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

Monday, November 30, 2009

All the Albee that's fit to print

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?, an article by Laura Parker, calls Edward Albee an old fogey. Leonard Jacobs and George Hunka discuss the matter here and here, respectively.

Then, as George points out, there's this. Which I sort of wanted to hug.

So what is there to say? It's not news that Albee personally feels this way, and as, is stated all over the place, there's a sort of personal preference at play here that simply can't be argued with or about.

Still, I think it's noteworthy to point out that plays are more and more often written with the assumption of a director. The director as a second, independent, creative force is now a part of DNA of many new plays. Playwrights should understand why we're making certain choices as we write, or we'll find that we're unconsciously styling plays to fit the needs of others. Instead of writing down a fully formed vision, we'll reduce our impact on our own productions by leaving room for our collaborators before they've even shown up.

3 comments:

joshcon80 said...

I love Albee so much it burns inside of me, and that's all I'm saying about that.

As to your other point, I think you're correct about the assumption of a director. Funny, I've been working really hard not to direct my play in the stage directions, as I have always been criticized for it. See, when I started writing plays I always directed them too, so writing that way became second nature.

It never occurred to me that it might be all right. Writing teachers and playwriting groups all seemed to hammer in the idea that I needed to leave interpreting room for a director.

Hmm. Now I have to think about this some more.

Jigsaw said...

It has always been my opinion that a well-written play will defy too many odd interpretations, because the -strongest, most dramatic- choices will be those intended by the playwright. If your young female lead can be played just as effectively by a 50-year-old man, perhaps your writing is not specific enough.

Which is not to say that interesting, effective theater can't be made by breaking the rules laid out by the playwright. I would contend that most of those productions considered "successful" are more commenting on the play itself rather than presenting the work by itself; that is to say, to cast all of the women as men in drag, or place the action inside a glass cube, cannot help but serve as a subtext about the nature of theater in general or some element of the play itself.

In regards to stage directions, I tend to lean towards suggestion rather than directive. Some stage direction is necessary for a playwright to tell their story; movement is text of a sort. Gesture is text. Expression. Stage directions can serve to clarify the intent of the story. But to dictate every last movement of a character is a bit excessive (as well as leading to a script that becomes difficult to read).

Sean said...

I've been reading a ton of plays for our next season (we're skipping the current one after ten years...) and all of them are written with the spare openness of a playwright who expects a director to stage it.

Reading older plays now is almost comic, when you have the set described down to the locations of the exits and each character's motivations in parenthesis at the beginning of the line. Theater, as it stands right now, is a medium the requires heavy guidance from both the writer and the director, the audience expects it.

The director is to the theater what the cinematographer is to film. Even when their work is invisible, it's commented upon and noticed.