About Me

My photo
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, January 25, 2010

My Outrageous Fortune Wrap Up

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.

6 comments:

99 said...

A-f'ing-sweet goddamn-men. Very, very much so.

Malachy Walsh said...

Nice.

RLewis said...

re: #4
For my money this might be the first example of 'self-producing' in nyc:

http://www.juliebovasso.tdparts.com/page1.html

(and also the very first OOB production)

Scott Walters said...

What I meant to say is that, in the past, self-producing for some (not all) was a means to climb the ladder. Suddenly, there seems to be an interest in self-producing as an end in itself. That's a change.

Freeman said...

Hey there -

Thanks for the clarification.

Pam said...

First off, I love what you wrote.

I think that while so-called "realism" is important, it's equally crucial that people remain positive and creative. I'm with Conan: cynicism doesn't get you anywhere.

I can also attest to the fact that the pains that are being felt in theatre are also being felt in other spheres. Many visual artists I know and admire have to have dayjobs or are otherwise struggling to make ends meet through their art alone. They are fighting to get the attention of a very small number of institutions and buyers, and don't get much support via government funding they way the golden Europeans seem to.

One difference I see though, is that many of these artists have harnessed the power of the web to take matters into their own hands, on at least a small commercial scale, by selling their work (or cheaper versions of it) via sites like Etsy.com and eBay and so on. Same with musicians via iTunes and Paypal and whathave you. Theatre is a particularly challenging beast, in that much of its magic lies in its temporality and live-ness. It's virtually impossible to digitize (though I will say for the record that when I see clips of shows on YouTube beforehand, trailer-style, I am often all the more compelled to go see the show).

Frankly, I think that could be a huge selling point, if marketed a bit better. If the pork industry can take out ads to build awareness, why not you guys? Theatre. The Analog Meat.