- 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?