About Me

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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, February 27, 2006

Oldie But A Goodie

Parabasis has been hosting a nice discussion about Shakespeare. I've been pretty busy (started a new job today) but I wanted to send out this older post, which is my send-up of First Folio Shakespeare, to contribute. I posted it last November.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Is it just me...

Or have playwrights seemingly no idea how to dramatize the internet? And not just playwrights... movies also fail entirely. The minute something on film or on the stage depends on someone typing or getting something over e-mail, my eyes glaze over.

Something about this mode of communication and thought and information just doesn't seem to like to be observed. And even though technology is an increasingly central part of our lives, cell phones, pagers, beepers, Google, blogging, sending e-mails, web browsing...they seem utterly bloodless on the stage. Worse, they seem false to me. As if they are almost arbitrarily included in some plays in order to nod to the fact that they exist, as if they are this unavoidable thing you MUST acknowledge, even though they seemingly lack any sense of poetry.

Just thought I'd put that out there. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Audio Piece # 2

For those of you that enjoyed the last piece (thanks MattJ and Boo for being so supportive of this odd tangent), or those that absolutely didn't bother with it...

Below is a link to the streaming audio of another piece, recorded in my room/basement in Brooklyn a few months back. Love to hear your thoughts.

Currently calling this, "I am (not) ready"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I did it! I did it!

Hilarious. My blog was unceremoniously removed from Terry Teachout's blogroll.

Is it because I curse too much?

Live and let live. Hasn't hurt my hit count one bit. I'll still link to you, Terry. No hard feelings.

The kiss off from the establishment? Music to my ears.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The sincerest form of flattery

Inspired by George Hunka's first podcast, which is excellent and can be found here, I thought I might contribute a bit to the audio blogging world, with this piece I recorded at home. Instead of commentary, this is just snippet of pieces of text, using my own voice. I've been fiddling around with different texts and choral things like this on and off. Did this in my basement. Looked silly. Had headphones on, alone, staring at my laptop.

It happens to the best of us.

Either way, using this forum to share a bit of the strange things we all call process, and snippets of me fiddling around with my work, is a nice change from just hearing my opinion about the work.

So here you go. It's about three or four minutes long, streaming audio. Here.

How to end the war in Iraq

Reinstitute the draft.

It's my belief that the average person that supports this war has shown little interest in the seemingly endless corruption that has plagued it, and the lies that have surrounded it. To most of them, the war is an idea, not a physical thing that includes risk. Very few Americans were actually physically effected by September 11th, even fewer know much about our history in the Middle East, and there are a very select few that are directly touched by the decisions that Bush makes regarding military action.

If you said to each person that has voted Republican just because it's good for the stock market, "You have given us a mandate to conscript your children into the wars of our choosing" I promise you that interest in the justifications for this war would rise up faster than tequila on an empty stomach. The consequences of voting for war would mean a willingness to risk real lives for war...not just the lives of those who are poor, willing (mostly through poverty), or are just on the other side.

Just my thoughts. Alison Croggon and Kirabug had a bit of a discussion about this idea in the comments section of "Who do we shoot?" Thoughts about this are welcome, as always.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Who do we shoot?

Steinbeck, in the Grapes of Wrath, places the most modern of questions in the mouth of a farmer. It is, "Who do we shoot?" The response, not only from the man he is threatening, but from a world of corporations, profits, heirarchies of authority and plausible deniability, is "I just don't know."

Recently, David Cote's Rabbit Hole review got a few of us in a bit of a tizzy. Then, in Superfluities ever entertaining comments section, Abe Goldfarb seemed pleased as bunch that George didn't exclude the "off-off-off-off [ad infinitum]" scene from the list of his disapprovals.

What strikes me as a unifying theme here is... everyone is looking for the right group to shoot, it seems. Here's a list of those recently complained about in the blogosphere:

Low Brow, Middle Brow, Popular Culture, the leftist press the Complacent Middle Class
High Brow
A culture that doesn't strive towards beauty
Bourgeois subscriber theaters that seem to prop up the ennui of white rich suburbanites
Right Wingers
Undergraduate Education

Of course, you can try to fix Undergraduate Education, but then you'll have differing views on what is being taken out and what is being added. Those who say "Theater should not be taught in school," might suggest it is a trade or craft. If so, schools will come into being that are not in the colleges, if a moratorium were placed on Theater Training in Universities.

We can expose the idiocy of the right wing, but until the culture as a whole feels personally affected by what is happening, they will not be moved. Perhaps we should reinstitute the draft. If we did, I promise you, the Iraq War would be over in two months.

We can speak down to the Low-Brow or Middle-Brow (a term I'm not entirely sure of) and they can write off the High Brow just as easily.

We can create impressively witty terms like Biltmore Syndrome and have fun with subscriber theater. But doing so seems to ignore the economics and realities of who is coming to see these shows and why the decision makers are so insular.

So what I think is this... none of these steps are healthy. I'm as guilty as the next guy for railing against Broadway, cursing about the abortions like Mamma Mia that plague our stages, but in the end, it's just chatter. It's funny, but there's only one way for us to solve our problems.

That is, dare I say, go positive. A supportive community is a healthy community. I expressly do not mean supportive of existing genius (I like Albee, I like the Greeks) but supportive of small theater as a whole, from the smallest vanity showcase to the most acrobatic new verse script that comes down the pike.

We're in a spiral of self-hatred here, crew. We say we love theatre, but I'd love to see more love.

The point of Steinbeck's passage is about a sense of impotence. I shoot this guy, and they'll send another guy. I shoot the guy who sends those guys, and the office in the city replaces him. I go to that office and shoot it up, they have another one elsewhere.

It's the whole thing that needs shaking up, and the little issues will never go away. There will always be a mainstream, and there will always be the outside of that mainstream. There will always be someone saying "Live and make art" and someone else saying "Study your art." There will always be upper class fuckwads who think we're supposed to care about their problems, and there will always be brilliant high brow genius that couldn't have come from someone who just walked out of working in the mines.

So let's stop trying to knock down a big brick wall with mosquito bites. If there is a problem that can be solved, I think we should talk about how to solve it. If not, I'd like to suggest that we talk a bit more about what it is about theatre, theatre that is happening right now, that we love so much.

A good model for this...is here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Answering My Own Questions

Below I asked a few questions and got a lot of really interesting responses. I suggest anyone interested check out some of this blog's interested participants here and here.

I'm going to post my own answers to those questions as well, because hey, why should I leave myself out?

Here goes:

1. How often do you buy new plays to read?

I usually read plays as needed, not for pleasure. I usually buy novels for pleasure to read. I don't often buy plays that I'm not actually working on. Maybe two or three times a year, honestly. I already own most of my favorites.

2. Do you think of plays as written literature, or are they simply blueprints for a production?

I think plays are intended to be performed, not read.

3. Do you have a favorite critic to read (as opposed to one you despise)?

I actually like Ben Brantley when he gets really mad and slaps a show around. Like his Dracula review, which was hilarious. I also wish we had more theatre reviewers like Anthony Lane reviews films.

4. When is your next production? (This is where you can plug stuff with my permission.)

My next production, as of now, will be going up in June in NYC, and is called "The Most Wonderful Love." Also, a new anthology (as yet unannounced) will feature a play of mine. That will be released around the same time.

And the other set of questions:

1. Are you, or have you ever been, religious?

I was raised Episcopalian. My personal view, lately, is that while I'm certainly not my Dad...I think that the co-opting of Christianity by a political group has really cheapened what's good about it. This can happen to any religion. There are lots of beautiful concepts in most beliefs systems...and the question is always how they are applied, not how they are literally interpreted.

2. What sort of dreadful thing made you want to go into theater (or another creative endeavor?)

I wanted to be a poet, then I got into acting. I blame Endgame, almost entirely, for moving theatre past poetry in my good books.

3. Do you read poetry, and if so, who do you prefer?

I love poetry, but have less time to sit and read it than I used to. My favorites have included Mark Strand (whose work inspired Reasons for Moving), T.S. Eliot, Charles Simic and David Ignatow.

4. Do you think blogging is useful?

I'm not entirely sure yet. One half of me says that this dialogue is good for all of us. Another half of me says that only other bloggers seem interested in blogs and that theatre is better actually worked on that discussed. It certainly is a way for me to distract myself and NOT work on plays I should be editing and/or writing. But fun, yes...it is fun. And in the immortal final words of Captain James T. Kirk:

"It was...fun."


For God's Sake this is great.

Thanks to the Phantasmaphile for opening up this particular Pandora's Box for me.

What makes a good adaptation?

I have been reworking an adaptation for publication. Essentially, it's the medieval mystery plays, rewritten by machine for new technology. (Yes, I did just quote the Buggles.)

Actually, it's quite traditional, which is my preference with verse. I leave some in, throw some out, mix it up. I really wish I had a "theory of adaptation." What makes a good stage adaptation? What makes one a failure?

Note: I don't mean a translation.

Anyone have an opinion on this?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

David Cote's Review of Rabbit Hole

Making the rounds on the theatrical blogosphere is David Cote's review of David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole.

I posted on George Hunka's blog one of my little glib comments, and wound up with the reviewer himself, it seems, taking issue with it.

Now, as a writer, I'm not in the business of shaking a stick at critics. It's what one might call, um, career suicide? Yes, that's it. So I wanted to expand on my thoughts regarding that particular review.

Let's put it this way: I actually agree with the sentiment herein. I certainly have been known to bitch about The New Group to friends (they don't do 'new works' they revive works from the 1980s and 70s and put film stars in them); but that's just my bellyaching. It's the same impulse that makes me complain about Puff Daddy (P. Diddy?) being on Broadway, even though his presence probably brought more people to see A Raisin in the Sun that would have checked it out without him. The problem with MTC and the Roundabout isn't that they are intentionally trying to bore the shite out of us. And sometimes (let's be honest) they don't put up Woody Allen-lite. The problem is economic, purely, and its a lot less fun to write about or think about.

The reason I called the review a "joke" (poor choice of words, to be sure) is because there are far larger armies to shoot at than whether or not MTC can be often (too often?) stuffy. I think we should be more concerned about how the subscribers of MTC are the only people that CARE to support them, and those subscribers are probably collectively one billion years old.

If the theaters the Cote takes a knife to want to survive, they cannot do so without making some money. And in order to do that, they have to appeal to the sort of upper class, insulated snobs that would find Elevator Repair Service and The National Theater of the United States baffling.

Essentially, screaming about how bored we are won't do much. Instead, we need to think about how to get the good stuff out of the slums. And that means broadening the ticket buying interest of younger people who might appreciate a little Uzi-Wielding Hobo action.

We need to take collective action to promote and encourage younger audiences (I'm talking below 35 here) to take a real and active interest in the theater.

It might be the chicken or the egg issue: Would more young audiences come if the plays were directed to them? Maybe so. I suspect, as of now, they're not about to dig into their pockets and become full-time subscribers.

That's what we need to attack. Disinterest.

Not the author of Fuddy Meers for writing a play that's not "challenging" enough.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

John Belluso

The death of a playwright at so young an age is a terrible thing. Read more about John Belluso on nytheatre.com here.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all that knew and loved him.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Another quick set of questions

Since that was fun...

1. Are you, or have you ever been, religious?
2. What sort of dreadful thing made you want to go into theater (or another creative endeavor?)
3. Do you read poetry, and if so, who do you prefer?
4. Do you think blogging is useful?

Friday, February 10, 2006

I love this post

Reasons why it's good to be a playwright.

A few things I would like to ask...

Just a few questions from all those who care to read my ramblings. Things I'm curious about.

1. How often do you buy new plays to read?
2. Do you think of plays as written literature, or are they simply blueprints for a production?
3. Do you have a favorite critic to read (as opposed to one you despise)?
4. When is your next production? (This is where you can plug stuff with my permission.)

Onwards and upwards.

On Offense

I was thinking, a bit, about the subject of offending others. It's come into focus recently by way of both Scott Walters's thoughts about how how some playwrights seem to take pride in "shaking the audience up" and also by way of the recent international discussion of "offensive" cartoons that have brought about (some say) violence.

The fact is, the entire negotiation between the society and its artists regarding what is too far, what is too much, what is acceptable to show and what is not... this is entirely medieval and overwhemlingly purposeless. The questions we ask ourselves should not be about what should be expressed, but the validity of the ideas that are expressed.

The term "offensive" is essentially one that is intended to restrict and qualify expression. Insofar as artists and media consider the offense or lack thereof of their work, they are accepting the low ground in Custer-style battle. Any argument that speaks to the relative offensiveness of a piece of art, be it cartoon or play, is making an argument for censorship.

Whenever one discusses what has offended them, the question of whether the offending phrase should have been printed or uttered is ridiculous. All ignorant, terrifyingly stupid or profane ideas should be given as much sunlight as possible. Otherwise, we are not engaging with the worst of ourselves, and that sort of denial will only allow ignorance to pervade and fester.

When an individual professes a racist, sexist or homophobic view...I assert that this is valuable and essential to free debate and discussion. How can one truly know that they expressly disagree with one side if they do not hear it? If they cannot challenge it?

Simply put, all language, all sentiment, all ideas, must be allowed open airing and freedom. Otherwise, no true discussion is possible.

The moment we retract statements, shrink from offense, or hide the ugliness of the world from our eyes and the eyes of those we hope to inform, is the moment we surrender true debate. And it is in the trenches of debate that we can wrestle out fact.

Two different viewpoints are not, automatically, equal. There is, more often than not, a correct side. One based on fact and faith and morality, that trumps the side that is false. We have fallen into a trap, lately, of allowing one side to simply be someone else's point-of-view, based on some experience, and all views (especially political) are treated as equal sides. As two sides of the same coin.

But the arguments for and against segregation, abortion rights, assisted suicide, war, foreign aid, religious extremism, bigotry and violence are not equal. There are correct sides, based on fact and values and ethics, that can only come to light if both sides, or as many sides as possible, are put into the public arena and scrutinized for fact and validity.

By not showing the offending cartoons from Denmark, for example, newspapers are treating their audience as children and the religious views of Muslim extremist with too much deference. By not treating writers who express views we disagree with (life is meaningless and terrible and sad might be one) as artists who should be given respect, we make art we do agree with much less valuable.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

When is Art Inciting Riots Not Art Inciting Riots

When it's not the art inciting riots... or somesuch.

I wrote a glib comment on this issue, but it's clearly a lot more complex than me having a sort of double take whenever I see the word "Cartoon" in a NY Times headline.

For more about the nuances of this issue, from others on the theatrosphere, check out Parabasis and the Playgoer.

Now, I'm going to be a bit less glib and address a little of this free-speech/terrorism discussion.

I'd like to predict that not only will the United States attack Iran before the end of this year, but that incidents like that of the Denmark cartoon will happen with increasing frequently. The reason is that the United States, through policy and rhetoric, has used its bully pulpit to cast the entire Middle East with a broad brush, and treat disenfranchised, oppressed people as a great unwashed Other, waiting for our helping hand.

The result... a generation of Muslims that believe they are under attack, egged on by warlords and religiously themed politicos, becoming radicalized to the most extreme parts of their religion because they have been convinced that their way of life is being threatened.

They are remarkably like Pro-Lifers in the States, in that way.

I think the problem people are having with this issue is that in the United States, we have become so polarized that we see outrage and compassion as mutually exclusive? Am I a liberal if I'm outraged by the violence Islamic citizens who feel their culture has been mocked? Am I conservative enough if I think that the protestors have the right to be furious as their religion being mocked? What if it were the New York Post putting up pictures that denied the Holocaust? Would our "freedom of speech" alarms be going off then?

Instead, it's important to remember that both sides are in the wrong, but for entirely different reasons. We must, though, stand by the principle that speech must be protected above the right to act violently. As I wrote on Isaac Butler's blog, it's a slippery slope to equate acts of violence with free expression. Violence is a part of the free exchange of ideas in the same way that a bullet is having a conversation with someone else's head.

We cannot, though, be foolish enough to look at this violence and think that it is entirely coming out of cartoons. Obviously, as we have shamed, criticized and attacked different parts of the Middle East, we have added fuel to the fires that radicalism feeds from. We will undoubtedly do the same in Iran, as we have in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of the few important things the US was able to cling to in the past was a sense of moral authortity. It was defensible to tell lies to a tepid American public in the 1940s when, for example, the US was going to Europe to defeat Hitler. (I'm sure Hitler had more supporters in this country that any of us would like to imagine.) But as long as our military was used as a last resort against an undeniably evil foe, in combination with the will over other nations, we could speak as a nation guided by at least the appearance of sense.

Now, after repeated "military actions," undeclared wars, the tortures at Abu Ghraib, and the farce of our dealings in Iraq...we can no longer call others to task on not letting a cool head outweigh violence. We have tipped the world towards violence as a means to an end, and now we are seeing those consequences.

The violence in the Middle East regarding something as silly, seemingly, as offensive cartoons is absurd. But absurdity is the order of the day, it seems.

If we want this sort of thing to change, it's not really a choice about whether or not hate speech is protected speech. It's a choice about how we will conduct our own business in the future, and how to declaw the radicalization of the Middle East, before there truly is no putting out those fires.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Theatermania's Review of Paradise

Blue Coyote Theatre Group's lastest production Paradise, by David Foley, gets a rock-solid review from Theatermania. Check it out here. And find details about how to see the production here.

Bridge & Tunnel Review

My review of Bridge & Tunnel is linked in the title.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Islam Mocked By Cartoon

Ok. Now, I totally understand that no one likes their God offended.

To have one's God made fun of in a CARTOON in DENMARK?

Seriously, most religious undergrads go through bigger tests of faith just by reading.

This is not a defense of bigotry or hate speech. It's just silly to blow stuff up over cartoons. Honestly, kids, don't do it.

Surveillance Hearings

Yesterday, the Senate began hearing on the Bush Administration's latest attempt to justify unchecked executive power in the name of "The War on Terror."

Ironically, the man sworn to be the highest law enforcement official in our country, the Attorney General, is the one saying things like "We believe it's not illegal." Since when did legality come down to a question of belief? There's this law, see. It says "In order to wiretap Americans phone calls you need to go to a special FISA court and get a warrant."

Now, FISA almost never says no. Also, you can apply for a warrant AFTER you have performed the action, so it's not like you have to stand around with your Presidential Thumb Up Your Almighty Bum while you wait for Terrorists to make plans. But apparently, the Bush team decided that this law didn't work for them, so they essentially decided that they had to break it, out of either laziness or arrogance.

Now, if what they're doing doesn't work within the law, there are two things that need to be asked... 1) Should the law be adjusted to allow for new methods or 2) should they NOT be doing what is not allowed by this law, no matter their opinion of the situation.

Either you abide by the law, or you don't. This is the Bush creed.

Take their lies, for example. They are careful (or have been in the past) not to lie while under oath. That means whenever they have been questioned on a particularly dicey subject (like the 9/11 Commission) they do so in complete media blackout while NOT under oath.

Why would they do this? Because it's not against the law to lie. It's against the law to lie under oath. They nailed Clinton about lying under oath and had the man impeached.

Bush had the gall to stand before the press and say "I DID break the law, and no one can stop me, because this country is only as free as I allow it to be."

If we take that lying down, the frail illusion of representative government and laws that matter to ALL Americans will be utterly shattered.

Bush has no shame. We have to shame him.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Proposed 2007 Budget

I will put this bluntly: Once again the Arts is Treated Like A Read-Headed Stepchild.

From the Budget:

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) supports excellence in the arts, brings the arts to all Americans, and provides leadership in arts education. In 2007, the Budget proposes $124 million for programs and associated costs, including Challenge America: Reaching Every Community grants; and national initiatives, such as American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius. The American Masterpieces initiative will continue to celebrate our Nation’s great artistic achievements with special touring programs in dance; visual arts; literature; choral music and musical theater; local presentations; in-school arts education programs; and student visits to exhibitions, presentations, and performances. NEA will fund projects that extend the reach of the arts by supporting works of artistic excellence and promoting projects in communities that have not had access to quality arts programming. These projects will be supported with public and private partners, including State arts agencies and regional arts organizations."

You read it... $124 million. Now... let's put that in perspective, shall we?

"The President's Defense Budget:

Provides $439.3 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget—a 7-percent increase over 2006 and a 48-percent increase over 2001—to maintain a high level of military readiness, develop and procure new weapon systems to ensure U.S. battlefield superiority, and support our servicemembers and their families;
Requests $50 billion in 2007 bridge funding to support the military’s Global War on Terror efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq into 2007;
Expands the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle force from 12 to 21 orbits, each supporting 3-4 aircraft, to increase sustained 24-hour surveillance capabilities;
Increases substantially the size and capabilities of the Special Operations Command;
Adds $173.3 million to continue developing and refining a New Triad of smaller nuclear forces, enhanced missile defenses, and improved command and control; and
Provides an additional 2.2-percent increase in basic pay."

The Budget for the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia" was $60 million dollars MORE than the entire Federal Budget from the NEA.

The message?

Go to the movies and KILL!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Jamie Hall for POINT BREAK LIVE!

Jamie Hall, director of POINT BREAK LIVE! took a little time to answer some questions regarding the upcoming production, at Galapogos in beautiful Billyburg, Brooklyn.

Ok, so the first question is, of course, what possessed you to make a theater piece out of POINT BREAK?

Point Break LIVE is really a call to arms for the Theatre world. I have long been concerned that Hollywood is stealing our audience away with ass-kicking and action. The proof is in the numbers: I mean, there are, what, like 50 people total who see all the same broadway shows, whereas in New York alone, there were over 120 million movie tickets sold last year alone? You have to ask yourself, why? Why do so many more people react favorably to a great action film than the latest Harold Pinter Bore-fest? I think the answer is that the Theatre world has ceded the true lessons of Aeschylus and Sophocles and the Greeks to Hollywood. I believe that it is Hollywood, and action films in particular, that currently provide that cathartic experience that the human animal so craves.

However, I don’t believe it has to be that way. But the Theatre has to evolve! No more “manifest human drama,” no more meaningful pauses. Let’s put gunfire and ass-kicking back where it belongs, behind the proscenium! Point Break LIVE! Intents to return theatre to its roots. We’re gonna rob you at gunpoint, we’re gonna push you out the door of a moving aeroplane—you won’t even know you are in a theatre.

Do people need to have seen the movie to enjoy the performance?

It is imperative for a true appreciation of the play to see the film as many times as humanly possible. Just as you should have read your bible between Sunday sermons, you should see Point Break between successive viewings of the play. That said, like churchgoing, many may enjoy the experience without performing their due diligence.

Give anyone who hasn’t seen it a description of the film.

It’s a hell of a film. Keanu Reeves stars as an FBI guy deep undercover with some surfer-bank-robbing-extreme-sports-fanatics. He gets in over his head, and chaos ensues. The pursuer becomes that he is pursuing. It is the same plot as Prometheus Bound, only on the beach with surfing. And no sex—but lots of homoerotic overtones.

What makes POINT BREAK the right movie for this kind of Brechtian overhaul?

Point Break is a perfect play for revision, because a. it kicks ass, b. it relates classic themes, of alienation, of the “other” losing his moral compass in an effort to belong, of men changing the world through the power of ideals, and c. it features Keanu Reeves.

Talk about how you “cast” Keanu Reeves and how it’s worked in the past?

Keanu Reeves roles demand a very special kind of actor: basically, you have to look at all times like you’ve just been dropped in the middle of the room and have no idea what is going on. In order to reproduce this unique “tabula rasa” acting style, we select a random person from the audience just moments before the curtain, and then have them read all their lines from cue cards for the duration of the show. This provides just the right “deer caught in the headlights” touch.

It has worked flawlessly just about every time. My highest praise as a director came from a woman who brought her blind date to Point Break LIVE in Minneapolis: she told me later that she made love to him that very night, in no small part moved by his performance.

In your press notes, you say that everyone (even Edward Albee and Tony Kushner) want to be action directors. Does Munich prove this?

Munich is the inversion that proves the rule: absolutely

What are your favorite action films?

King Lear, Electra, Oedipus Rex, Doctor Faustus, and The Fast and the Furious

Do you find (or expect) the audiences in Brooklyn to be different or have a different experience than those in Seattle?

Inasumuch as Point Break LIVE! Is a show that feeds on Hipster complacency, and uses it to fuel a huge, aggressive thrill machine, I expect Williamsburg to be an ideal home for the show. And I expect the audience to get wet.

And believe me, the Hipsters of Seattle’s Capitol Hill easily give the shoe-gazers of Willliamsburg a run for their money.

And last, but not least, what’s next for you after the limited engagement in Galapogos?

My next show will hopefully be the full-cast version of Jesus Christ Superstar performed on the mainstage of Pete’s Candy Store.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Knife to a Gun Fight

Ok, I thought perhaps I'd avoid the sort of oddball argument that was going on over at Theatre Ideas re: "In Yer Face Theatre." Both Scott and George chimed in, as they are wont to do, by taking pretty harsh swipes at each other, and couching it in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

Then Scott posted this:

Joshua writes, "It's not the crudeness or the confrontational that matters, but what you accomplish with it that counts." In other words, the ends justifies the means. I disgree. In the 1960s, the Free Speech Movement promoted free speech by shouting down anyone who disagreed with them. This is a contradiction. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you dislike brutality, then using brutal means to make your point is a contradiction. Fighting fire with fire leads to more fire.

And I would like to say that this sort of hyperbolic diatribe is actually rather ironic. Is there no "fire" in what's being said here? Is the implication not that there are a tribe of barbarian youths who dare to say fuck and talk about rape and suicide and murder and drugs? I know that what's being said isn't that all anger, all vitriol, all cursing and rage are "garbage in" and that all we should be carefully expressing as artists is some sort of hug around the world.

A little ways back I wrote a post that compared Artists to Friends or Doctors. And I tell the dirtiest jokes to my friends, not my professional colleagues and I certainly couldn't if I were talking to a group of students. But the audience is not my student. It is not always contempt for the audience that drives people to cry out in pain and show their scars. Sometimes it's the desire to not be the only person screaming at the top of your lungs. (Here's a fine example of this used as fabulous populist art.)

Sometimes writing, expression isn't expressly beautiful. That is when the profane can become the sacred. I'm sure there were many who thought "The Theif's Journal" was a pornographic novel. And it is. But Genet found beauty in blood and grit and vaseline.

So Joshua isn't saying, if you follow me, that the ends justify the means. He is saying that the means and the ends are not necessarily divorced from one another. That simply writing, in a closed place, something that is emotional and profane and childish and challenging IS the end. You can say "I love the world" with a filthy mouth, and you can say "You can all go die in your boots" with an air of pristine authority.

Isn't it enough to use how you speak to affect how your message is heard? With all due respect to all involved, we can all enjoy this chatter, but the minute someone decides to play Arbiter of Good Taste, they should simply go show, not tell, the sort of art they'd like to see in this world.
And, of course, it's all nice to make speeches from Ghandi country. But if you're involved in a deahtmatch with something that is a lot bigger than you (Sarah Kane versus the Bitter Angst of Mental Illness) you better not bring a knife to that gunfight. You'd better go down shooting.


And for the record: Can we not lighten up a bit? Was Shakespeare being a sentimentalist when he made pudenda and prick jokes? No. He was engaging in low humor. Because, you know, it's fun.

14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism

Sent to me from the Phantasmaphile, via the Randi Rhodes Newsletter.

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes.Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

The above is a summery of the more detailed orignal article "Fascism Anyone?" first published in Spring 2003 edition of Free Inquiry

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Puppies Used As Drug Mules

I think it's worse when it's done to people.

Who do you care about more?

...that's what I thought.

Poem by a friend

Unearthed this older poem by my friend Marshall Warfield. Was thinking of him today. He's in Washington, D.C. with his bride-to-be.

"How to Balance Your Check Book"
by Marshall Warfield

Sometimes the only solution to
that fucking checkbook lies in
the bottom of the Vodka bottle.

So start there. If you're still
a few dollars off, move on to dry gin,
which for me, goes down like broken
dusty, cinder blocks. You'll work harder.

On your way to the one's column,
(the ten's column came out okay)
the gin will come up in little chunks
of anguish. Go to the bathroom.
Aim for the toilet because cleaning
the floor is another chore
and the checkbook is enough.

The ones are off by only a dollar now,
so go to a party for some change -
not that any of this makes sense.
Talk with a woman (or man), discover

that they are a business major or high
finance executive. Fall in love with
the idea of a balanced checkbook
tucked into their tight back pocket.

Smell the fragrance from behind their ear.
Pretend the party is too loud and this is
the only way they can hear you. Take them
home with you.

Somehow, that step just happens. Trust me.
Before they tuck you in, point
to the checkbook on the desk.

Let them smile at you. That night dream
of such wonderful goosestepping, order.
March down all the New York highways
and bridges of Robert Moses.

In the morning, you'll find it all works out.

I'm sorry... did this happen?

Groundhog Day. Contraversy.

Perhaps they could solve this problem by creating a Groundhog with... human toes!

Around the Theatrical Blogosphere (Apologies to Zay)

George Hunka and Josh James both recently posted a little bit about "The Truth."

Also, MattJ (apparently a director with promise according to Dan Trujillo) posts about Director-Playwright Copywright here.

This gent hates the term blogosphere. It is, shall we say, not the prettiest word. Oh well.

Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Two Quick Notes

1. Just saw Bridge & Tunnel. Will post a full review of it for nytheatre.com, but would like to say that whoever makes my girlfriend laugh AND cry had better be a woman with a boyfriend. Otherwise, I'd feel TOTALLY threatened.

(That means I liked it.)

2. Kristin Chenoweth is on the cover of FHM. I shit you not. Sure, I could make a joke like...now that's Wicked! But that's just beneath me.

Can you hear that? That's the Mary Tyler Moore theme song playing in the background, as stacks of FHMs are delivering Ms. Chenowith into the masturbation fantasies of people who will never see a Broadway musical.


Message the the Centaurs: We Will Break You

Actual text from Bush's speech last night:

"A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our creator, and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale."

Freeman: Excuse me? Did you say...animal-human hybrids? Are you joking?

Bush: "Didn't you hear about the Ant-Women? The Centaurs? The spiders with two...human...eyes? The Creator, ahem, intelligent designer, would never have brought about the seductive Bee-Girls! May God Have Mercy on What We Have Done."

Director's Copywright

Before I get to restating the union today, I'd like to send any readers over to Isaac Butler's passionate "gut response" to a NY Times piece about creative control issues between writers and directors. Here it is.

My gut responses to what Isaac is saying here are as follows:

I think it's sort of amazing that directors, who are a nearly unstoppable force in the rehearsal room, and omnipotent in many smaller productions behind the scenes, are essentially getting less recognition after a production or in the press than they would like for what is being deemed "their contribution."

And while the best directors offer more than contributions (I'm thinking more along the lines of "solutions"), it is obviously a slippery slope. What if, for example, you want to produce Arsenic and Old Lace and you've got a script that says "Two Old Women Walk Downstage Left." If you, as a director, simply have them walk down-stage left, are you using the orginal staging? Should you have to put the performers upstage left to avoid paying for rights?

And what about actors? Should the Marlon Brando estate receive royalties every time a lumbering oaf does an imitation of him in "Streetcar Named Desire?" at a local community theater?

The question here is, as Isaac says, authorship. And proof of authorship is where rights come into effect. One reason playwrights have a great deal of creative control in the theatre is that they are the creator of the very thing being worked upon by others. The principle is, as I understand it: "If you build something, it belongs to you. If others use that thing, they should pay for the right to use it."

If they take that thing and create something entirely new...well...then we're going to have to sit down and hammer out exactly how new it is.

If we move towards copywrighting interpretation (I staged the play this way, I spoke the line this way) we are about to enter a legal limbo from which we will never be pardoned.

That being said, there is one theme emerging lately (it's also been discussed recently on the nytheatre i) which is that directors seem to be up to their eyeballs in frustration with their recognition in the theatre.