A few thoughts about Outrageous Fortune.
1. I am very happy to see this book bring these issues into a national conversation. Much (much, much) of what is in this book has been picked over on the theatrical blogosphere for some time now. It was great to read these things in a published edition. Hopefully it will spark useful conversation where it matters. Thanks to TDF for publishing this exceptional book. For all my tiny critiques, it's important that work like this is done, and done often.
2. I believe that the issues described here are not unique to our art or industry. Ask any journalist if there are systemic issues that must be addressed in his or her industry? Ask painters if it's easy to make a living in the United States. Ask the world of poetry where its funding comes from, about the prevalence of certain academic institutions, and how the greatest living poets make ends meet. Hell, read a book about Wall Street and its constant battles with corruption. Or read about how arcane Congressional rules now make it impossible for even a political party with a mandate to make great change. In short: we're not alone. We're just as screwed up as everyone else.
3. Our view of the value of creators in the US is upside down. We value distribution and middle-management over creation. We pay the gatekeepers; we pay the decision makers; we pay the marketers. But we shrug at the naivety of creative artists who want to make a living. The very people who produce the fuel that many institutions run on are paid less than the people who write grants on their behalf.
This is not to belittle the hard and wonderful work done by development staff and marketing staff and literary staff. It's just a reminder that we must rethink how artists are compensated.
4. Self Production isn't a bandwagon people recently got on. I've been hearing "self-produce" since I got started writing. Everyone has. I just think people need to know how to do it.
5. I suspect that most of us bloggers will view this book as evidence of the fundamental correctness of our previously expressed ideas. Whatever they may be.
6. I would never like to hear the word 'ecosystem' again to describe something that is made by human beings. Our theatrical system isn't an ecosystem that grew naturally up out of the soil. We're not helpless seeds planted in the ground, hoping for some sunlight. We all take part in the system and we create it anew each day by our participation. I'm not someone who believes that this system is fundamentally broken and needs to be tossed out. I believe we made it, and therefore we are not beholden to it. We can change it, improve it, and make it work for us.
7. Finally, if you're a playwright and you read Outrageous Fortune, it would be easy to get discouraged.
Don't be discouraged.
If there's something truly wonderful about this book, is that it's evidence that everyone is scrambling to figure out how to hear you, and how to make you heard. Take comfort in that. There are thousands of people out there that love plays and want to see great plays performed. They are hoping that when they sit down in a theater, and the lights go out, that your heartbreaking or hilarious play is the one they're going to see. Sure, there are many roadblocks, many mistakes, but at the center of all this hard work, all the meetings and interviews, is a powerful belief that theater matters, and that your work is important.
Keep at it.
- 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.