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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 02, 2009


Would your work be any different if selling tickets wasn't a factor?

Let's assume that whatever you did would have a full house. The audience is not guaranteed to enjoy or understand the production, but they're guaranteed to attend.

Would your choice of production be different? Would your choices as a writer or director be different? As an actor, would you have a different relationship with the audience?


Joshua James said...

I wouldn't like it, either as an artist or an audience member ... It reminds me of those who perform on subway platforms ... they usually have a captive audience ... and it's usually an unhappy one.

Freeman said...

I guess I should be more specific. I wasn't imaging that these people were forced to show up. I was just trying to take the audience, or at least attracting and audience and selling them tickets, out of your creative process.

Jamespeak said...

I wouldn't say so. I'm pretty happy with what I'm writing and how I'm writing it. Not that I'm not critical with my work, obviously; I just don't think I write things to cater to an audience for the sake of selling tickets.

Bear in mind, however, I inherently like writing in popular genres.

isaac butler said...

Related, but not exactly on topic:

I was going to write a post about this on my on blog, but something I've noticed as a producer is exactly how bad my instincts are in terms of what I think other people willw ant to come see. Ex: volume of smoke was a big hit in its small workshop in NYC and in Richmond, so I thought "hey, we'll do this in NY, it's a project I want to do again let's do it, people will come see it!"

It bombed.

The Honest-To-God True Story of the Atheist I thought was going to be a disaster. It had a small cast, it was a writer people weren't that familiar with, a topic that had been covered in higher profile productions that year etc. And we sold out the (small) run in our small house. And people were *really* enthusiastic about it.

So I thought... let's do it at the DC fringe! It's a very fringey play, I have some connections down in DC, apparently people just go to see a lot of shows down there regardless of publicity saturation, we got a great venue etc.

We had full houses twice, but the rest of the time there were maybe 15 people in the house, only about 50% of the audiences in attendance liked it and with the exception of one review we were panned.

And I certainly didn't think people would love MilkMilkLemonade as much as they did, as with the Atheist production in NYC, I was actually very frightened people would hate it. They loved it. I also thought people wouldn't like In Public, or at least was worried about it. People really, really liked it.

So what I've learned over the last couple of years is this-- when it comes to my own work, the work I'm nervous about is the work that people end up connecting to, and the work that I'm sure of people don't connect to. At least in New YOrk. So if I'm going to keep producing, I have to find work that I believe in but that I'm also nervous about other people's reactions to!

Weird, right?

Don Hall said...

I wouldn't change a thing.

And, yes, that makes me an arrogant prick.

Joshua James said...

Interestingly enough, with my audience, I generally know if they'll like something or not ... in fact, when I was producing - nearly all the time, so my experience is almost opposite of Isaac's - but again, it could be that I'm writing for a very specific audience with tastes identical to mine ...

And if I could do shows for my audience for free, I would probably (hell, have) do that.

99 said...

I would definitely find myself taking more risks and putting up first drafts. If I ran a theatre with a subscription base that would come to EVERYTHING and keep coming back, no matter what? That'd be heaven. I'd bleed those people dry, making them come to show after show.

hpmelon said...

No difference. I guess I just believe in my taste that much... what conceit!

joshcon80 said...

Nah. I don't think so. I already feel like I can be pretty bold in a 40 seat theater that charged $18 a show. The stakes just aren't that high, you know?

Sean said...

This is an amazing thought experiment for us (or rather for me). We've always just done pretty much what we thought would be cool, and it's led to wildly different people liking and disliking wildly different stuff. I totally agree with James, I'm pretty happy with what we're doing and how, but that might be because we generally like producing in popular genres.

We only wrote and produced one show that was based on trying to get an audience, and it was, hands-down, the very worst thing we've every produced. Everyone in the production hated it (including us) we lost a shitload of money, and the audience who did come basically shrugged and said, "yeah... I didn't really get it, but, y'know, congrats and all that..." and then nobody else came.

We've basically decided to produce what we want, and then figure out the marketing once we're headed into auditions.

RLewis said...

I love you playwrights, but just gotta say...

"I would definitely find myself ... putting up first drafts."

...thank god for ticket sales!

Freeman said...

Eh. Everyone thinks plays are vastly improved by multiple drafts. There's no actual evidence that a crappy play has an alchemical transformation after four readings and a red pen. That's an old debate though. Maybe the audience would be treated to a bit more of the original impulse.

Or maybe it would be a mess.

Or maybe some people WANT to see messier theater, and some don't. And we're greasing all you squeaky wheels.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Adam said...

I would abuse them more.