I had a chat with my pal Marshall a few weeks ago about his poetry and the group of poets he meets with to hash out work, give each other notes, and generally encourage one another. One thing that struck me was how he termed a poem that was viewed universally as working well and accomplishing its goals. He would say "Everyone agreed that that poem is finished."
That's not a phrase I hear very often, in the collaboration heavy/development happy world of theater. A playscript can often feel, unless it is published, in a constant state of flux. During any production of a play of mine (I don't mean workshop, I mean production) I will receive unsolicited advice quite often on what the next draft of the play should look like, what could or should be changed. The assumption is, I believe, that a play is a moving target, and is never truly finished. I think playwrights have, more often than not, accepted that view of their work.
I'd love to see the term "finished" used more by writers and by those who work in development. There is no piece of work that can satisfy all eyes, all audiences, all metrics. But a writer, and those that he or she trusts, can find a point where they say...not "this is good" but "this is finished."
I also think it's healthy for playwrights to say "this is a finished work." Then, the discussion can evolve. The lectures and lessons from laypersons and professionals alike can end, and a discussion of each play as a fully formed piece of art can emerge.
Do you think this is feasible? To move towards this sort of language? Or do you believe that because of the collaborative nature of theatre, there is no such thing as a "finished" play.
Furthermore, as a playwright, when do you look a script and say "I am not changing this any more. It is finished." Or have you never said that?
- 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.