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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, April 18, 2011

Little-Known Quotes from Well-Known Playwrights

When I was younger, I used to sit for hours with books of familiar quotations. It was always fun to find inspiring or unexpected quotes from my favorite authors, or to discover a gem of a quote for the first time. Lately, though, with the internet, I find my searches to be increasingly narrow, less whimsical.

So... for you, dear readers, and for myself...I went digging through old forgotten books and the dustiest parts of the internet (the ones from the early 90s with those weird protocols) to find you some choice, extremely rare, little known quotes from famous and/or influential dramatists. Just to recapture that spirit of discovery.

You're welcome.


“Paper is like Joyce Carol Oates: white.”

-Caryl Churchill

“Rise early. Write. Disappoint your sons. Read the newspaper. Go to bed early. Success.”

-Arthur Miller

“Deep knowledge is not knowledge of the thing itself, but knowledge of a thing like the thing. Then, you gain not one knowledge, but two knowledges. Of the thing. And of the original thing with is like the thing. Which is the barbarism of the privileged class.”

-George Bernard Shaw

“If I’d seen a playwright ever write an’ play at the same time, I’d have given ‘em more of a chance at cards. Can I get an ‘amen?’”

-Mark Twain

“Caryl Churchill is a writer of some note, but in the sack, she makes me explain everything.”

-Sam Shepard

“The Greeks could be a crushing bore. I recommend dressing everyone in combat fatigues or S&M gear.”


“To write a play one must be born a playwright. Otherwise, you’re starting at a huge disadvantage.”

-Edward Albee

Palestine. Fuck. Egypt…fuck. ”

-David Mamet

“All hail the writer who has not sharpened her pen.”

-Sarah Ruhl

“Quality is like quantity, but there’s a lot less of it.”

-Suzan-Lori Parks

“Only assholes write plays about Nazis.”

-David Lindsay-Abaire

“If you show a gun in the first act, some mother fucker is getting totally shot to shit and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

-Adam Bock

“A play is never finished. You’ll find out how much I mean that when you read my Last Will and Testament.”

-Tony Kushner

“Stop playing the drums in the upstairs lobby, or the third act will come off sexist.”

-Henrik Ibsen

“To write drama is to leave a can of Coke by the side of the road. Then, sit on that can of Coke. Where’s the can of Coke now?”

-Stephen Adly Guirgis

“Comedy is easy. First, people have to fall down. Next, include someone a little hefty. It’s a hoot.”

-Sarah Kane

“Standing on a ledge again. Everyone laughs at dancing monkey with the typewriter. Not for long, though.”

-Neil Simon


Glazed and Confused said...

i love my quote, but, unless i'm completely gone, i swear to God i never said that! you sure it wasn't someone else?... stephen

Freeman said...

It was definitely you, according to the "you" I often imagine having conversations with.

Anonymous said...

Then there was the time when at the premiere of ARMS AND THE MAN, G.B. Shaw was called to the stage to receive an enthusiastic ovation -- except for one loudly booing man, to whom Shaw called out, with his noted wit, "My dear fellow, who the fuck are YOU next to me? I'm George Fucking Bernard Shaw, felchface!" And all were charmed and amused.

Swollen Foot said...

Great post!! Some very interesting quotes here. Thanks for rooting through your old books for these!

George Hunka said...

Yes, these bring back the memories.

Back in 1973, Michael O'Donoghue contributed a loving piece called "The Churchill Wit" to the National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor, and since we're on the subject, here are just two samples -- and I start, appropriately, with Churchill's witty retort to Shaw, since Ian brought it up:

"When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: 'Bring a friend, if you have one,' Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: 'You and your play can go fuck yourselves.'"

But I have to say my favorite is this one:

"Churchill was known to drain a glass or two and, after one particularly convivial evening, he chanced to encounter Miss Bessie Braddock, a Socialist member of the House of Commons, who, upon seeing his condition, said, 'Winston, you're drunk.' Mustering all his dignity, Churchill drew himself up to his full height, cocked an eyebrow and rejoined, 'Shove it up your ass, you ugly cunt.'"

Ah, the National Lampoon in its glory days ... nothing like it.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, George, nice job catching my direct influence. I've stolen from "The Churchill Wit" format (and O'Donoghue's basic joke forms) more than I'd care to say . . .

George Hunka said...

No, no, not "stolen from," Ian! The phrase is "paid homage to"!