad), the Maestrocities, the Main Squeeze Pigtail Orchestra, and Mark Mitton. In addition, the production will feature fight choreography by Qui Nyugen of the Vampire Cowboys. Set and costume design is by Julianne Kroboth. "

It's running through October 5th at Theater for the New City. I'm sure it is a blast. It is full of wonderfully talented people, and led by a real expert on the subject and material.

If you do not see it, your tongue will fall out and eyes will turn into caramel.

Just sayin'.

Tickets are here!

Spent the morning

At City Hall.

Tired. So tired.

Equus Potter

Ben Brantley's review of Equus makes much ado of Harry Potter and of the performers. He does, though, dismiss this play (not the production, but the play itself) as "hokum."

The idea that a play as good as Equus can be so summarily dismissed by the Times, thirty years after its original production, gives me pause.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ok, Ok, I'll stop

But this is the saddest thing I've ever seen. It would be funny, if she wasn't in the running to be VICE FUCKING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Palin answers more questions

From the NY Times.

“Do you think that our continued military presences in Iraq and Afghanistan have inflamed Islamic extremists?” another reporter asked.

“I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. Terrible destruction on that day. But since Sept. 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.”

Donate!

Right now, without giving it a ton of thought, you should go the website of your favorite small theater company and give a donation of $25.

It will take you exactly 10 minutes. Just do that instead buying more stuff on Amazon today.

You'll feel good, they'll appreciate it and use it right away.

How about Nosedive?

Or Blue Coyote?

Dear President Bush

Hi. We're the US Department of Education. We've been following this Wall Street Crisis closely and we really hope you work it all out up there. Wow, ya know? It's scary. Instead of having no money and expansive regulations (like we have), they had tons of money and almost no regulations. Our heart goes out to them.

Anyway, we know it's off the subject, but we were reading through the proposed budget for the Department of Education for FY 2009. We have to admit, we were surprised to read this:

"For 2009, the President is requesting $59.2 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education, the same as the 2008 level, and an increase of $17.0 billion, or 40 percent, in discretionary appropriations for the Department since fiscal year 2001."

That's great. It really is. We're facing a serious crisis in education, though, and its our hope that the government will come up with a great bipartisan solution to solve our problems, and to go after the root cause of the issues we have.

We propose that the federal government reduce the risk posed by troubled schools and supply urgently needed money so teachers and students can avoid collapse and resume learning.

Would you mind borrowing $700 billion from China to help increase teacher salaries and save our failing system? It's important that our kids we remain competitive in the global market.

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Holy. F*cking. Shit.

Stumping Palin appears to be like shooting fish in a barrel.








Onion-Worthy

Cover the masthead and imagine that this was written by The Onion.

Games

I have, of late, been consuming a whole lot of video games. I got myself a PS3 a few months ago, and now I've been challenging my girlfriend's patience as I use the Force, steal cars and try to overtake the Earth.

For those who like this sort of thing, a rundown of my latest video game consumption:

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - This is why I bought my PS3 to begin with. For those who don't know, the Metal Gear series is primarily about stealth. It's also known for an impossible-to-follow storyline, grandiose set pieces, endless cinematic screens that you simply watch, and incredibly smart mission design.

This one was all I'd hoped for. Brilliant missions, heightened game mechanics, and its easily the best-looking game I've ever played. Octo-Camo is the coolest game device I've ever seen. The storyline, about a future driven by a military economy waged by private corporations, is quite engaging.

Still, Metal Gear Solid 3: Sneak Eater is the best of the series. This one is amazing, but it has no boss battles that match the ultimate battle with "The Boss" at the end of MGS3 or the two-hour Sniper Battle with "The End."

Grand Theft Auto IV - Yes, I'm working my way through it. I'm about 50% complete.

The game is famous for replicating NYC and the boroughs. It does an amazing job. I will say that actually living in NYC is an odd trick of scale: the game feels smaller than its predecessors, partially because I can see how much smaller it is than NYC. Nonetheless, it gets a whole lot right.

It's got the typically action packed mission design and an improved "cover" system that works beautifully. It's also got foul-mouthed stereotypes. What's new is an absolutely bleak tale, and a lead character that the game in no way glorifies. Niko Bellic (who you control in the game) is a nihilistic murderer who is deeply ashamed of his behavior. It's the oddest juxtaposition I've ever seen in an action game, and you can feel terrible things coming for the people he loves. It creates the oddest effect: every times you successfully complete a mission for some mob boss or drug dealer, there's a sense that you've just moved a little closer to sealing your fate.

Video games as tragedy? Why not?

Virtua Fighter 5 - Best fighting game ever made.

Soul Calibur 4 - Not the best fighting game ever made. It does, though, have online multiplayer, which Virtua Fighter sorely lacks. It's character design is famously insane, as well, and it features Darth Vader. So I certainly enjoy it. Plus, it's a game Pam happily plays with me.

Maybe she beat me once or twice.

Civilization Revolution - This is a version of Civilization made for consoles. It has a new cartoonish visual style and simplified gameplay. You can bang through a victory in an couple of hours. Those who are fans of the PC Civ games know that you can spend a few hours fiddling with the taxes in those versions.

I've played this game a fair amount. Once you get the mechanics down, its sort of repetitive, but so are board games. I do get a kick out of achieving cultural victory. It's my way.

The Force Unleashed - This is the newest Star Wars title, clearly fashioned after the God of War series. It's hero, Starkiller, is Darth Vader's "Secret Apprentice." The story line, which is not that bad so far, takes place between Episode III and the original Star Wars.

How is it? A lot of the basic ideas are fantastic and it's a blast to use the force to toss stuff around, tear open doors, kill Stormtroopers and battle the last of the Jedi. The problem is that the game mechanics are a little bit broken: there are plenty of times when simple things are made complicated by loose controls or a wonky camera. I'm not sure, but I think I've almost completed the game as well...and I've barely been playing it for 10 hours. That's not a LOT of game for $60.

Spore - I just picked this up yesterday for PC. It's the new Will Wright (The Sims) game, and it was much ballyhooed before its release. So far (and I've only gotten to the tip of the iceberg) the game is fantastic. Easy to play, but smartly constructed. You begin the game as a single celled organism, and slowly evolve legs, then tribal behavior, then a civilization, and finally space travel. There's free sharing of content among players, so the creatures, buildings and vehicles you create become a part of the larger Spore universe. All in all, I'm incredibly happy with it from the few hours I played yesterday.

There's been some contraversy about the DRM that EA is using for the game. Frankly, this argument would be more persuasive if so many people weren't stealing content as often as they are. I didn't have a big problem with it, and I don't love the software registration process, but its hard to take consumers seriously who take to the streets about the hoops they have to jump through, who clearly are happily using Bit Torrent in the next breath.

Below is an image of one of my first Spore Creations. It's called a Brox.



____

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

New Yorkers--looking for housing?

Hello, friends. Trumbull here, hijacking Freeman's blog again for my own evil schemes. I am looking for a roommate for October 1st, for my apartment in Astoria, Queens. If you know anyone who might be interested, send a note to that Freeman kid through this blog, and I will get in touch.
Here is the skinny:

Location: The apartment is on 37th Street, between 30th Ave and 28th Ave in Astoria.

Subway/Bus: The N train at 30th Ave is a 7 minute walk away. Also within walking distance--10 minutes--is the R/V/G stop at Steinway Street. 5 minutes away is the M60 bus on Astoria Blvd, which is handy for getting to LaGuardia Airport, Harlem, and Columbia University.

Your Rent: $840 a month, $840 security deposit. I'm on a lease through December 2009.

The apartment has two cats and is smoke-free, but it needs you.  Real, real soon.

And now, back to Matt Freeman.  

--Trumbull

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

antimetabole

On "On the Media" this week, they discuss the rhetorical device of Antimetabole.

Examples of this device include:

- Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

- We wanted to change Washington, but Washington changed us.

- Some people use change to promote their careers, some people use their careers to promote change.

Quite effective and ubiquitous. I definitely recommend listening to the segment on OTM, which is my favorite show on WNYC.

Got me thinking about how this device might be utterly misused.

For example...

- Some offer hope and change; others offer change to the hopeless.

- Religion will not be your whipping boy; religion whips boys for you!

- Some say crime doesn't pay; I say: "Pay me for my crimes."

- My opponent claims to love America; but I love America's claims.

- Wall Street hasn't fallen apart; a part of the Wall has fallen on the Street.

This is a fun game. You can play too! My comments section is for thee. Misuse this rhetorical device! For fun! And profit! (Well, not profit...)

Albatross!

Slacker Uprising

I downloaded and watched Michael Moore's free "movie" Slacker Uprising late last night. I'm a huge fan of his films, his voice, and I was excited to check this out.

My honest response is that it's a concert film dedicated to Moore and his fans. It's subject is Moore: his efforts to defeat Bush in 2004 and drive up voter registration among the, at the time, disengaged youth vote. We all know how well that turned out. There's not much presented that isn't either irrelevant in 2008, or a little unfortunately telling about the efforts being made. To combat the Rove smear campaign against Kerry, Democrats offered... Eddie Vedder? Rosanne Barr? Steve Earle?

If anything, it's a historical document that, yes, there were people fighting against Bush before his election in 2004. And that no, Kerry's loss to Bush was not a foregone conclusion. But the movie is more related to "The Big One" than "Bowling for Columbine," and its clear why it wasn't released theatrically.

I prefer Moore's ability to cut through the bullshit and make a salient and entertaining point about hot button issues. This film seems more like nostalgia.

Still, though, you should download it, if only to enjoy a little "preaching to the choir" and to encourage more releases of work this way.

Here's where to sign up for download.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In the Great Expanse of Space... Reaction

Before heading out for the weekend, Blue Coyote Theater Group was kind enough to host a reading of my new piece, entitled In the Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More. Now that I've had a few days to sit with it, and process the responses I received, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss it all a bit in this forum. It seems like there's some interest in hearing more, and maybe discussing it.

The play is in five parts, and features seven actresses. The first part features four voices (A-D) repeating several themes and occasionally breaking into monologue. The second part features another performer (E) onstage alone, listening to her own voice played over speakers, and occasionally echoing key phrases. The third portion features three voices (E-G), who repeat themes from the earlier pieces, this time primarily simultaneously, with various light accents or breaks. The fourth part features B, C, and F sitting alone onstage in silence for five minutes. The final and fifth part, features a reprise of the text from part one, with slight derivations, this time with all seven performers.

Some of the central text of the piece came from audio recordings I mixed with my own voice at home, a few years ago. I linked to those recordings on this blog at the time, for those with long memories. I'll see if I can do that again, if people are curious to hear them.

The themes of the piece linked to the phrase "I am ready to have cancer." Some of the links were loose, some very clear. The effect I'm after is essentially musical, but I'm doing this essentially by instinct... I've got very little in the way of formal musical training. I play a couple of musical instruments with mild proficiency, and that's the extent of it.

A typical pattern of the text would be:

A

She tells me I have cancer and in this way I start to count my blessings. Cancer is quiet. I am ready to have it. Cancer is something to do. I am ready to have cancer.

C

There is a hole in my body that makes noise.

B

She tells me I have cancer and I believe her.

D

I was full but now I’m empty.

A

I make a joke. What do you have for the plague? Everyone laughs.

B

The hollow

C

The husk

D

The hollow

A

The husk

B

The hollow. The hole. The hollow. The hollow. The hole. The hollow. The hole.

D

I am ready to have cancer.



This isn't a narrative piece and I spent far more time trying to create variations in the patterns presented than finding character. This makes the distinctiveness of each voice paramount. Not that each performer should treat themselves like a separate character, but to present their parts with a distinctive sound. Much in the way that a violin and cello might play the same theme to different effect.

The phrase,

A

The hole. The hole. The whole. The hole. The whole. The hole. The hole. The hollow. The hollow. The hole. The hollow.


Is spoken throughout the play. It's a repetition itself, and I believe this is repeated in excess of ten times. My hope was to allow an audience to move past their initial response to repetition and silence, and begin to listen for accents and differences. I hope that the difference between hearing "B" and "F" read the same monologue, for example, would pop out to an audience member. My hope would be that hearing "Someday, I will be looking into a bathroom mirror" at the beginning of the piece and later hearing "Someday, I will be looking into a bathroom mirror, eyes open" near the end would cause a tuned in listener to take note.

For example, late in the first piece, that same text becomes:

D

The hole. The hole. The hollow. The hole. The husk. The husk. The host. The host. The hollow. The host. The hole. The ghost.



The responses to the piece were pretty uniform in their either confusion towards or rejection of what I'd presented. Obviously, that's a risk you take when you try something new. I can't say it was personally very easy to hear the reactions, but I think at this point, there are a few things I've heard that will help to strengthen it.

What are some of the responses?

I was told that there was some effective writing in the piece that seemed muddied by the form.

I was told that it made people want to run out of the room.

I was told that I should focus more on plays that were more like my short pieces, which tend to be funny crowd pleasers, and that I shouldn't really waste my time with this sort of thing. That when I overthink, I move away from what I do well.

I was asked what if I had "heard what I wanted to hear."

I was told that the piece might be more effective with more to "see." That simply watching an extended poem that repeats itself needs some visual flair or actors engaged to make it tolerable or bring out the meaning. Or, well, impose some meaning.

I was told that hearing anything 10 - 15 times is simply not pleasant for the audience, no matter which way you slice it.

I was challenged on the subject matter: if I'd never personally had a cancer scare, and if it wasn't something I personally felt a deep connection to, why write about it? Now, my grandmother died of lung cancer, I've been an on-and-off smoker, etc. But it's fair to say that cancer is a theme that hits home with a lot of people and writing about it in terms of "turns of phrase" can seem cold. Replace cancer with AIDs and the whole piece could come off as sophomoric and/or insensitive.

I had a friend say he found the piece hateful and agressive, as if I was being cruel to the audience on purpose. Certainly not my intention!

So, as you can see, not the easiest responses to hear I can't say that I didn't take it too personally at times, or that I didn't feel angry in private moments. That's, I think, pretty natural.

There are other creative artists who may read this, here's how I'm essentially responding to this in a way I feel could be constructive. Nothing too carefully thought out, some some thoughts.

- I think it's worthwhile to accept that the play has flaws and that I certainly heard them too. And that trying something for the first time is an exercise in seeing what works and what doesn't work. That's obvious, but it always bears repeating. I had hopes that this would soar, and it crashed a bit. All that means is: back to work.

- If I want an audience to seek and enjoy the musicality of the language, I have to respond to the question of narrative. Because of the choice to present the play with women's voices, and because there is some cohesion in the themes, it's only human to seek out the thought processes and storyline within. The idea that this piece is a mediation on a woman discovering she has cancer is something that organically grew out of the themes I was presenting. I can either let that be true purposefully, or remove that if I don't want that to distract from other effects. I don't feel inclined to back away from what the text seems to make reference to, I just need to balance my other intentions against how seductive narrative can be.

- The final piece is too long and doesn't present anything distinct or revelatory. By presenting text that is essentially the same as the first piece, simply with more voices, I don't take advantage of the opportunity to reach a crescendo or use the many, many more sounds available to me.

- I think five minutes of silence was too little. I loved watching that. There are people that didn't. That's one place that I have to stick to what I love to watch, and hope others find a way to see what I do.

- The next edit has to more actively use repeated phrases as a tool to produce a specific effect, as opposed to just repetition as an end onto itself.

- Add a little more fresh text to the later pieces, instead of relying so much on the older text being heard in new ways. As of now, its hard to expect spoken voices to carry the burden of freshening the repeated phrases.

- Think about the presentation. It was suggested that I might want to put an audience in the center of a stage and put the actors in places surrounding them, so that when the text comes from a different place, it does some very actively. The reading had seven actresses lined up on stage, focused on their books. That creates a static experience, certainly, and there was ways to ease up on that without undermining the piece by adding unneccessary visuals that would lessen the impact of the words.

- Accept that, no matter how I adjust the piece, there are certain tastes that just won't enjoy this sort of thing.

- The piece runs one hour and twenty minutes. Personally, I think that's not too long. But if the piece were to remain in its current form, it would have to be cut down by at least twenty minutes, it seems. If I made adjustments where some fresh text and something more expansive closed out the piece, I could probably justify the extra time. I'm sure there are people who heard it that would argue that 45 minutes is probably about as long as it should be. I'm not sure about that, but I figure its worth trying ways to keep it at length and MAKE it effective, as opposed to simply cutting to make it digestible. Part of what I'm after is to create something that does demand an active listener with a lot of patience, and rewards that patience with something beautiful. To reduce the intensity level too much is to surrender my original intention entirely.

----

There are a few scattered thoughts for public consumption. Much more to say about it. If you have questions or comments, it'd be fun to have an open discussion about my creative process with this piece.

David and Erica are married

Hooray!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Going to the chapel

I'm heading upstate to attend David DelGrosso and Erica Staufenberg's wedding.

Don't wait up!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I can't help it...

Scott posts some thoughts about Ayn Rand today.

What do YOU think?

Suffice to say...

...I've had easier nights, as a playwright, than last night. Everyone involved worked hard, including the audience. I'm glad I did it, and we'll see what there is to draw from it in the long run. Feedback ranged from the polite, to the careful, to the particularly harsh.

Thanks for everyone who came last night, to Kyle for putting the reading together, and the actresses who did an amazing job working with the text.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading Tonight at 8pm

Tonight there's a reading of my new piece In the Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More at 8pm. It's presented as a part of the Blue Coyote Reading Series.

Location:
Access Gallery
380 Broadway, 4th Floor
Corner of Broadway and White below Canal Street

Information is here. You should RSVP.

The actors are...

Christine Whitley
Laura Balmer
McKenna Kerrigan
Kina Bermudez
Jessi Gotta
Samantha Desz
Jennifer Bishop

I'm excited to hear it, and I hope you'll take a little time to come and hear it tonight.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer is out on DVD as of yesterday. Guess what? I think this movie was unfairly dismissed by critics and ignored by audiences. It's got a lot going on, its tone is the wackness, and its visually absolutely absurd.

You should check it out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Burn After Reading

Checked out this new Coen Brother's flick after reading a few lukewarm responses (Isaac's for example.)

My take: Burn After Reading fits perfectly into this era of American political thought. We're in a time of real consequence, marked by deeply inconsequential thought. In the midst of massive American decline, we're obsessed with what the word "pig" means. In a time when foreign policy is at its most complex and challenging, we're watching a Vice Presidential candidate struggle to keep up with a news reporter. At at time when Wall Street is in turmoil, we're discussing whether or not Rachel Maddow can be the left's Rush Limbaugh.

So it is perfect that the entire plot of Burn After Reading is about a group of selfish, small-minded, nitwits who believe that their actions and behavior are of great importance. What makes it all the more wonderfully terrifying is that the actions of these semi-aware fools have very real, very violent consequences, due almost entirely to negligence.

At the center of the action is Linda Litzke (played by Frances McDormand) who works at Hardbodies Fitness Center. She trolls the internet for dates, and is flummoxed when she finds that her expensive tummy tucks and liposuction procedures aren't covered by her health insurance. What does she want? Money for cosmetic surgery. How will she get it? A combination blackmail, hit-and-runs, break-ins, threats and even going to the Russians. All the while, she demands a "can-do" spirit. People like her, want to make her happy...who cares if her plan makes absolutely no sense?

The movie exists in a world when a positive attitude and a desire to "get what you want" trumps all other important considerations, including logic. If that's not the Bush legacy in a nutshell, I don't know what is.

Tony Kushner receives $200,000 award for playwriting

Seems this prize was given to Kushner to establish the prize and make headlines, more than to award someone who is currently primarily writing plays. The article says as much and Kushner seems to say that as well. All the sentiment is right here, and the idea of an award of this size being out there is fantastic. But aren't there playwrights struggling to make ends meet that would make good use of these funds to immediately write plays?

The amount of the award itself is newsworthy, but the last theatrical output from Kushner that I'm aware of was an adaptation of Mother Courage two years ago. Before then it was a short piece in 2003. Angels in America is 16 years old. I've got nothing against Kushner, of course, who has made significant contributions to not only playwriting, but in bringing American playwrights into the national consciousness. Still, though, this seems as relevant as giving a major award to David Mamet.

Is this meant to encourage Kushner to come back to the stage?

What about Tracy Letts? Or Suzan Lori-Parks? Or Theresa Rebeck? Or Adam Bock? Or any number of writers that could use and deserve a major award to move past the 'emerging' moniker? The list of writers who have current output on major stages is substantial. The list of writers that could be established by this kind of award is even longer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin: "I refuse to be held accountable [by Barack Obama]"

Sarah Palin is refusing to cooperate with an investigation into her activities as Governor.

Why is this happening? Barack Obama, of course. He must be MAKING her get investigated and FORCING her to refuse to act in a manner becoming a public official.

Yeah. That's it.

Laura Axelrod on Money and the Arts

Despite the unnecessarily exasperated tone of the post, I think this is an excellent point.

The fact of the matter is, some of the most untouchable financial institutions in the country are in serious jeopardy. Lehman is filing for bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch is being sold to Bank of America. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are being taken over by the government. AIG is seeking a loan from the Federal Reserve.

How is this going to affect the arts? Here's some potential problems I can see. But it's something we should all be talking about.

One quick example is your day job. If you've got one, you're probably wondering how this will affect you. I know mine has to do with planned giving and investments. Which means we're directly affected by the markets. I'm also vested in our retirement plan, and that's, of course, invested.

I've got friends employed by hedge funds and other financial institutions. I'm sure they're reading the papers.

But even if you don't work directly in a market driven field, the ripple affect will hit you. When the middle class has less free income, restaurants suffer, retail suffers, the prices at the pump and at the grocery store will go up. Thousands are going to lose their jobs.

All this is happening as arts organizations struggle for a tiny piece of a tinier pie.

If you're an artist in NYC, you know how carefully you need to live in order to keep afloat here. But artists outside of NYC are likely in the housing market and drive more often. I'm sure they're not having an easy time of it.

So... what are you fearing and seeing as the economic staggers? How will it affect the arts? And what can we do about it?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin's Performance on ABC

There's some debate in my household as to whether her not Palin's clearly weak performance during her interview with Charles Gibson will affect the race at all. Will moderates get swayed by her not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is, or is this all just going to go over the heads of people who tune into politics more casually?

I think the look on Gibson's face during the interview sort of does all the work.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's up on the writing front?

For those who are keeping some sort of track of my output:

- Wrote a couple of one-page plays for the upcoming one-minute play festival. More details about all that when I have them. I initially thought that writing a one-page play would not be my cup of tea, but I'm actually sort of happy with both of them. They're called Last Words and Carbon Footprint.

- I've started working on a new comedy, which is called The Bull Crime, about a pharmaceutical company that discovers an incredibly beautiful fish that could be harvested for medical purposes.

- Of course there's the reading of In The Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More, which is happening next Wednesday. Do come.

I plan on writing a lot about the text of that piece after the reading. But I don't want to write too much about it beforehand, and color the opinions of those who do see it. Either way, it's a very different piece for me and I'm excited to see how it will be received.

I am...

...not feeling particularly well today. We took our good friend David DelGrosso out for a Bachelor Party and we plied him, and ourselves, with too much liquor.

It was wonderful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I say hear, hear



To Josh Marshall's suggestion that Democrats own this symbol for the McCain-Palin ticket, I say "hear, hear."

The ad would be airing...

Take a look at the fine print of this article on CNN, and you'll see a real problem.

This ad was released to the press, apparently, but has yet to run in any markets and there have been no ad buys. Which means the way it is reaching the voting public as is a news story.

The news media is treating John McCain's attack ads as news.

Why not let McCain do his own work and spread his lies himself? They're not news. They're political advertisements.

Theresa Rebeck speaks to Gender Bias...

On this blog posting at the Guardian.

Sort of hard to deny that the numbers show that, at least in terms of which playwrights are being presented on major stages, New York is male dominated, but I'm not sure what the cure to this problem is other than raising awareness.

I would have to add that the idea that what goes on Broadway or even Off-Broadway is some sort of meritocracy is highly questionable anyhow. It's not really about who is writing good plays, its about whose plays are getting chosen and why. That's my assumption anyway. There may be an unconscious male bias in the decision making...but from where does that bias spring?

Any thoughts on this? I'd love to hear them.

Congratulations!

To Pam, for her great piece on MSN!

Remember when I said I thought John McCain was honorable?

I take it back. Case in point, the ad below. Anyone who would run this ad has no respect for his opponent, the truth, and the American public.

For those who need one, a fact check is here.

I dunno...

I sorta like a little contempt in my theater. Makes the heart grow fonder.

Update: A response to this post, and the referenced review, from Scott Walters.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain is "Like Jack Bauer"

Noted in this NY Times Blog, from an interview with Marie Claire.

Oh... dear.

He does duck the "torture" question, with his trademark lack of artfulness.

Palin's Gender Gap

Apparently, men like Palin more than women.

Men also like hockey more than women, I'd bet. Perhaps we should make hockey the Vice President and make hockey Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hendrik Hertzberg on the Convention Speeches

I love Hertzberg.

With the selection of Sarah Palin, McCain completes the job of defusing the enmity (and forgoing the honor) he earned in 2000, when he condemned Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance.” His motives in choosing her were entirely tactical and mostly—the mot juste is that of Mike Murphy, once McCain’s top political aide, overheard by an errant microphone—cynical. Besides placating the right, those motives included the short-term goal of preĆ«mpting the weekend news cycles that might otherwise have been devoted to reviewing Obama’s triumphant Democratic Convention. The price that McCain paid, and that could sooner or later be exacted from the nation, was the abandonment of what he had repeatedly called his overriding requirement for a Vice-President: someone who would be ready to take his place at a moment’s notice—“you know, immediately.”

Read it all at the New Yorker.

Must-Read from Amy Goodman

Read this. It's important.

via Mark.

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain's speech

Complaining about the public schools and the teachers? Ouch. Demanding drilling? Awful. Saying "Fight with me! Fight with me!" seemed ill-timed after 5 years of a disastrous war.

I genuinely believe McCain is wrong-headed politically; but I also believe that he wants to do things right and believes in bipartisanship. History has passed him by and swallowed him up. He's finally become his party's nominee near the end of his life, at a time when cosmic justice is raining down hard on the Republicans, and he's facing a historically significant and phenomenally talented opponent to boot.

Positively Shakespearean how McCain's ambitions have been continually thwarted by the evils and failings of George W. Bush. Bush used Rovian tactics to dismantle McCain in 2000; and now McCain is having to run in opposition to his own party's record because of Bush's incompetence.

High taxes and government spending are no longer the major problems Americans face: instead, it's the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the cost of living, competition overseas, constitutional law, and restoring our moral authority. The idea that McCain is "stuck in the past" isn't just empty rhetoric...it's a fact. The man doesn't seem to have real solutions to the country's problems now.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Voting "Present"

Obama voted "present" in the Illinois State Senate nearly 130 times, according to the New York Times.

He cast more than 4,000 votes.

And to be a total jerk...

What's with the names of her kids?

...Track?

Some thoughts regarding last night's RNC speeches

- "Drill Baby Drill", as a populist chant, shows just how bizarre that the Republicans can be. They might as well have chanted "Kill Our Selves!" or "Big Oil Now!" That's how absurd it was.

- Sarah Palin was perfectly effective at portraying a regular, down-to-earth, don't mess with a Mom, kinda lady. The speech, especially with the expectations game, was solid in that the Republican base loved it. Problem is: she's running to be a heartbeat away being leader of the free world. That's the scary part. The Democrats are going to have to handle her carefully.

- As a person who has a brother with special needs in his family, I was unpersuaded by her dedication to the cause. I think "small government" politicians won't do much for my brother, who relies heavily of a disastrous health care/insurance system and underfunded social programs.

- Guiliani's speech: blah, blah, blah liberals! blah, blah, blah, terrorists! blah, blah, blah rinse and repeat.

- The Republicans attacked the work of community organizers this week. I found that revolting. Community organizers do work that actively involves bringing people together and getting them united behind their own self-interest. They do so on a small, person-to-person scale, often is communities that have real challenges. It's cynical to attack the validity of that kind of work.

On second thought, I can see why they'd attack this. Republicans bring people together in order to unite them against their own self interests. See: Drill Baby Drill.

- Last night, it was a character attack. Where were the attacks on real, substantive policy? To me, that's perfectly fair game: offer an alternative. I didn't hear any honest statements about Obama's tax policy (he would lower taxes on everyone but the wealthiest Americans); no detailed criticism of his health care plan; nothing.

- Where are the McCain PROPOSALS? Still, last night, there was not a word on what the McCain/Palin duo would do positively for Americans. They promised to drill and "win the War" and "lower taxes" (even though McCain's plan directly contradicts this) and build pipelines and "keep us safe." It was general and muddy. They're running on a platform of "not Obama."

- Palin said nothing about the social ideas she'd actually promote (abstinence education, anti-abortion, reduced funding to social programs) if she was in office. Because it would scare the shit out of people.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Thoughts on RNC speeches last night

To sum up:

John McCain will be President of the United States...in the past!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RSVP for In The Great Expanse Reading

Details are here to RSVP for the 9/17 reading of In The Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More.

No Surprises

One thing that has characterized the campaign for President, from the hotly contested primaries to right now, is the utter predictability of it all. There have been a few small hiccups (the Palin pick, Gustav, Fred Thompson) but for the most part, what seemed likely to happen from early in the campaign has borne itself out. It makes it all the more frustrating as the press fumbles for false drama in an era of 24 hour news cycles.

During the race between Obama and Clinton, things became pretty obvious after Iowa. Obama's victory in Iowa was the longshot. After that, pundits quickly said "It's likely Obama will win these States and Clinton will win these States." It all came down precisely as it was laid out way back in February. By hanging in with Clinton on February 5th (remember Super Duper Tuesday?) Obama opened up a lead that most of the press predicted; and Clinton never recovered. Even as she ran hard towards the finish line, her chances of winning the nomination were based, mostly, on mistakes Obama never made. He won the nomination months and months ago.

Even the "scandals" were predictable. The Rezko thing never really became news to anyone but insiders. The Jeremiah Wright thing was predicted to come up as early as Iowa. Clinton's attacks (and McCain's) were predictable, and the only reasonable arguments to make against Obama. Obama won the old fashioned way; by the numbers. It's been historic; but the results of the race up to now were not in real question. They were reported dramatically. There's a big difference.

Watching the DNC was another example. The false drama of the Clinton's hijacking Obama was never a real possibility and the mock-surprise that the way the Clintons handled themselves was pure fabrication. The Clintons both gave conventionally excellent speeches that sounded remarkably like all their other speeches. Obama knocked it out the of the park because that's what the man does at a podium. He's done it time and time again.

Now there's a false drama about the outcome. Progressives, gun shy from years of getting kicked around, are being hornswoggled by reports that the polls are close. In reality, Obama has been leading McCain in the polls for a long time, and the electoral map favors him in no uncertain terms. That's not to say surprises do not appear...anything is possible. But what's probable? Not a McCain victory.

McCain won because his competitors in the Republican field were weak or idiotic. Guiliani committed political suicide by campaigning only in Florida. Mitt Romney ran an awful self-funded race. Thompson was a flash-in-the-pan. Huckabee didn't have the political machinery to seal the deal. Ron Paul was never in the running.

Now, a shadow of the man McCain used to be is running uphill against a phenomenal candidate who has, let's face it, made almost no major mistakes.

Obama ran against and beat the Clintons. No small feat. He's made reasonable appeals to the middle without seeming too politically opportunistic. He addressed questions of race in a mature manner befitting a President. He made a smart VP choice. He's gracefully handled sticky nuanced issues. He's run against charges of being too inexperienced, too black, not black enough, and too popular. Again and again, he's come through. When the press was ready to write him off as unable to attack, he walked out in front of a crowd of 75,000 people and eviscerated McCain. He's performed under pressure, and still come off seeming (at the very least) like a loving father and good husband.

Despite all this, because of what happened to John Kerry and Al Gore, and because we're terrified that racism will beat Obama in the end; Democrats that I listen to are always saying "But the polls are close!" They're not. We're in the lead. I know it's hard to take or believe; but we are.

I'm not advocating resting our our laurels or not working hard to seal the deal. And I could still be disappointed. But let's face the facts, not the media generated fears. This has played out predictably from the start. If McCain wins, it will be a surprise. If anything, with the Palin choice, he's made it that much harder for himself and probably alienated Clinton voters more than he had before.

Let's turn our attention to winning, not staving off defeat, for once.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama's Response to the Palin's Daughter Dust-Up

John McCain chooses a right-wing, barely known Governor as his running mate and it appears to all sane human beings he did so because this Governor is a woman. Then, she has like 53 scandals appear at once, one of which being this oddly personal story about her 17 year old daughter being pregnant.

How does Barack Obama respond? Like some Aaron Sorkin fantasy Presidential candidate, that's how:

"Let me be a clear as possible: I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor, or her potential performance as a vice president.

"And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18, and how a family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off limits."

via Salon.