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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Phantasmaphile Group Show!

Don't miss this!

WHEN IS A CLOCK - out and about

Looks as if WHEN IS A CLOCK is available for order in all your favorite places.


"Where a man's wound is, that is where his genius will be. Wherever the wound appears in our psyches, whether from an alcoholic father, shaming mother, shaming father, abusing mother, whether it stems from isolation, disability or disease, that is precisely the place for which we will give our major gift to the community."

- Robert Bly

Thanks Pam

Question for Today

What influences or works or artists do you combine to make up what you do?

Do you combine Dylan Thomas with Woody Guthrie?

Do you combine Beckett with South Park?

Do you combine Joseph Campbell with Quentin Tarantino?

David Mamet, for example, mixed Arthur Miller with Harold Pinter. I'd assume.

I think the answer to this question is fluid. Likely changing considering the play. When I was writing The Most Wonderful Love, I was trying to write Eugene Ionesco's version of You Can't Take It With You.

Things exist, and we combine them, like alchemists, to make new things.

What are your alchemical components? Who, or what, do you use to make what you make?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


February 27th and 28th ONLY at the Abrons Art Center - The Grand Street Follies 2009: A Vaudeville for the New Depression. Presented by TWEED TheatreWorks. Directed by Kevin Malony. Plus Tony Conniff & The Grand St. Follies Band. Guest stars The Butoh Rockettes, Wallace Shawn & Deborah Eisenberg, Rufus Wainwright, etc... Abrons Art Center: 466 Grand Street @ Pitt Street on LES. Supporting God's Love We Deliver (www.glwd.org) and TWEED TheatreWorks (www.tweedtheatre.org/folly).

It is Ash Wednesday

What are you giving up for Lent?

Perhaps Isaac Butler should give up Atheism until Easter?

Perhaps you should give up trying?

Or give up hope?

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Minnesota

I am in the great state of Minnesota as I write this, spending time with family. My father has just retired after 40 plus years as active clergy. Twas quite a thing. It's cold here, but there are trees, which sort of offsets the chill.

How are you? 

Thursday, February 19, 2009


After the community board meeting, it occurred to me that the theatrical community in NYC has spent a fair amount of time identifying its challenges and debating the ins and outs of them. I think now the next step is ideas and action.

Here are a few ideas I've got personally, some easy, some less so, that I'd love to offer up for some discussion and consideration. Some of these are already happening in some form.


1. Cooperation between companies with complimentary missions.

At the community board meeting last night, the term "co-opetition" was used. Obviously, in a city of hundreds of productions, we compete for tickets and eyeballs. The problem is that we're competing for an increasingly small number of eyeballs and actively interested audience members. By working together, we share our audiences, broaden interest, and pool resources.

That is not to say that all theaters should drop money into a bucket. It is to say that there are many theater companies in this city with complimentary or similar goals, and that by working together, we can serve each other's mission.

A perfect example of this was, coincidentally, on display the very night the idea was brought up. The Ma-Yi Theater Company was the co-producer of the Vampire Cowboys production. Ma-Yi supports Asian-American Artists; Qui Nguyen is a member of that community. Instead of having Qui create one show for Ma-Yi and one for his own company, the companies pooled resources and gave the Vampire Cowboys a broader budget and range of support than they had on their own. It's the perfect complimentary relationship, and it does good things for both organizations.

Think of the countless theater companies in this city dedicated to performing "new works." Or the number of theaters that do Shakespeare outdoors in the summer. Or companies dedicated to ensemble performance. Surely, working together, many of these companies could find complimentary ways in which to serve their own artistic needs and reduce their financial burdens and time constraints.

2. Showcase Code Reform.

I won't really stop harping on this. It still hasn't happened and it needs to happen. Reforming the Code, or creating a new realistic code, is a lot like modernizing the Health Care industry. Make the change and the benefits will be across the board and immediate. More productions will have a better chance of success and therefore more small producers could move towards mid-sized contracts. That means more actors who work for small companies they believe in can see the dream of being paid realized. More success means more work for actors.

I continue to propose that the best compromise here is for small producers to contribute a prorated amount to actor's health insurance in a lump sum for a production that extends beyond 16 performances. Then, Equity actors can recieve a portion of their "weeks" towards health insurance. One week of a Independent Theater show would equal 1/2 or 1/4th weeks towards health insurance coverage from their own union.

3. City-wide premieres.

Early on in the life of this blog, the idea of a national premiere of a new play (a single new play performed by many companies across the country at one time) was thrown around, and it got a lot of us excited. I know there was some movement on that topic, although being the myopic apartment dweller and internet lazybones I am, I was pretty much out of the loop on that before the rubber hit the road.

That doesn't mean it's not a good and exciting idea. What if it was just done within this city? What if, for example, several small theaters with a dedication towards producing new work commissioned something by Ken Urban (for example) and all opened it on the same night at several theaters throughout the city. It would create a big event feel for the premiere of a new play, in a world where a new play seems to appear and drop off the radar every two weeks. It would also celebrate the uniqueness of different designers and directors and celebrate the power of the live event.

4. Answering the important questions.

If you're a theater company with a space...maybe it's time for you to sit down and work out your answers to these questions and questions like them...

a. The local businesses in my area are:

b. The other theaters in my area are:

c. My theater provides my area with this unique service:

d. My theater promotes the following demographic to come into my neighborhood:

e. It costs _____ a year for my space to operate. Our funding is ______. That is a shortfall / surplus of ______.

f. The companies that utilize our space include:

Those are just a few. I'm sure you could come up with 20 questions worth. Maybe something standard like this would help theaters look at themselves economically and look at their community, not only at their artistic mission.


That's a good start. How does this look to you? What else should we be doing or considering?

Dear internet

I will not be "twittering." I don't get it and I'm already wasting tremendous amounts of time doing other things. Like this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Soul Samurai

Stopped by HERE Arts Center last night to see SOUL SAMURAI, the newest creation of The Vampire Cowboys, co-produced by Ma-Yi Theater Company.

If you're at all familiar with Qui Nguyen's work (previously I've seen only one of the larger pieces, MEN OF STEEL and some short pieces) you'll know what to expect. On stage, as always, is a hodgepodge of fandom, inventiveness and pop-genre. Here, we're fully in 'blacksplotiation" territory, replete with Afros, liberal use of the word "muthafucka" and hip-hop.

Of course, this is all through a modern lense, working in lesbians, Asian-American culture and contemporary flavors. The plot plays out exactly as you might expect if you're a fan of this type of genre fiction. Qui also clearly knows his Campbell Hero's Journey stuff: you've got a relatively tame character, forced into action, on a journey of personal growth, with challenges along the way, gatekeepers and mentors and even a loveable clownish sidekick.

What I think is so infectious about the shows that the Vampire Cowboys produce is the palpable sense of joy. Most downtown theater has its sense of self-importance, cruel irony and self-conscious poetry turned up to 11. (I am guilty of this.) You won't get much of that sort of introspection watching SOUL SAMURAI. Instead, the focus is on crowd-pleasing, wit, and splash. It's got more in common with a musical, with set pieces and montages and fights where one might expect to see a stirring dance number.

It's a wild night.

One side note: Both in MEN OF STEEL and in SOUL SAMURAI, I can't overstate just how absolutely fantastic Paco Tolson is. This actor can just do no wrong within this style. Its one of those great instances where the actor and the material just seem to be in love with each other. The cast is unformly excellent, without a doubt, but I wanted to take a second and send him my appreciation. Go see him before tickets to see him get more expensive.

Tickets here!

Community Board Meeting for Small to Mid-Sized Theaters

DPDATE: Read John Clancy's view from the panel. Good, honest stuff. I think there is a sobering message here: talk is talk. We need a plan and to take action. John's ideas at the bottom of the post are good ones to start with. So is his evident frustration. To which I say: sober is a good way to view this problem. Sober but undaunted.

Last night, I stopped by the Community Board Meeting for Small to Mid-Sized Theaters, hosted by Community Boards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 at the Player's Club. I was only able to stick around for the figurative cup of coffee; I left around 7:30pm, just as the actual panel discussion was beginning. I did get a chance to hear the opening speakers, and hear a bit of the tone of what was forthcoming. Take, though, my impressions as they are: there was an hour of panel discussion and then, I'm sure, several hours of conversation afterward that I missed. (Where did I have to run off to last night? To see a small-to-midsized theater in action; the Vampire Cowboys production of Soul Samurai. Awesome. More on that later.)

It was, without a doubt, amazing to sit in the Player's Club and have it packed wall to wall with members of the theatrical community. It was a diverse room, by both age and income, and it was genuinely encouraging to see so much passion and interest for engagement with the political and planning process.

The various speaks who began, including Judith Malina from the Living Theater and the Borough President of Manhattan Scott Stringer, all said everything right. Ben Cameron, from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, spoke passionately about 'arts ecology.' Everyone seemed to be channeling a bit of Barack Obama. You could tell that some of them were positively thrilled to be in a room of artists and talk about the arts; as opposed to, I'm sure, some of less pulse pounding meetings they're obligated to attend. We were spoken to about the urgency of the moment, thinking about our problems in a new way, the shifting culture, the challenges that existed before the economy went into full blown crisis mode, and were encouraged to think in terms of city planning.

All of this is vital. The action that's being taken is exciting, and that sense of excitement is necessary, because the actions to come, the challenges to come, are absolutely daunting. I applaud organizations like ART/NY, The League of Independent Theater, Paul Nagle, 3LD, everyone. I applaud the community boards. We need, without a doubt, to get ourselves into the habit of lobbying on our own behalf.

Just before I left, I did hear a theme that gives me pause. I hope we'll quickly cure ourselves of it, or that it was discussed last night.

The idea presented (and I've heard this) is that smaller theatre companies, those without spaces of their own or large budgets, are in less peril than their larger peers who have troubles with endowments, missing grants, paying rent and keeping the lights on. The logic is flawless of course: if you've always been on a shoestring budget, you're still on a shoestring budget.

The problem I have with this is that it encourages an already bent and bowed band of undernourished artists to think small to avoid the risk of success. We need to think in terms of new strategies for success, as opposed to thinking of being bare-bones as a blessing. The grass is always greener of course: I'm sure a larger company who are battling their landlord imagine going back to the days when they just rented space and rehearsed in the evenings and life was simpler. I'm sure smaller companies want the opposite: a home, a sense of permanence, the idea that they have a future beyond their next Showcase Code (or non-Union) production.

One other very telling distinction heard last night was from Kevin Cunningham, Executive Artistic Director at 3LD. He said that in the last few months, very quickly, companies attitudes have moved from "strategic to tactical." I think that resonated strongly with me.

If anyone reading this was there, I'd love it if you'd share your thoughts in the comments section. I was only there for a short while, so my response is limited. I would say, though, that those who are excited by these types of events and actions should go here and sign up for the mailing list.

One of the questions put to the audience last night was an important one, and I'd love you to consider it yourself. (Or comment on it below.) What is it that a theater company brings to its neighborhood or community that cannot be replicated or done better by another organization?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

GOP Loses Election and uses the United States for target practice

...still, CNN asks their opinion.

Breaking News: Republicans think Democratic Superstar President isn't "that great"

Breaking News: Oil Companies question whether Global Warming is man made.

Breaking News: Fundamentalist Christians swear Jesus is their personal Savior

Breaking News: Baseball Star uses Drugs to hit over 600 home runs.

Breaking News: Airplane seats are too small

Breaking News: Chocolate popular; makes you fat

Breaking News: Honesty doesn't make you rich

Breaking News: Television news devoid of context, content

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Without critics?

Over at Parabasis, Isaac brings up the "death of criticism" issue that certainly has hounded the Critic-O-Meter project. On a similar point, Rob Weinert-Kendt does a run down of the John Lahr Q&A at the New Yorker, where Lahr paints a stark contrast between critics and reviewers.

Issac asks:

What if the major newspapers and magazines didn't have critics at all? What if instead they printed excerpts of the art critics used to cover? Instead of reviews of gallery shows, pictures from the show. Instead of reviews of plays, excerpts from the script with a press photo or two. Instead of reviews of books, a chapter from a book. (Obviously with film it'd be hard, although the web would allow you to show like a ten minute excerpt from the movie). And then let's say it was paired with a brief, substantive interview with the creator. And then, just to further the hypothetical, some portion of the money that would've gone to a review goes to the artist instead as a license for the preview of their work.
My thoughts:

The public discourse plays an essential role in keeping any art form in the center of the public consciousness. A critic may disdain the mere reviewer, but the fact is, they are, when all things are working properly, both a piece of the larger conversation about any given play or painting or poem. In fact, the less talk there is about any given piece of art, the more that work becomes isolated to an individual experience.

Reading a poem can have a simple, profound effect on one person. You don't have to read three reviews of a poem in order to get something out of it. In some ways, reviews, criticism, changes your relationship with anything you experience. That's why a lot of people see things before they read reviews: they their impressions are untainted by outside influence. But if you read a poem, have a strong individual experience with it, and then take that experience out into the world, your thoughts can be enlivened, enriched.

It could obviously be argued that a play is an end unto itself. That the purest way to experience a play is to sit with it, watch it, think about it, and leave it at that.

But that, thankfully, is not the way human beings have constructed their world, and not the way in which most of us process anything. In fact, art is in conversation with the world, and the world should be in conversation with art. When we get together for drinks after seeing a play and talk about its merits, we're all playing roles. Some are reviewers ("I really enjoyed that!") some are critics ("I feel like this really sticks out in this artists body of work because it touches on familiar themes...") some float in-between.

In my mind, the news media captures this spirit and puts it into a larger context. That's why I actually am very happy to see many different responses to a work. Those responses don't have to destroy or create one's own opinion, but they can augment the reason the show exists at all. We're creating work in order to inspire not only gut level responses, but complex ones, and everything in between.

Part of the public discourse is simply about itself. Critics discuss reviewers, reviewers discuss critics, the public has favorite commentors, etc. That's part of the fun of it all. The more of that, the more we all, frankly, care. Not only about the work itself, but the cultural conversation that grows from the work.

Newspapers and magazines do more than provide the public with legal notices and objective reporting. They contribute to the idea of an informed public, to the idea of a thinking people. I say, the less criticism, the less we are encouraged to think, engage and debate. We'd be the poorer for it.

Save the date - March 14th, 2009

That's the date of the Opening Reception for Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists, curated by my amazing significant other.

Details here.

Complimentary absinthe, too!

Back in the day

This is a picture of me when I was young and skinny. Michael Colby Jones is the murderer here.

When we were actually in production doing this scene, in the Scottish Play, we only had two swords. Michael, playing our terrifying lead, would basically kick the crap out of me (Young Siward) in a sword duel, disarming me and killing me with my own weapon. (Thanks Carrie Brewer!) Then, he would throw the sword into the ground in quite the manly fashion. Sean Elias-Reyes, playing MacDuff, would run on, grab the discarded weapon, and finish Michael off.

One might, right at the beginning of the fight, my sword broke into three pieces (the blade, the grip and the guard.) I was standing there with the grip only, as Michael, looking quite in character, approached, looking like he was happy I was unarmed.

I did the worst ad lib in the history of Shakespeare. I put up my hands and, before I thought better of it, said "Can we talk about this?" Audibly. The audience guffawed. I then ran away.

Sean killed Michael holding only the blade.

I still have that green shirt. It's got little holes in it where the makeshift and banged up sword would pull on my torso. Nostalgia.

Fun times. Fun times indeed. I miss acting some days. Like today.

Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts - Cut?

I attended Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in 1992. Over the years, the program has inspired countless artists and educators. Now, the proposed budget from Gov. Ed Rendell in PA does not, currently, include the Governor's School program at all.

This move would be a short-sighted disaster for the arts in Pennsylvania. It's disheartening that a program that costs so little and gives back so much could be viewed as worthy of the chopping block. Once a program like this is de-funded, getting it back is nigh impossible. It's not worth the short-term budget gains to eliminate something so vital.

If you attended, know someone who has, or simply love the arts and sciences, I urge you to sign this petition in protest.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Theater Blog at Time Out NY - Upstaged

And so it begins. Or continues, in a new more visible form. Or remains bloglike and formless.

Conversations on Russian Literature starts tonight!

The first preview performance is tonight for David Johnston's "Conversations on Russian Literature" at the Access Theater, produced by Blue Coyote Theater Group.

There are few people in this production I haven't worked with, and I'm really chomping at the bit to go and see it. (You can get your own tickets right here.) David's one of the funniest, smartest writers out there, and the combination of talented performers and directors really promises an entertaining evening.

Make plans to go and check this out. You'll be very happy you did, I'm sure.

The Brick is open to co-productions

The Brick is expanding its offerings for producers and renters.

Thanks to nytheatre-i for the heads up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Upcoming in the FRIGID Festival

The Question House by our good friend Tara Dairman. Take a looksee

Death of a Salesman

...had its Broadway debut 60 years ago today.

Why do I share this with you? Because I'm remarkably generous.

Someone needs to explain

...the difference between an earmark and spending on infrastructure to Calvin Woodward.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Stormy Daniels for Senate!

Yes she can!

To quote her: "Politics can't be any dirtier of a job than the one I am already in."


If she wins, will she be invited to the White House so that Obama can court her vote? Or does that only happen to Republicans?

For those bothering to follow the continuing saga

I created a new draft of In the Great Expanse of Space that is a mere 18 pages.

I am loathe to admit this...but it's probably the best version of the script.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Why I'm glad John McCain isn't president

During the stimulus debate:

“$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs? After-school snack program is probably a good idea. Do we really want to spend $726 million on it?”

I have answer for you, John McCain. How about $1 billion in Arts Funding. That would create a lot of jobs. And $50 million won't hurt either. Because all the nonprofit organizations that receive these funds generate economic output. Apparently, all of us aren't for the arts. You might like the arts, but you don't seem to know how they show up in galleries. Or how artists, and arts professionals, make a living. Which is to say, in this country, very rarely.

Thank God he's not President.

I will say, though, that I'm a bit disgusted by what I'm hearing is coming out of the Senate. The Republicans (a minority party that was shamed in the election and hurt the American public for the last eight years) asked for less spending, more tax cuts. They got: less spending, more tax cuts.

Why? Because they threatened filibuster or something? It's almost comforting to know that even if this time of great hope, the Congress can give us a sense of despair.

I want watch Boehner and McConnell actually filibuster. Someone explain the logic of avoiding the threat of filibuster by negotiation. Make them do it. It's like someone saying "I'll hit you" and you give them all your money so they don't. Even though they've never, ever actually hit you.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Regarding Christian Bale

I'm not one for Entertainment Gossip, but I have to say, as someone who has been in a fair number of rehearsal rooms, and someone who has, in his life, blown up at people in ways I'm glad were never recorded...I have to say...

C'mon people. Give the man a break.

The internet is a bizarre way for, by shaming and recording. the human race to self-govern. One wonders if it will lead us to deeper sympathy, or an increasing number of public stonings.

At Politico - a partisan "love fest'

Obama speaks to his own party with strong language, inspiring language and humor about the stimulus, after Republicans dominate the airwaves with remedial politics and long dismissed ideas... and it's written about like Obama is somehow off-message or hyper-partisan.

The most partisan thing that I'm seeing is how the media is covering the stimulus package.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Obama proposes cap of $500,000 on executive pay...

...for those companies that receive TARP funds.

The Times quotes this winner:

“That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus,” said James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm. “And you know these companies that are in trouble are not going to pay much of an annual dividend.”

It's a select few that would view a salary of half a million dollars a year as draconian. In the US, and in the world. It's also an insult to the vast majority of the human beings on earth who work for pennies a day.

Learn to live with a half a million dollars a year. Or don't take public funds. Sounds fair to me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

8 percent tax on Broadway Tickets?

Simple logic.

The theater is a luxury. Those who enjoy it must pay taxes for that luxury.

(Above and beyond the already astronomical and restrictive price.)

The only people who bother to go to the theater are rich anyway, its a sort of backdoor towards raising taxes on the rich. Right? Those people who aren't rich can always go to the movies to avoid these taxes. We won't tax movie tickets.

Embarrassing proposal. I love these cosmetic cost cutting measures that nail things like arts spending; parts of the budget that account for almost nothing. Politicians "make the hard choices" by cutting tiny, struggling programs that have shitty lobbyists.

Because, it's clear to me, that the Arts-as-a-Whole has the shittiest lobbyists in the universe. The fucking Peanut Industry has better lobbyists. The guys who make toys that could choke kids spend more money on lobbyists than the entire arts community, I'd bet. I'd be slapping my dead grandma if I found out that Broadway producers spend a tenth of what is spent by the Wire Coat Hangers industry to protect its funding and political interests.

Serious question, though. If this idiotic waste of a tax did pass, would this tax apply to non-profit productions? Or just commercial productions? Is that distinction proposed or even considered?