- 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.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Now, New Paradise will be performing its piece Freedom Club in NYC at the Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street, NYC, January 6-15.. The piece was created with Adriano Shaplin and the Riot Group who brought their show Pugilist Specialist through NYC a few years ago.
The artistic director of New Paradise is Whit McLaughlin. On a personal note, Whit was a teach of mine at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts in 1992. He was a big influence on me as a young artist, and I’ve always been incredibly pleased to see how his work has evolved and become nationally recognized.
I got a chance to ask Whit a few questions about the show and about the companies involved. Read on!
Has New Paradise come to New York City before?
We were in NYC in 1998 at the Ontological Theatre with GOLD RUSSIAN FINGER LOVE, a sort of epistemological James Bond epic. We returned in 2002 with THE FAB 4 REACH THE PEARLY GATES, which brought us the OBIE Award--we owe everything to the Beatles and to their lawyers.
Could you describe what New Paradise Laboratories is?
New Paradise Laboratories was founded in 1996 by Lee Etzold, Rene Hartl, Jeb Kreager, Mary McCool, Aaron Mumaw, Matt Saunders, and me. McKenna Kerrigan joined us a bit later. It was their first theatre company, my second, having also co-founded the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble back in 1978. We set out to create a style of physical theatre that I might describe as based in “rapturous physical presence”. The work has changed over the years, but the attention on the expressive power of the body has endured. Our first piece eventually became STUPOR, which was very popular with audiences, but both adored and reviled in the press. It was based on a bunch of Goya etchings. Arty but nasty.
What would you say are the main influences?
Early Playboy magazines, Artaud, a love affair with alcohol (now ended), and the sculptor Giacommetti.
Tell me about Freedom Club. What is the Riot Group’s association with New Paradise Laboratories?
Adriano Shaplin (the Artistic Director of the Riot Group) and I began to lurk around each other. He saw New Paradise—DON JUAN IN NIRVANA was his first piece, I think--which was full of fucking, hallucinations, and fake spirituality; I saw his work with Pig Iron Theatre and thought his writing was impressive: very present and aggressive. He approached me and we decided to cook something up.
I started by re-directing a couple of the Riot Group pieces that were great but that we thought could be spruced up a bit: VICTORY AT THE DIRT PALACE and HEARTS OF MAN. We had a blast. I got to know the Riot Group actors in the rehearsal hall, which was a good introduction. Then we jammed our companies into some workshops and began to work up material.
Adriano had become fascinated with demagogic talk shows and so I started paying attention too. We began to wonder if there was a way to fabricate a sort of really true history piece and then he proposed a Booth/Lincoln mash-up and FREEDOM CLUB started to come into being.
You’re based in Philadelphia. What do you like about working there? What do you see as differences between doing work in that area, and in New York?
In Philadelphia, I get to live in an under-rated paradise. I get to own a home and send my kids to private school on a theatre experimentalist’s salary.
I don’t think that happens everyday, though. I’ve been incredibly lucky and have very good friends.
How is your work generated?
An idea spends a lot of time in my head and then a lot of time in the studio. Everyone makes proposals--actors, designers, stage managers, dramaturges, web designers. I have to open my mind pretty wide. Then it all gets mashed together.
Could you tell me about the ensemble? Have the company members remained consistent?
The members of the Ensemble come and go and then come back again. They do a lot of other work and are developing their artistic lives in a number of interesting and challenging ways. Several of them are designers now as well. Writers. They have their own companies. I like that aspect of things. It’s a real treat when we get back in the room together.
We’re in the process of moving New Paradise Laboratories into cyberspace. What happens to physical presence when it’s dislocated and 24/7? We have started working with a number of new performers. And some company members are part of the creative team now.
We’re thinking of reviving a couple of the old pieces, which will be challenging and inspiring. What happens to movement actors as they move through their thirties? Their bodies begin to carry more and more wisdom. And they manage their injuries.
I’d like to ask you a bit about PGSA. Governor’s School was a fantastic experience for me, formative and extremely valuable. Recently, the program was defunded by the state. What do you think of the loss of the program and what was it like teaching us back then?
The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts was built on a utopian notion. Give 200 high school students a free ride for five weeks during the summer and make them think and breath an art form twenty-four hours a day. I created the theatre curriculum there starting in 1985. It was a blast.
New Paradise’s work came out of PGSA, actually. I worked with students there to invent 40-minute pieces that were very dense, inscrutable, and beautiful. I decided to do that full time and thus my company was born.
It was a sad day when the plug got pulled on PGSA. People fought hard to save it, but in hard economic times it seemed unnecessary. It was easy for the Pennsylvania State Legislature and Governor Rendell to throw it on the fire (ironically Rendell has been a big supporter of the arts). It didn’t cost a lot of money, but it couldn’t garner the necessary support to survive. A symbolic burning at the stake. I feel the loss very acutely.
How can people see Freedom Club?
January 6 through the 15th at the Connelly Theatre at 220 East 4th Street in Manhattan. Go to http://freedomclubtheshow.com/ for ticket information. A sweet little microsite.
Honestly, Whit's the real deal and I really can't recommend New Paradise more highly. Plus, company member McKenna Kerrigan graced a few readings of mine a few years back. One of the best actresses out there.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
You can get some detail about that here.
Also, the Times Square Ball app for the webcast was chosen at the Time "App of the Week." So if you're on the go, and you want to check it out, just download it.
If you're a fellow blogger and you want easy content on December 31st...embed! Embed us! I mean, you have other things to do?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thanks for the heads up Hester.
UPDATE: Not so fast!
Thanks for the heads up Ian.
God knows no one wants to be on the record insulting Julie Taymor and U2, major and successful artists, and this does sound like piling on, but what, exactly, is the point?
First you have Spider Man, a big time commercial Marvel property that has had his chance to shine and tell his story everywhere you can imagine (movies, comic books, cartoons, TV shows). Then you have Julie Taymor, who has already had her Tony for commercial work, and has a full career of films and spectacles. Then you have U2, which has already created incredibly successful and ubiquitous music for decades.
What here is so new and powerful and artistically potent that it's worth risking the safety of the actors? Or sending them to the hospital? Or risking the audience's safety?
Here's where you can find info about the app. You can also just look it up in the Droid market place or Apple app store.
Friday, December 17, 2010
So... embed it! Watch it!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Let's face the facts, when people talk about a mobile device on stage, they mean a body mic or a van. Very few play publishers have their books available for eReaders like the Kindle, Nook or even the iPad. You can't watch a play streaming on Netflix or have it delivered to your door. Theater continues to be a communal, intentional experience. It always will be. That means, though, as the economics of the world increasingly become based on ease of use and attractiveness, theater has to work much harder to find it's audience and keep it's artists tethered to the stage.
So... why not help? It doesn't have to be a lot of help. It can be a little help. $10, $25, $50, $100. If each of us gave just a little bit, it would add up to real financial support for companies with relatively low overhead, and a passing of a sort of energy. You're saying "You matter to me." There's very little that a theater company needs to hear more.
Now, I don't want to sound too gloomy. The reason to support theaters is not only to keep them alive (for God's sake) but also because they do exceptional work that you find inspiring, pleasurable and fun. There are loads of terrific artists out there putting on fine work. If you read this blog, you're definitely someone who can think of a few productions this year that made them very happy that they bought that ticket. We love theater, right? So we need to show it.
I'm going to highlight five companies that I think deserve your support. This is not a Top Five list...it's just the companies that come to mind in this moment. I certainly hope that other theater bloggers out there will highlight companies as well that they think need some support as well.
But if you're reading this, take one minute and give one of these companies a holiday gift. You'll be happy you did, and you'll have made a real difference with your money. I mean, what do you work so hard for anyway? You have economic power in each dollar bill. Express your values through giving.
Here's a few
Blue Coyote Theater Group - my home for years. Last year, they produced not only Glee Club (soon to be published by Playscripts, Inc.) but David Foley's Nance O'Neil. We're looking to bring Glee Club to Edinburgh in 2012, so every dollar helps.
The Brick - Always in motion, the Brick is. Festivals galore (ClownFest, FightFest, the Too Soon Festival). This is a staple of the Off-Off Broadway world, and a collection of wild and dedicated artists that just keep cranking out unique work. For example: the upcoming Iranian Theater Festival. Timely? Oh yes indeed.
Give online here!
Incubator Arts Project - What's old is new again. This new theater company rose up to replace the Ontological-Hysteric when Richard Foreman decided he'd made enough plays (only about 2,000) and would like to make some films or something like that. With young leadership, they've remained a vital force downtown, but to remain so, they'll need more than moral support.
Support them financially here.
The Management - Joshua Conkel, who wrote the terrific MilkMilkLemonade and is just an all-around great guy to boot, is currently fundraising for his company The Management. Their goal is $5,500 20 days from now. Well, heck, that can totally be done. It just needs a few readers like you to help.
Support them on IndieGoGo today.
NYTE - The Family Denton continues to support you, so maybe you should support them too. From publications to podcasts to nytheatre.com, Martin and Rochelle Denton's work has become invaluable to not only supporting but preserving this generation of theater artists work in New York.
Support them here.
Feel free to promote and support any other artists in my comment section. Again, there are lots more worthy companies out there! Give to who you love!
Happy Holidays! Remember, even if you give a little, it means a lot!
Friday, December 10, 2010
I kid. This sounds like a very engaging evening of watching another human being suffer. My Last Play tickets can be found here.
Because it's pointless folks. Don't you want to watch someone else tell you that and THEN give you a little bit of his hopes and dreams at the end?
Thursday, December 09, 2010
This is not what the filibuster is for. This is not what representative government is intended to look like. This is a shameful moment.
For all the Democrats that took a few hours over the last week to complain about Obama's inability to get their agenda passed...this is what his opposition looks like. As Andrew Sullivan says, they're basically just nihilists. Their goal is power for it's own sake, not good government.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
From the press release:
Drawing on the Sophoclean and Senecan versions of the Oedipus story, George Hunka's What She Knew is a contemporary meditation on the role Jocasta plays in the tragedy: a woman whose willful participation in Oedipus' guilt reveals an extraordinary capacity for erotic and sexual transgression as a means to freedom, as an avenue to outwit time, place and her own desiring and desirous body. She strides through centuries, balancing between the ecstasy of loss in another's body and the agony of moral criminality.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
New life question: How many of my friends are going to have kids before my first invasive medical procedure?
34? Good year. Got married to the amazing Pam. Remember one-third of my bachelor party. Emma Marie DelGrosso born. Had plays performed. Got reviewed by the Times. Got stuff published. Happiness and health. Cats still seem to like me, despite my surliness. Read that Franzen book and those books about Lisbeth Salander and a book about probability and stuff like that. Wrote that blog post about what writing a play is like. (People liked that one.) You know, good stuff like that.
But that's all for the 2010 year in review post that I'll inevitably write.
In the meantime...
Here's to me, Matt Freeman, still alive. I would like my goddamn tiara.
Monday, December 06, 2010
First is Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? This is Edward Einhorn's production, based on the Philip K. Dick story that famously inspired Blade Runner. I saw this production last weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A game troupe of downtown darlings all put on a terrific show, especially Moira Stone (who I had the pleasure of working with only very recently). Einhorn does many difficult things at once here, with original music, video that is both stock footage and live feed, and carefully adapting a well-worn story. Oh and directing the actors and stuff like that. He juggles it all with some serious skill, and the result is resonant and impressive.
Don't just take my word for it.
I have it on good authority that it's nearly sold out, except for Wednesday and Thursday. Check it out.
The other is one I haven't yet seen, but hope to. Emancipatory Politics by Eric Bland, currently running at Incubator Arts. Eric's a great guy, and his writing is exuberant and thoughtful. (Read Martin Denton's rave here about the show here.) Great cast (including Alexis Soittle who was great in Brandywine Distillery Fire), great space, great writer.
It runs only until December 11th.
So...what are you waiting for?
Friday, December 03, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I don't know. I think there's a lot of smoke here and no fire. Patrick Healy's job is to cover the goings on in theater business, but he's a bit handcuffed by the reputation of the paper. Should he not cover this much anticipated and discussed preview out of sense of decorum? Or should he and risk the derision of artists who feel that it's wrong to expose a work-in-progress to the public eye? He appears to have chosen to cover his story, which is all that can be expected of him. He's written an article about what actually happened and then interviewed the crowd about their responses. Is it entirely without opinion? No, but then again, I think there's something sort of old fashioned and odd about how theater journalists and producers have these tacit agreements about what is and isn't out of bounds, even as the public pays for the privilege of being patient.
"The truth is, what you see here is a blatant move by the Times to get in on the action. The action of All That Chat, specifically. Notice how they have their gossipy story online already, probably just a few hours after the firstSpidey chatroom post. No doubt the Times also assumed that Riedel would have a story in the Post--and he does."
This "work in progress" is, in fact, charging people upwards of $100 to attend it. I can get a whole lot of Spider Man comics and the entire Spider Man movie trilogy on DVD for less. If you're going to take a superhero property, outspend every Broadway show in history, use big names to create and (let's face it) sell your show, then you have to live with the downside of fame and glory, too. It's unreasonable to expect the public to wait reverently and quietly without any information, to spend their money, and for the press to treat this incredibly newsworthy show as if it they can't cover it until the producers give them the "go-ahead." I mean, the show is called Turn Off The Dark, after all. Isn't that what Patrick Healy is, in a limited way, trying to do?
Previews are lightly abused by Broadway producers, I think. If the previews are really dress rehearsals that are performed in front the public, why aren't the tickets free?Would a film producer say "Hey, I've got about 80% of this movie done, the special effects aren't complete, and I'm working out the story. I'd love to see what you think. That'll be $10!"
Obviously, that's a massive oversimplification and previews have a purpose. I don't see, though, how the audience (isn't that what it's all about) has an advocate if the press is careful not to piss off the producers and the producers are charging for an unfinished product. I can accept that it's a good idea not to review the show until it's officially ready to be opened (otherwise, you're not reviewing the actual vision and finished product) but... is all press coverage that isn't a fawning interview with the creative team akin to a review? I don't think so.
I do, though, sympathize with the actors. As a friend of mine said, the actors must be in a hell of a miserable working environment right now, and advanced coverage that exposes their foibles and pain can't help. The creative team can't be having any fun at the moment, and no one likes that sort of thing exposed to the public. Still...isn't that just show biz?
So...what do you think?
Do you think the Times coverage crosses an imaginary line? Do you think that Previews should be out of bounds and that Healy is, essentially, breaking a trust by writing about an unfinished work? Do you think too much emphasis is being placed on the business and not enough of the show's artistic ambitions? Or do you find yourself a bit skeptical when you hear Spider Man On Broadway and Artistic Ambitions in the same paragraph?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Last weekend, Pam and I had the opportunity to see Elevator Repair Service's production of Gatz at the Public. (Thanks to a few good friends who got us ticket as a wedding present.) It's one of those productions that "everyone is talking about," as they say. I don't need to tell most readers of this much about it: they perform the entire book, word for word, on stage.
Of course, there's a reason it's called Gatz and not Elevator Repair Service's The Great Gatsby. The production is not a reenactment of the novel; it's a celebration of the experience of reading a book. Housed in a dreary office space that might as well have been designed by Vogons, the company slowly emerges from this environment to embody Fitzgerald's characters. We see the "real world" slowly move to the background, and is eventually entirely supplanted by the reality of the theatrical experience.
I thought the production was exceptional, not exactly an insight. Nonetheless, it was a privilege to watch performers that are at the top of their game, who earned the right to be where they are, using all their available tools to create something pleasurable and insightful and ambitious.
I loved the length, which was about 7 hours including three intermissions and a dinner break. I loved it because a "full length evening" has gotten shorter and shorter. I'm just as guilty as anyone else. An hour and fifteen minutes with no intermission is becoming increasingly common, and I think it's a bit of a cancerous trend. One can tell a story in less time, always. Editing down to the bone has is the curse of Microsoft Word, I think. I could type out the story of Star Wars in a paragraph. The passage of time, though, is literally impossible to replicate. To feel yourself come to the end of a long story, especially one this well told, is uniquely satisfying.
I think we've mistaken spending time on things that aren't absolutely indefensibly necessary as wasting time. What is so wrong with the possibility of a moment of boredom, even if that moment buys you a far richer experience?
Any reservations I have about the evening were really a matter of personal taste, and not the level of competence on display. The Great Gatsby has never been a novel that I deeply connect to, and even as I found new appreciation for it by watching Gatz, I still wouldn't count it as novel I'm aching to revisit or spend more time with.
Furthermore, there is a pervasive sense of geniality throughout the performance, and that's not really my style. Elevator Repair Service is charming, winning. There is, though, not much danger to be found. I never felt scared or unsettled. That's not what was being sold, so I can't fault them for not providing it. I'm just someone who likes a little more bite overall, and Gatz is a lot more like a hug than a fist fight, even in its most dramatic moments.
Finally, as I watched, it occurred to me that Gatz is a director's piece, even as the actors are performing career-best level work. In fact, a lot of my favorite work is the product of strong directors (Ivo Van Hove, Robert Wilson). As a writer, it's probably worthwhile for me to explore exactly what that means to me. Not that I want to direct, but what it is about these pieces that excite me, and what about that excitement can I channel into my own work and working relationships.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Wonder what Wendy Wasserstein would have thought of this mess. Also... this award is four years old. Four. Has it really exhausted the list of possible winners?
Update: Adam Feldman and Time Out New York carefully demonstrate the difference between blogs, open letters and journalism. Essential reading on the subject.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Click here to find the entire text, or the link in the sidebar.
If you're reading it and want to get an e-mailed version, obviously, let me know. mattfr - at - gmail.com.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Is it because of the reviews? Tyler Perry snobbery? Is marketing sooo segregated that we're all more interested in The Walking Dead than this film of a famous play?
I'm not an exception. I haven't seen it either. This post isn't some veiled way to take the high road on the issue. I'm just curious why we've largely skipped this, even just weighed in on it? Unless there's some blog post I missed about this somewhere?
Monday, November 08, 2010
I've always been fond of the speech that opened that play. I figure why not share it here too? This was written for Moira Stone (and so it bears her name), and it borrows largely from improvisational material generated by the cast of Exposition.
On a side note: it's nice to share some of my creative work in this space. I don't do it that often, and I hope to remedy that.
She asked me if I would zip it up for her. I said I would. She turned around. I zipped her up. I don’t know. It could have been the way she turned around that made me start crying. But it was only a little bit of crying, and she didn’t notice it. Or she did notice it, and she didn’t say anything about it. She does that. She actively says nothing. Chooses zero.
She’s cheerful. She’s stuffed into this turquoise and coral dress like it’s a pig’s mouth and she’s an apple. Years ago, she was sitting in a pair of beige pants and only her bra sobbing into an ashtray. I was, what? Ten? Younger? She asked me to open a box of cigarettes because she couldn’t. Now, here we are. Here she is. I work somewhere, I do something, I’m married, I don’t think about being married. It’s all she thinks about. Being married.
When she dies… I wonder if she even will die. Will she? She could. She’s supposed to I guess. If she does, when she does, I’m going to just watch television and wear jeans. I’m going to flop down on a couch and watch TV until I just flick it off and then I’ll stare at the black screen and wait. Did you know that when the TV is off…it’s dreaming? Of Sanford and Sons and Car 54 Where Are You and waves and pixels and light trapped in tombs. Of light trapped underground in Paris. When it closes its eyes, it’s dreaming.
I am an actor’s actor. I do all sorts of subtle things on stage that other actor’s appreciate. To them, perhaps, I’m almost transparently skilled. You might not realize what I’m doing, it might not be clear to you immediately, it might never become clear. To those of you in the audience tonight that have ever been on stage, though, I know you know what I’m up to. I know you see what I’m doing right now, and that you have tremendous respect for it. That you admire it.
You might be thinking “She’s trying to appear almost as if she’s not acting at all, a sort of less-is-more with a dash of heightened emotion.” That would almost be true, if I weren’t so calculating though laconic. You might be imagining that behind my eyes is a complex series of motivations. No, no. It’s less than that and more.
Look here. See this area of my face? You didn’t even think about the effect it has on the rest of your experience with my face. You can’t imagine how important this zone can be. There’s this book that only the actors here have heard of, a book called The Uneasy, which is by a Taiwanese child prodigy. That book highlights the importance of this area of the face. It is also known, far and wide, as the definitive text on sotto voce.
Actors see what I’m doing and know I’ve read that book. Actors see what I’m doing and they see the cagey way I circle a line and then attack when you least expect it. Actors envy, perhaps, my wicked way around a verb, the way I slide adjectives around my teeth, the way I seem to pull new nouns out of old ones. You might not. That’s why I’m not even really doing this with you in mind. You’re there, I see you. About as well as you see me.
It helps that zombie stories also feature unabashedly over the top violence that can be both grisly and hilarious.
And you, dear readers? Zombies or Vampires? It's Monday, and this is about all the discussion I care to handle today.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The "deficit" seems to be the largest problem for people, which strikes me as a significantly cynical piece of conservative slight-of-hand. By focusing voter anger on this issue, they have somehow hoodwinked the public into believing the Democrats ballooned the deficit (it was Republicans) and that the Wall Street Bailout was not done under Bush (and that even costs a fraction of what it was supposed to) and that deficit reduction, lower taxes and job creation can somehow co-exist easily in the same political universe.
In fact, lowering taxes helps balloon deficits and does not lead to job creation. Federal spending does not hurt the public...in fact, smart federal spending pays for schools, police and fire departments, provides public assistance during a major economic crisis, and keeps state governments from having to turn off the lights.
All that being said, the facts are not as cut and dry "good news" for the right as they might seem. First of all, almost half of their seat pick-ups were Tea Party candidates, who have all but promised to be a thorn in Republican leadership's side and to bring some truly wacky ideas to the table.
Also, Blue Dog Democrats largely lost. The Times notes that this lack of moderate voices might be a problem for Democrats...but I don't know. It seems like most voters discontent with Democrats was not that they lacked the desire to compromise. Instead, most progressives that were not energized lacked energy because their party was not hard-nosed enough about progressive values.
Republicans have now become tied to promises to reduce the deficit without raising taxes - which means cutting spending only. And of course, they have made no major suggestions about how they will do that - except completely absurd things like dismantling the Department of Education. They stated on the record that they will not touch entitlements or defense...which are the largest pieces of the federal pie. They've set themselves up - simply to gain power - to fail to match their rhetoric.
They've also said they would like to repeal health care reform...an impossible task without control of the Senate or a veto-proof majority.
Oh and ... the Senate. Suddenly small beer? I'm not so sure about that. Now that there is almost no way to achieve 60 votes in the Senate without crossing party lines, how will the Republicans use the filibuster to their advantage? Their own legislation will come up from the House and die in a Senate controlled by the opposite party. Frankly, more than 400 bills passed by a Democratic Congress failed in the Senate over the last two years. Do we expect that a largely splintered Republican-controlled Congress will have more success in Harry Reid's Senate?
The Tea Party, which helped the Republicans make massive gains in the House, actually did them serious harm in their bid to take the Senate. Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell lost in places that Republicans could have won (thank God). And it looks like, as of this writing, that Colorado and Washington State will remain Blue (very close races there), largely because of lunatic candidates.
Obviously, there's been a lot of bad news, mostly, to my mind, about how cynically and sadly the Republican Party has been able to - in only two years - convince voters to vote against their own interests yet again. But governance is a whole different animal. The great irony is that Democrats are not expert propagandists, but are better at governing. Republicans are great to obediently attacking and staying on message, but their actual ability to govern is deeply suspect. Let's see, now that some of the power in Washington lies in GOP hands, just what they do with it.
If the public was upset about gridlock, then we've done exactly the opposite of what will do any good. The "enthusiasm gap" was really the "Unfounded Rage At Imaginary Issues" gap. Rage might make you go and vote, but it's never stimulated the part of the brain that does us any good.
Things change fast in our country and your collective memory is getting shorter. I don't feel remotely like this bodes any which way for 2012, honestly. 2 years, as we can see now, is a very long time in politics.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
We'll see if I'm wrong. Fun game, this punditry.
We'll also see, no matter what, media outlets declaring even a small gain for Republicans as a complete rejection of Obama's policies by the American People.
Monday, November 01, 2010
The Social Network - I'm the last one to the dance on this movie, which was built up tremendously for me before I saw it. Movie of the decade and all that jazz. Expectation is funny that way. The movie, to me, is a Perfectly Acceptable Film with some good scenes and good acting, but it never really soared for me. There are great films I've seen in my life that made me sort of go "Wow this is working for me on every level." This film never hit that for me. It's got some writerly Sorkin-esque quick dialogue that was fun but entirely expected and the promised pettiness and betrayals that make a movie like this fun. But ultimately, too much of it happened over conference room tables for me to be blown away. I liked it, a lot, but it never made me want to cheer.
After my initial response, I was able to say: yes this is about how people ache for acceptance, about how seemingly new technology is just harnessing our desire for connection, and about the irony of a software that was built by misanthropes that does the math on how to be social. I mean, the ideas are there and the performances are there. It just never flew for me.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - Read this. Not a groundbreaking response: fantastic. I will say that the sheer number of people with what sounds like clinical depression gets to be rather overwhelming, but that reads true for the characters involved. There's something painful on every page, but it's also exhilarating. I've heard that some people think Patty Berglund writes a bit too well to be a convincingly true character, but I loved the sections in her voice. Her competitiveness and family dynamics just seemed heartfelt, cruel and authentic.
Little Foxes as directed by Ivo Van Hove - Pam and I saw Misanthrope a few years back and that production was absolutely one of the best things I've ever seen. There was something primal at play, and the way the characters churned in the stew of their own misery and hate, counterpointed Moliere... just floored me. Here, though, the text is not reimagined so much as turned up. The drama is nullified as actors hump the walls or spit in one another's faces. Without a constricting Southern culture to put the characters behavior into a context, it just all gets wiped clean.
That isn't to say that I was entirely unmoved or unimpressed. There's nothing but competence as far as the eye can see at NYTW. I'd much prefer to see something that goes for the gusto and misses with all it's might than something that has carefully trained to hit the "surprise me" "shock me" and "sadden me" buttons.
Qui Nguyen and Abby Marcus are moving to Minnesota - Say hi to my family out there guys! And Isaac Butler! And come back soon!
The Force Unleashed II - Man, I beat this video game in like 4 hours. Seriously.
Rubicon - What a great show! Very old fashioned: mature, smart, well-paced. The season is over now, but get it on iTunes or whatever. It's filmed in NYC, which means lots of great local actors (Christopher Evan Welch, James Badge Dale, Dallas Roberts) and locations. Also, my dear beloved Natalie Gold is all over that show and is awesome. Plus Keira Keeley!
There. That's out of the way. Maybe I can actually blog a bit now.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
After the ceremony and festivities, Pam and I took a trip up to Hudson, NY. If you're ever around that way, might I recommend staying at The Croff House? It's where we stayed and I can't praise it highly enough. The couple that run it, Russ and Duncan, are just insanely terrific.
Anyway thanks for your patience. I'll hopefully have more to say soon enough. In the meantime, how're you?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Where Dan and I grew up, it wasn't exactly easy to be gay. In fact, I'm sure it was incredibly confusing and difficult for him. Now that he's out, living with his long-time partner Joe, he's got a great house in the Minneapolis area and a fantastic job.
Dan has been through a lot in his life, but he's right now as happy as I've ever seen him. I'm proud of him and I love him and I know that he wouldn't be as happy as he is now if he hadn't decided to embrace himself and live in the open. He's incredibly smart, strong and determined. He's an inspiration.
Love you Danny! Happy Coming Out Day!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
You may have heard of him from GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE, DENOUEMENT and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. Oh, and that kids show.
Listen here. Fantastic.
Friday, October 01, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Read about it here.
Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
From the Rolling Stone Interview
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Christ. Christ. Goodbye money. Goodbye.
This was a head-scratcher for me. And so, I posted this question on Facebook and got several interesting responses from producers on the Indie Theater scene.
I'm going to copy the conversation thread in its entirety, with names removed, so that no one will go on record as criticizing the union. I think, though, that it's a conversation worth reading, and considering.
1. I asked permission from the Facebook contributors before posting this to my blog.
2. In case you're wondering, I'm not anti-union. I'm a big pro-union guy. I think unions do important work. In this case, though, in an effort to protect the interests of a few, AEA stifling the very industry that could and should be growing in New York City.
And so...the conversation...
Matthew Freeman Hey Producers -
Have you ever received instruction from AEA on how you are to treat non-Equity actors?
What do you mean by 'treat"? I've worked with generally mixed Equity/Non-Equity casts.
I guess I mean have you ever received, from Equity, instruction on rules governing non-Equity actors. For anything: breaks, rehearsal time, pay, filming, whatever. I'm curious.
No. I just treat them the same (including pay) as the Equity actors, otherwise chaos ensues. I mean, if i was doing a big show where there were ten roles from a nonec apprentice company, it'd be a different story.
Makes sense. But that's self-selecting good behavior. It's my understanding that Equity will occasionally include directions to companies about the use of non-union members. I was looking for someone to confirm or deny that.
Hm. Not on a showcase level as far as I know. I bet once you're on a seasonal showcase or above code it starts to happen.
Matt- let me ask down at Long Wharf today- we have a Christmas show that hires both.
Hey Matthew, still not real clear what you are asking. Are you asking about Showcase codes specifically? The production itself falls under the domain of AEA so filming, rehearsals etc would be privy to the same treatment. As far as paying non-AEA, no need according to the contract but as producer 1 says, it is good practice to pay non-AEA something in an AEA showcase. http://actorsequity.org/docs/codes/Showcase_Producer_Kit.pdf
No, no, I'm more trying to get into a specific point, one that you just sort of illuminated. The production itself falls under the code as opposed to the actors within the production? Which means that all actors in the production (even those who are not union members) cannot be filmed? Have the same restrictions in terms of hours of rehearsal? The only thing it doesn't apply to is pay?
To the best of my knowledge, Equity doesn't give a crap about non-Equity actors. The rules of the code or contract only apply to Equity actors. Non-Equity actors would only be affected indirectly - for example, under the Showcase code you can't pay a non-Equity actor more than you're paying any Equity actor. You can film as much as you like of a show as long as no Equity actors appear on-screen.
Correct, the production itself falls under the code, no filming of any part. People get around this by doing interviews or slideshows with voice-overs. The pay only applies to AEA actors because it can be enforced. As for having a rehearsal where you may not call Equity Actors in for a night; I honestly don't know. AEA can be feisty so great idea to seek input. I wouldn't advise contacting AEA directly about these questions, they will watch you like a hawk. :)
From Equity: "No taping, filming or recording may be made, in whole
or in part, of any code production or rehearsal."
Hmmm...looking at the Code again, I suppose I'm technically wrong. But I've never had an issue violating the code where non-Equity actors are concerned.
The Showcase code is unclear on a lot of points, and if you contact Equity you're likely to just get the opinion of whoever you happen to be talking to. I had an actor demand his ten minute break during a tech run through of a [company name removed] show - nothing in the code about not getting their breaks, whether it's tech, dress or performance, which would mean no act could go longer than eighty minutes. I called Equity and they had to get back to me. They called me back the next day to say that I could do run-throughs within one week of opening as long as I provided breaks immediately before and after.
It just strikes me as odd that Equity's code asserts any control at all over actors that are not Equity, by claiming jurisdiction over the production as a whole, so to speak.
As a producer under the showcase code I've never had anything from AEA about non-AEA actors, but based on some stories I've heard from non-AEA actors working under showcase on productions other than my own, it wouldn't behoove AEA to include... info to certain producers... Some people can be just plain rude to their non-union actors and staff.
I did make inquiries some time ago about filming, and yes, what [name removed] and others have written above is true, if the production is under code you may not film even non-aea actors doing any part of the actual script on set in costume. That's why so many people do interviews or slide shows instead. If you want to write dialogue that compliments the play but is not in the script, you can shoot that, as long as it is not on the set or in the actual costumes.
I have never thought of it that way until you brought this up but I guess it becomes "An Equity approved production" which follows basic guidelines and minimal "good" working conditions for the union actors. Several colleges follow the Equity rules even though they are non equity, simply because they are safe and fair practice, minus paying anyone, of course. They are saying if you want to use our actors, your entire production has to follow these rules. Sometimes it helps but inevitably it can get in the way. Remember every time you take a rehearsal break, the clock resets and you have another 55 or 80 minute stretch.
It does seem odd to me that you can't record non-AEA actors, since the point is to protect the likenesses of their members. For our last show, the author wrote a special scene, a sort of prologue, that was not in the actual script, and we recorded that as a teaser.
But reading the rulebook, it doesn't look as if you need to abide by the rules regarding breaks and restrictions on rehearsal amounts for non-members (they apply to "Actors", which is defined at the start of the booklet as AEA-members only). I always treat non-members and members the same as far as breaks and fees and bios and all that, but I confess I did once start rehearsals a few days earlier than we were supposed to, using only the non-Equity actors.
Keep in mind that one of the reasons for not allowing filming of any kind also has something to do with AEA actors not getting paid more. If you use non AEA to do "some filming" you have in a sense found the loophole that takes money out of an Equity actor's hand. Theoretically ,all people should be paid to promote a piece. When you see regional theatres filming scenes for promotion, those actors have been paid extra and their contact has been tweaked. Again, with the fair practice thing.
It does strike me, though, as a sort of way for the union to assert control over non-union membership, over which it honestly should have no jurisdiction. That is to say: does Equity have the right to assert that non-Equity actors can't be filmed? Regardless of why they might want to assert that right?
True, but theoretically all people should be paid to appear in a piece too, and that doesn't happen under the Showcase code. As far as AEA is concerned, Showcase productions only exist to, er, showcase the actors with the goal of getting them future paid work. Nowadays web videos are such an important part of promoting a production it kind of sucks that you're not allowed to do it. I would think, rather than banning it outright, they could include provisions ensuring that nobody involved gets paid more than the AEA members for it.
Worst thing that can happen, I think, is they will not approve an Equity Showcase, or if they have already approved it, they can shut it down. They have and they do.
@ PRODUCER 3, you are absolutely correct and 85 percent of Equity Actors agree.
Many of our AEA meetings are about just that. Actor unions get in the way as much as they help. AEA members try to allow our union to see the flaws and the provisions change but other unions hold other jurisdictions and well "it sucks."
It does indeed suck. I'm a member myself, as an actor and a stage manager, but since I'm also a producer I've got those annoying asterisks on my card and can't attend membership meetings.
The code seems almost like it was designed specifically to hinder the development of original work. We're trying to produce a workshop production of our next show, but Equity doesn't really provide for any steps between a basic staged reading and a full production. I would love to use Equity actors, but that just may not be possible. Which means when it does go to a full production, we may very well keep the non-Equity actors and not bother with the Code. AEA actors have then missed out on, at the very least, the fee we pay actors and an opportunity to market themselves to agents and casting directors.
One other thing, the union is watching out for the dues paying members. They are responsible to them. As far as everyone in a production being paid, I totally agree. I think that lies on the producer to "do the right thing." The union is not saying you shouldn't pay them. They are implying you should by saying you can't pay them more than an equity actor. Those producers that somehow muscle up cash for the entire team are the ones that keep everyone coming back not just the Equity actors. Low budget theatre is difficult but if ever possible all parties should be paid (something) even if it means splitting ticket sales. This is good practice, one that most would agree with.
Entirely agree, I would never pay actors differently because of their union status. In fact, the code demands that nobody involved in the production gets paid more than AEA members - not designers, not directors, nobody. I hold to this, and lost a director because of it. She was shocked and offended that I wouldn't violate the Code to pay her more.
UPDATED: I was recently told that a company was informed by Equity that under the Showcase Code, the Press Agent couldn't be paid more than the actors. I'm sorry, but is it even possible to hire a press agent at that cost>
What is the purpose of that rule? To discourage producers from using the Showcase Code. It is, in effect, punitive.
So...I would like to invite a member of Actor's Equity in good standing, someone on the Showcase Code Committee, to actually explain these policies. I would be happy to give them this space to do so. Does anyone out there know who it is I need to contact to get someone on the record?
Monday, September 27, 2010
While you're on Amazon, you can read the hilarious review of the play by a Texas schoolteacher, who found it so "beyond the pale" that she threw it away. I mean, c'mon. You have to read it with that kind of endorsement.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Whoa! A Freeman on stage?
If you're in the Minneapolis area, go see this production and my brother David (pictured above, on the witness stand) in A Few Good Men.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I'm not sure about that. I wonder if part of the reason theater audiences seem to be shrinking is because when audiences do venture Off-Off Broadway, they tend to find relatively "homemade, disposable" work and don't feel like it's worth their time and effort to seek it out. It's more expensive than a movie, more work to discover what to see, and more often than not, looks like it's been made on a budget of a few bucks and dressed in hand-me-downs.
Not that I think the handmade, downtown, two-chairs-and-glass-of-water aesthetic can't be terrific and compelling. I'm just wondering how you, the reader, feel about this question of the disposable versus the rare.
Not a fully formed thought, clearly. Just putting it out there.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Break a leg David!
Does this ring true to those of you that have ever been married? Or do you call, you know, bullshit on that and think theater people are just as stressed as everyone else when they're getting married?
Did I mentioned I'm getting married in less than a month?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
The reviews are in for Brandywine Distillery Fire!
There are only two performances to go, including tonight. Make sure you pick up tickets in advance.
“Sly... [Alexis Sottile’s] monologue nails a certain brand of theater in-joke, the kind of thing that Christopher Guest would come up with if he set his sights on downtown theater…. Moira Stone’s turn is charming and precise.”
Jason Zinoman, The New York Times
“A rich stew… It's great that something fun and silly can also be smart and thought-provoking.”
Martin Denton, nytheatre.com
“Dialogue seethes with subtext…Brandywine embraces a winsome avant-garde sense of humor.”
Paul Menard, Time Out New York
“Hilarious…a cannily casual production.”
Mitch Montgomery, Backstage
“This is genuinely new, solid, exciting work. If you’re the conservative type who needs to be spoonfed the baby food of literalness, steer clear not only of this production, but of the entire Incubator Arts Project, and probably also several New York zip codes. Oh, yes. And me.”
- Trav S.D
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Jason Zinoman does highlight some performances and moments that I agree are worthy of praise. I don't agree with every word, but I wouldn't, would I? I don't really see the show as being about self-indulgent actors, for example, and that idea is headlined.
To really understand what all the fuss is about, you really should see it for yourself. It's only $18 and it runs for four more performances.
Update: Nytheatre.com's review is up as well.
Happy Birthday Jeff. Hope you're safe and well!
Monday, September 13, 2010
Only four more performances of Brandywine Distillery Fire. We're on Tuesday, and then Thursday-Saturday. 8pm performances. Tickets can be gotten in this place.
Our first weekend went extremely well, I felt. We're currently waiting on press (one review is out, a few more to go before I can report on the consensus). I'll post links here as they become available.
If nothing else, you really have to see our cast. Pictured (mostly) above.
"It’s difficult to know where to begin when discussing a play that runs away from any sense of a narrative beginning (not to mention middle and end) like an unruly toddler. But subverting theatrical convention is exactly the point of Michael Gardner and Matthew Freeman’s playfully illogical Brandywine Distillery Fire, which, it turns out, has absolutely nothing to do with Brandywine, distilleries or fires.
The title is only the first of many red herrings designed to throw audiences off the trail of a stable dramatic experience. At first glance—with the set’s red velour curtain, brocade chesterfield sofa and footlights—one might think that Gardner and Freeman are serving up a drawing-room comedy. The formal-wear-attired performers (including Steve Burns, former host of the children’s show Blue’s Clues), looking very Noël Coward but speaking very Gertrude Stein, deliver dialogue that seethes with subtext as they starkly shift from one seemingly vapid conversation to the next. Affecting a stilted cadence, the ensemble creates a disconnect between words and actions, continuously undercutting the value of language.
Don’t be scared off by this highfalutin metatheatricality: Brandywine embraces a winsome avant-garde sense of humor."Read the whole thing here.
Mitch Montgomery at Backstage calls the piece "frustrating and hilarious." Can't argue with that. His review seems happy and mystified in equal measure.
When more reviews appear, I'll link to them.
UPDATE: Aaron Riccio seems particularly perturbed by our play, but I'll link to it in the name of general goodwill. He refers to it as "too mystifying to be annoying." Yikes. At least that means it's not annoying?
Criticism is something that it's always hard to engage with publicly. I'm sure I'm not the only playwright that doesn't want to quibble with reviews in public: it seems petty, and sort of pointless, and it risks making you seem thin-skinned. It also can create an adversarial relationship with the press - not exactly a great plan. Also, some reviewers might touch on weaknesses in the piece that are valid, and you can't really absorb that right away. Just like anything, in the midst of the creative process, it's impossible to be objective.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
If you're a regular reader of this space, and you're considering seeing the show, tonight or tomorrow would be terrific times to make it. Early performances, in a short run, are a real key to the overall success of the production.
For tonight and tomorrow night, there's a discount code that gets you $10 tickets. The code is "dogfighting".
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Friday, September 03, 2010
Click here to order Friday tickets. Then, enter the discount code "dogfighting" for $10 tickets.