- 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.
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.