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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to 2008

2008 was the year that the United States elected our first African-American President.

I think that's worth a toast or two.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Sarah Ruhl Essays at Device

Read her torrent of rhetorical questions about hatred, chimpanzees, initials, scariness, "rhapsodic states of pure emotion" and other subjects...here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gran Torino Reaction

Saw Clint Eastwood's new film Gran Torino last night. I can't understand, at all, the generally positive reviews this film has received. It's not just a misfire, it's a mess. It's cliche, largely acted with almost comic ineptitude, and it's message is mystifying.

My friend Matt, who saw it with me, noted, also, that if Eastwood's character said the n-word as often as he says gook in this movie, it would be considered impossible to release in major markets. Somehow, there are racial epithets we've come to find comic, and others we accurately think of as racial slurs. Gran Torino says that some kinds of racism (the kinds that are married to squinty charming grumpiness) are more acceptable than other kinds. Eastwood's old war veteran with a heart of gold is about as realistic as life as a prostitute in Pretty Woman.

It's also remarkably tone deaf compared to the better, more nuanced conversations about race that are taking place in the popular culture these days. It's portrayals of poverty, immigration, gang violence, prejudice...they're naive, simplistic, childish. If this is Dirty Harry updated, maybe the lesson here is that Dirty Harry belongs to the 1970s.

Butz in the Seats!

When I read about the hoopla about Norbert Leo Butz being thrust on-stage with the occasional script in hand or prompt, I think...

Slow news week!

This guy had no time to rehearse (especially by Russian Standards TM!) and he's working hard. It isn't a favor, it's his job, and it's not always an easy job. Tremendous pressure on the guy. Better him than me.

Bravo, Norbert Leo Butz! You have balls the size of Neptune!

That is all.

While I'm on the topic of "The Wrestler"

Darren Aronofsky has suggested publicly that he thinks professional wrestlers should be in the Screen Actor's Guild. Hey, SAG members...what do you think of that?

Might I add...

Screw the Dallas Cowboys! 44-6 Baby!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Harold Pinter died yesterday.

There's something perfect about that. Pinter dying on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The year comes to a close for this blog. 2008 was a pretty good year for me: I wrote a couple of well-received shorts (The White Swallow, Brown Group, Last Words and Carbon Footprint); When is a Clock had a nice run mid-year and garnered lots of response; and I've got another publication on the way. I also completed, besides the shorter plays, the current draft of Bluebeard, and had two staged readings of In The Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More. Worked with a grand mix of wonderfully talented people all year, too.

Not too bad, all told.

I'm looking forward to 2009. I feel like things are moving in the right direction.

Until then, I've got all sorts of Christmas-esque stuff to think about and take care of. My Mom's coming to visit. Trying to make sure everyone gets gifts. Also, I'm trying to make sure I actually take time off while I'm taking time off. Harder than it looks, it seems.

I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season. I'll be back to blogging next week or so.

If you want to share any of your favorite moments (blogosphere or otherwise) of 2008 here...I'd be happy to read them in the comments. Otherwise, onwards and upwards!

"The Wrestler" Response

I went to see The Wrestler this weekend. Instead of critiquing the ins and outs of the plot (which is serviceable, if cliche)... I think I'll begin my response to it with a few names:

"Ravishing" Rick Rude
The Big Bossman
"Mr Perfect" Curt Hennig
Eddie Guerrero
Chris Benoit
Owen Hart
Davey Boy Smith (of The British Bulldogs)
Miss Elizabeth (Randy "Macho Man" Savage's valet)
Bam Bam Bigelow
Junkyard Dog
Andre the Giant
Flyin' Brian Pillman

That's a list of wrestlers who have achieved some public notoriety, or have wrestled for the WWE at some point. If you were a kid growing up in the 80s, chances are you've heard of some or all of these wrestlers.

All of the people listed above are dead. And all of them died before they reached 50 years old.

This isn't even a very big list. There are lots of lesser known wrestlers who have died at a young age that you've never heard of. There are also tons of wrestlers you've probably heard of who simply have fallen apart from drug abuse. If there was an epidemic like this of young deaths in baseball, or football, or even among Broadway dancers... we'd all be calling our Congressperson.

Let me tell you another story.

Bret Hart, for years, was my favorite wrestler. His character began as a part of a tag team, and his whole gimmick (besides wearing the outfit of his favorite hockey team, the Calgary "Hitmen"), was being an exceptionally good "wrestler." He wasn't the biggest guy, he wasn't the most impressive looking. He was charismatic, "over" with the fans, but he was the sort of guy that Vince McMahon would never put the belt on. Not in an era of guys like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior.

Then, one day, Bret Hart won the belt. It was in 1992 at a "house" show (not televised). One morning he just showed up on Wrestling Superstars as champion. I can tell you I was not only thoroughly shocked, but thrilled. I always like Hart, and it was nice to see someone like him being given a chance to be the face of the company.

As an in-ring performer, Hart was brilliant. He was, maybe, the Robert DeNiro of pro-wrestling. The matches all played out with a sense of real competition and realism. You never felt like Hart was simply an entertainer (like Hulk Hogan or the Rock); you felt like he was really wrestling. He was a great actor. You always knew it was a show, but he was good at making you believe in it. That was his job, just like the job of any actor.

Hart had a rather public falling out with Vince McMahon in 1997, live during a pay per view (the now infamous "Montreal Incident"), which permanently broke the contract between the real world and pro wrestling that the two should never meet. Hart later moved on to WCW. During a match with then star Bill Goldberg (a flash in the pan, stiff, green wrestler who has since retired) Hart was kicked in the head and given a severe concussion. He will never wrestle again, because of this legitimate injury.

Hart's brother, Owen, was killed during a mishap with a ring entrance, again during a live televised event. This was years before Hart quit. It was a wrestling tragedy for the Hart family, and wrestling fans across the world. Owen Hart, for his part, was as good as his brother. I was in the crowd when Bret and Owen wrestled at Wrestlemania X: the best live match I've ever seen.

A protege of Owen and Bret Hart was Chris Benoit. Benoit, when Hart retired, took his place as the wrestler I followed most closely and cheered for the loudest. Benoit had started off training with the Harts, then moved to Japan, and wrestled all over the world, from ECW to WCW, before finally making it to the WWF in 2000. He was considered the best wrestler in the world by most "smart fans," but also not flashy, funny, or even particularly handsome. Still, he was totally beloved, his matches were always the best on any show, and the storyline that he was playing out, throughout his life, was similar to Bret Hart's: the best 'wrestler' in the world, in a world of showmen. As if to drive their connection home...when Bret Hart wrestled a "tribute match" to his brother Owen... he chose Benoit as his opponent.

Benoit fashioned his wrestling style after The Dynamite Kid, who was one of the British Bulldogs in the 1980s (the British Bulldogs were Canadian, and they feuded with the Hart Foundation in the wrestling storylines.) Dynamite Kid was small, tough, and impressive: his finisher was a sick looking flying headbutt from the top rope. He'd often walk off with nosebleed he clearly gave himself.

The Dynamite Kid is permanently in a wheelchair to this day. (He didn't die at 39 like his former tag team partner Davey Boy Smith, though.)

I was in the crowd at Madison Square Garden when Chris Benoit wrestled in the main event at Wrestlemania XX. He was wrestling in a three-way matched which also included Triple H (Vince McMahon's real-life son in law) and wrestling legend Shawn Michaels. Lots of fans, including myself, knew that the three-way had been put together because the company didn't think Benoit could sell PPV buys on his own. They were probably right.

But I will say this: when Benoit locked Triple H into his finishing hold, and the entire place went insane with happiness when he won, it wasn't because he won a "match." It was because the industry had finally acknowledged his excellence, his hard work, publically. The fact that his friend, and a person with a similar story, Eddie Guerrero, had won the "other" World Title (don't ask) on the same show meant that the two of them had reached the top of the business at the same time. When they hugged in the ring that night, everyone knew why: because of years of hard work inside a tough business. Fans were cheering professional accomplishment, because they knew just what it meant to these guys to win.

Eddie Guerrero died of heart failure in November 2005, just over a year after that moment.

Chris Benoit infamously went mad, killed his wife, his children, and himself in June 2007.

I say all this in order to express why I liked The Wrestler so much: it understands the world that it's occupying. Wrestling is full of real life professionals, striving to succeed, in an unhealthy place. They get killed, permanently injured, they work hard, and are treated like second-class citizens for the most part. The parallel the film draws between wrestlers and strippers is remarkably apt. Frankly, if it gets people to acknowledge the problems that exist in this bizarre industry, I'd be a very happy guy.

Wrestling is fake. So is "The Wire." So is "Star Trek." So is "The Little Mermaid." But...wrestling embarrasses people. They find it juvenille, silly, stupid, violent; something that kids care about. All the while, it's a multi-million dollar industry, with massive television presence and its a major part of the popular culture, whether we like it or not. It's also controlled almost entirely by a single family (barely in competition with the smaller independent promoters) and is entirely without union protection. Professional wrestlers are dealt with like independent contractors, who have to protect themselves from being crippled, whose careers are held together by a thread, and who have an excellent chance of dying young. It's notable, if you look at the credits of this film, that Ring of Honor (a real promotion) is all over this picture, but there's not a hint of help from the WWE. This isn't a story they want to see told. They're a monopoly, simply put, they've bought all their competitors, and wrestlers are at their mercy. Randy "The Ram" might be a bit of an exaggeration in places, but in some ways, it doesn't go far enough. His story is nowhere near as bad as Chris Benoits, for example. If anything, the real thing is no where near as heartwarming as The Wrestler is.

If there's something else that stands out to me about the film, outside the response I have as an actual fan of the product, it's that The Wrestler is one of the best movies about acting I've ever seen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts about Rick Warren

Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration has sparked a lot of controversy, and rightly so. Warren comes from a religious tradition and culture that has some pretty bizarre views about the right to life and gay rights. In fact, he's remarkably off-base about those things. There are, though, ways in which he has broken with right-wing orthodoxy and promoted a more complex relationship with politics than "the left is always wrong." That's important. He's a doorway into a less divided America, and I think Obama knows that.

I think that the Times They Are A-Changin' when it comes to the voice of gay activism in this country. After Proposition-8, I think the world woke up to the last great civil rights battle in America... the battle for same-sex couples to not only have the same rights as others, but to be protected from hate.

Growing up Episcopalian, and working every day in the Episcopal Church (I work in an office that serves the Episcopal Church's finances, etc), I've seen just how terrifying that "out" gay people are to certain sectors of the population. But I've also seen just how fruitless their efforts really are. A handful of Episcopal Dioceses have broken from the great American Episcopal Church, primarily because of Gene Robinson. But the number of true believers in this cause is far smaller than the news coverage would show: compared to the number of self-identified Episcopalians, the number of now "Anglicans" is tiny. In fact, aging is a far greater threat to the Episcopal Church's future existence than is bigotry.

I see a similar problem of perspective here. Warren is a popular and populist priest, but he's there to support Obama. And Obama has publically stated his support for gay rights. Isn't it a larger concession of Warren's to attend, than it is for Obama to invite him? Could it not be considered a coup for gay activists that Warren is publically supporting a candidate that publically supports them?

What this is about, in the short term, is fear. We're afraid that this shows that Obama isn't as committed to the rights of same sex couples as he's said in the past. I don't think that's the case. I think he is, by publically stating his own support for same-sex couples, and then bringing Rick Warren to the table, winning the argument. If anything, Warren is conceding to Obama here, not the other way around.

Obama's message seems to be "Stop fighting the culture war and start having a cultural conversation." If we do this, in the long term, we may see the change we want. If we don't, we'll wind up propping up the dying far-right, just because we want someone to fight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the other hand...

I would rather be shot in the d*ck than see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Very excited to see...

Aronofsky's The Wrestler as I am an unabashed lifelong actual pro wrestling fan.

Theatre is Territory

Great post about blogging and such.

Tis the Season

Once again, it's time for giving. Before the end of the year, it's a perfect time to give a little something to your favorite small theater companies. As we're all focused on the state of regional theaters and the relative health of corporate donations... we shouldn't forget that the fortunes of smaller companies are unchanged.

Small companies fight for every opportunity, and make good use of every little bit of support, encouragement, and help. Just giving $25 to a theater company sends them a message that their work matters. And you can bet that a small donation (or a large donation) will be put to immediate use.

As I've been doing over the past few years, I'm going to suggest a few places that I'd love to see get a few of those gifts. (I encourage my fellow bloggers to do the same!) If you're reading this blog, chances are you work in the very world I'm describing. Giving a gift like this is a gift to your own community, a vote of confidence in the continuing health of small theater. For less money than you spend on after-show beer, you can make an easy, online gift to any one of these companies, or all of them, and it will make a world of difference.

Here are a list of incomplete suggestions. I'm sure I'll leave some companies out. This is just to get you thinking. In the end, everyone needs help, and appreciates your support.


Blue Coyote Theater Group - my home for the past few years, and a fantastic smaller company that produces the work of many of your favorite playwrights. This past year, they produced my own play, When is a Clock; the presented Happy Endings; and they are currently presenting Philip Taratula's one-man show Call Me Anne. They also presented a reading of my newest play. They work their asses off; I see it every day.

You can give to them online here. I highly encourage you to do so. It's also, if this matters, the closest thing to supporting my own career, directly.

Nosedive Productions - the home of fellow blogger James Comtois. They've had a great year, producing Colorful World, Speed Demons, and Blood Brothers: The Master of Horror. A great team, inventive, and always producing a badass mix of pop culture and theatrical fun.

You can give to them online here.

The Brick Theater - C'mon. It's the BRICK! Give them money, or else.

Folding Chair Classical Theater Company - a company I became aware of this past year. I love their work - pared down, actor focused, ambitious. They did Cymbelline with 6 actors. All of it. If that's not worth a gift from you, I don't know what is.

Here's how to give to them online.

Flux Theatre Ensemble - They've had quite a year, which recently closed out with a repertory production of the full Angel Eater's Trilogy by Johnna Adams. Definitely a company I'll be keeping my eye on, and clearly a crew with their eyes on bigger and better things.



That's just a few. Who else should be getting some extra love this year?

Alexis Soloski on "The Big See"

Over at the Guardian Blog, Alexis Soloski writes about how to make America a nation of theatergoers. Or at least, see more plays than they do now, for fuck's sake.

It might sound patronising, if not positively undemocratic, to suggest that people who don't want to see plays should be instructed otherwise. But that's precisely what the NEA proposed after its 2004 survey Reading at Risk disclosed that fewer than half of American adults read fiction or poetry. When the study noted that 4 million fewer Americans read fiction in 2002 than in 1992 (the same number who have apparently ceased attending drama), Gioia declared a "national crisis" and established the Big Read, a programme that sponsors literature-related activities in 400 communities.

Gioia, a poet, didn't suggest that people had stopped reading poetry because the supply of stanzas had outstripped demand. Rather, he argued that this was a problem not merely for authors and publishers, but for all Americans. He warned that the decline in "engaged literacy" would result in a nation "less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose."

Similar arguments could be made for drama. The idea that theatre enables catharsis is rather musty. But few would deny that the immediacy of live performance encourages empathy more immediately than television or film. Unlike reading or watching TV, theatre is a communal exercise, encouraging interpersonal exchange – if only at the theatre bar. A compassionate and socially adept populace should be as welcome as an active and independent-minded one.

The NEA already sponsors some theatre outreach, but why not launch a Big See?

Take a look. Very good thoughts here.


In service of equal time, George Hunka wrote his perspective on this same issue and comes to, unsurprisingly, a rather dire conclusion.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NYtheatre.com's People of the Year for 2008

Read their list here.

Thoughts on the list?

I am a Mac. I am a PC.

I am City Opera.

In the Great Expanse of Space Reading on Wednesday

For those interested, we're going to have an informal, free reading of a leaner, meaner version of In the Great Expanse of Space there is nothing to see but More, More, More at the Brick Theater on December 17th, 2008 at 7:30pm.

If you'd like to come check it out, drop me a line at mattfr - at - gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Question: Getting published

I got this in my inbox, from a friend and writer. I'll leave her name off the e-mail, and leave the question for the other readers.

"I don't know if you ever take suggestions about what to write about on your blog, but if you do, I'd love to hear from you and other readers about the process (and value?) of getting your plays published. I know that the conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't even bother submitting until your play has had a "major" production, but I'm not even sure what that means anymore. Are people actually getting published based on cold submissions, or do you need an agent? What experiences have people had with different drama publishing companies? Does being published actually lead to more productions of your work?

Those are some of my questions. I haven't made much of an effort trying to get my stuff published, and I feel like I could use some mentorship in the area from other "emerging writers" or whatever we're called who are actually doing it."

Well...I can't really offer any words of wisdom. I've been published a few times, and both of the plays that were published as stand-alone editions received excellent Showcase Code productions that had very good reviews in the NY Times. I'm sure that helped. I don't see that there's any trick to it other than working hard and sending scripts out and being persistent. I DO think the reviews matter, so if you're getting produced, even in a small venue, I think it's worthwhile to invest in a press agent that shows they can bring in reviewers, or lobby your producer to do so.

I don't have an agent (still! no! agent!) so I'm not entirely sure what an agent would add to the mix. I'm sure they'd be a help, but again, no experience with that.

I don't think, though, that everything I see published over at Playscripts.com, for example, has to pass a "major production" litmus test. I'm sure (and I only have my own intuition for this) that any company that makes its living licensing productions and selling books has to think about how any particular play would be marketable. Why, for example, would Playscripts pass up an excellent play for high school students or colleges simply because it's never been produced in New York? That wouldn't be very smart, if they make a lot of their income from high schools and colleges.

Not to imply that all decisions are profit-driven: I'm sure there are editors who find a text, love it, and champion it at a publishing house.

I would also say that getting a play published is certainly valuable, it doesn't automatically mean the play will sell. It just means you're in a better position to be read by those beyond the narrow confines of your community.

Any other thoughts from other playwrights out there? Or those in the industry? Or just...you know...anyone?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Call Me Anne - Reaction

This past week, I attended a performance of CALL ME ANNE at the Access Theater. Starring Philip Taratula, it's a one-man show based on the autobiography of Anne Heche.

I highly recommend it.

First of all, Taratula is brilliantly gifted and you really should come and see him before he's whisked away to stardom of some sort. There are just so many little moments in the performance that shine, as well as the to-be-expected vigorous moments that characterized any worthwhile one-man. Sure he plays a bunch of parts flawlessly and nailed Heche perfectly...but it's the little things that Taratula does right.

For example, there's a moment when he is, as Anne Heche of course, acting for the camera, taking direction, flirting between takes, and taking a cell phone call from Ellen Degeneres, whom Heche is stringing along. It's so deftly executed that you forget...how...very... hard... it is.

The play itself, though, isn't perhaps the straight up camp tribute/send-up you'd expect. Instead, the play moves between the expected mockery of this self-important starlet, and a rather difficult portrayal of someone who clearly has mental illness, in an industry that either ignores or absorbs this as eccentricity. The post show conversation was, shall we say, spirited.

Best to let you see for yourself. Get some tickets right away.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Today I turn 33. Yesterday, my fabulous girlfriend threw me a surprise... funeral.

Totally. Awesome.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ivo van Hove on New York Theater

"I think a lot of interesting artists are living in New York, and I think that really changes their art. When you see people like Peter Sellars have to come to Europe to get their work seen, that's really a pity. I think it's also because there are no subsidies in America, so you are totally dependent on economics. Economics ruin art...It's always very difficult, that combination, I think."

Read the rest of this interview on Gothamist.

Opening Night

Saw "Opening Night" at BAM last night.

Three words: F*ck. Right. Kickass.


Added to the blogroll, which is chaotically maintained.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Great Holiday Gift - A Little Fruitcake

If you're stumped for gifts to buy this holiday season, or just want a very good read, might I suggest A Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in Holidays? It's author is David Valdes Greenwood, a former professor of mine and a fantastic playwright.

David is one of the best writers around, and his work on the front-lines of the fight for civil rights that Proposition 8 put into focus for so many. Work like David's is still revelatory to many Americans (your relatives?) and that's why his books are not only entertaining, but important. His subjects tend to be pure Americana, and as he's a gay, married man raising an adopted daughter, it's his wonderful lack of self-consciousness, his lack of "otherness" that I think makes his work so recognizable, fun, and truthful.


For one Maine boy--the indomitable "little fruitcake" at the center of these tales--nothing is sweeter than the promise of the holidays. A 1970's Tiny Tim, he holds fast to his ideal of what Christmas should be, despite the huge odds against him: Sub-zero Maine winters. A host of eccentric relatives. And his constant foil: a frugal, God-fearing Grammy who seems determined to bring an end to all his fun. A book that's filled with funny, charming Yuletide memories (from building a Lego® manger to hunting for the perfect Christmas tree), A Little Fruitcake will inspire even the biggest Grinches around.

Sample Reviews:

"The perfect stocking stuffer…in the vein of David Sedaris."—The Today Show

"A little beauty of a book…Fun, funky, and fa-la-la-liscious, A Little Fruitcake is joyous reading for a joyous season."—Louisville Courier Journal

"David Valdes Greenwood has spun a silver-tinsel upbringing in a small Maine town into a glittering chapter book stuffed with precious memories.'' Portland Press Herald


Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from Powells

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In the Great Expanse of Space

Completed a new, shorter, meaner draft of that oddball text today, hopefully for a reading this month. Happy about that. More details to come.

Tonight, I'm seeing CALL ME ANNE at the Access. Looks like a great show!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Essay Questions for Bad Poetry

Today's edition of Essay Questions for Bad Poetry (see others here, here and here) features film star and all-around man-about-town Michael Madsen. Madsen is an accomplished poet. His work has appeared in Solider of Fortune Magazine, prison newsletters, and at Shakespeare & Company retailers. The poems have that hard-boiled style one might find at the bottom of a can of Old Milwaukee after a long day of phoning in a performance of a B-Movie.

He also has a collected works published. Buy it now!

His poem, for your educational enjoyment, is entitled Bullshit.


by Michael Madsen

Mankind's refusal to accept the result of their own folly

The Superego that thinks they know everything

about everything...

Based on theory, right?

The end of the bullshit would be welcome!

The empty eyes you see everyday on TV

and the quest for validation,

But it's validation of ignorance.

Loss of love,

Loss of reason,

Loss of Leave it to Beaver.

Major Nelson had a Jeannie, but we don't.

Question # 1 - Madsen begins this poem with the word "Mankind." He exempts women from this criticism. Explain how this advanced technique gets Madsen dates.

Question # 2 - He announces that the "end of bullshit would be welcome!" as the poem's centerpiece. Using Madsen's performance in the film BloodRayne as a foudation, mine this statement for irony.

Question # 3 - Madsen's tears TV a new one here. I mean, holy f*ck. Seriously, ouch, right? I mean, really...how can TV survive this brutal takedown? Instead of answering this rhetorical question, use this space for a diagram.

Question # 4 - Clearly, Madsen feels TV validates our ignorance. Then, he uses a reference to I Dream of Jeannie. Explain, in 50 words or less, what this says about the poem, the poet, and about I Dream of Jeannie?

Question # 5 - Respond to this statement: Madsen understands the Superego.

EXTRA CREDIT - Name Madsen's last five feature films without looking at IMDB.

EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT - Create a new word to describe the sensation of reading a poem by Michael Madsen.

...and we're back

Well, back-ish. Monday morning. I assume we all feel the same way.

I like to assume you think like I do, oh invisible, imaginary reader.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Series finale of The Shield.

Did you know that show was still on?

Monday, November 24, 2008

A tree falls in the forest

Leage of Independent Theater Announces Formation


New advocacy group to promote Off-Off Broadway’s economic and artistic interests

First membership meeting Dec. 7, 11AM, Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street

A team of prominent independent theater artists and producers proudly announce the creation of The League of Independent Theater, Inc. (LIT), a membership-based advocacy group and business league representing New York’s City Off-Off Broadway community. LIT’s website is www.litny.org.

The mission of LIT is to promote the economic and artistic interests of its members, ensuring that independent theater remains economically viable for its practitioners. The organization will advocate on behalf of the decades-old tradition of Off-Off Broadway theater.

Membership in LIT is open to any artist, company or technician working in theaters of 99 seats or less in New York City who can demonstrate participation in a minimum of three productions. Theater service organizations serving Off-Off Broadway are encouraged to apply.

Says LIT Executive Director John Clancy, an acclaimed director and Off-Off Broadway veteran who co-founded the New York International Fringe Festival: “I haven’t been as enthused and optimistic about an organization since the early days of the Fringe. Our members are entrepreneurs, business-savvy, and wildly creative. Our job is simply to harness that remarkable energy and effect real change in our territory.”

LIT’s priorities include:

1) Achieving substantive, meaningful changes to the Actors’ Equity Showcase Code to respond to the needs of the independent theater community.

2) Advocating for the establishment and preservation of Off-Off Broadway venues and rehearsal spaces, including lobbying for arts-friendly amendments to the building and tax codes and developing industry-enhancing relationships with real estate developers and interests.

3) Increasing funding from grant-giving organizations as well as supporting the campaigns of public officials who actively promote the independent theater community.

LIT is organized to qualify as a 501(c)(6) business league in order to engage in advocacy and lobbying for its members, without the lobbying limits applicable to 501(c)(3) organizations.

LIT’s Executive Director: John Clancy, Executive Artistic Director, Clancy Productions

LIT’s board of directors includes:

Paul Bargetto, Director, East River Commedia

Martin Denton, Executive Director, The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.

Shay Gines, Executive Director, The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation

Michael Goldfried, Director

Robert Honeywell, Co-Artistic Director of Brick Theater

Leonard Jacobs, Theater Critic, New York Press

Abby Marcus, Managing Director, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

John Pinckard, Producer

Moira Stone, Actor

Erez Ziv, Co-Founder/Managing Director, Horse Trade Theater Group

Subsidiary Rights for Smaller Companies?

Garrett Eisler goes into the thorny subject of subsidiary right here. As always, a great post and good thoughts.

The whole subject makes me think about (as always) the world of Off-Off Broadway and how most of the smaller companies, where a large amount of new work is developed, often expects very little from playwrights and are extremely generous with time, resources and money. Playwrights tend to be very protective of their small piece of a small pie, which is reasonable. I think that larger companies, with big endowments and subscribers, likely get very little return in a real way from a 40% cut of a play.

In the end, I think this is less about money than it is about perception. By asking for subsidiary rights, a company exerts its own perception of influence. It's hard to argue that a great production at MTC or Playwrights Horizons or the Roundabout won't extend the life of a play considerably. The subsidiary right issue is basically a way to codify that idea in dollars and cents.

We can argue the amounts (I'd say 40% is enormous, especially if a playwright is already giving a chunk to an agent); but I'd wonder aloud if playwrights shouldn't extend a small amount to Off-Off companies who simply don't make that demand. Because a larger house will not likely be helped or harmed by the subsidiary rights...but every little bit of income helps smaller companies with tight budgets enormously.

For example, what if a small company on a shoestring budget presents the first production of a play in New York...and that small production receives good press and goes on to be produced all over the country. It won't make anyone much money at all...but for any of hundreds of smaller companies dedicated to new work, a 5% take could help pay for rental, rehearsal space, you name it. Again, it would be rare to see much income in this way, but it wouldn't be impossible.

More than the income, though, it would give smaller companies a little bit of the perception that clearly larger companies enjoy. It takes great will and hard work for tons of companies all over the country not only to mount new productions, but to continue to do so in perpetuity. Maybe the hope that their productions will see some benefit for them after their single run is some small incentive. It might also help playwrights and producers have a better informed view of one another as participants in a transaction that has practical implications.

Small companies, in far greater numbers than the well-funded few, do exceptional work just to break even. I know it's a bit of heresy for a playwright to talk about giving away a little bit of income. But you know...helping one another is part of what makes things work.

What do you think?

Pre-Order When is a Clock

While When is a Clock is in the midst of being proofed and all that jazz, it's live on Samuel French for pre-order.

Wouldn't you like to pre-order a copy?

It's good karma.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Clinton as Secretary of State

It seems as if Hillary Clinton will accept the role of Secretary of State for the Obama Administration (that still has a nice ring to it). My view on this appointment, should it be finalized, is that it's a bold choice, a brave choice, and a risky move. Obama may simply be following the lead of Abraham Lincoln in keeping his rivals close. But having Clinton in a role that's this visible, in the age of 24 hour cable news and YouTube, begs an almost constant stream of behind-the-scenes stories about personality struggles and Clinton-era triangulation.

That concern might add up to a hill of beans (no pun intended): Obama has proven adept at managing the media, and Clinton is certainly experienced enough and capable enough to do a good job. But her foreign policy stances are one of the things that soured me to her as a candidate. She's surprisingly hawkish; or at least made great efforts to appear so in the campaign.

As Secretary of State, she'll be a member of a team, and the manager of a State Department that is in desperate need of repair. I'm curious if she can be the manager to put the State Department back together, and if she can truly bring her own team in line with a vision that she is simply carrying out, not spearheading.

Charitable Contribution?

There was a recent podcast on nytheatre.com, hosted by Leonard Jacobs, about performance space from various perspectives. It's an insightful discussion. Near the end, the question of charitable contributions is floated.

The question is essentially: would the donation of a lease or space from a landlord to a theater company be viewed as a charitable contribution... and would the provide the landlord with a charitable deduction?

The discussion there asks the question in a wholesale way. I might wonder aloud, though, if there could be a financial mechanism created (or if one already exists) that wouldn't force landlords to relinquish their space entirely a single time to trigger a charitable event.

My day job is working with split interest agreements. Pooled Income Funds, Charitable Gift Annuities and Charitable Remainder Trusts. These are ways in which a donor can donate their money or securities, see some continuous income, a positive taxable event, and also be generous. So bear with me as I sort of generally muse.

If a donor created a gift annuity with, say, the organization I work with, they would get a fixed annuity rate for their life-time, based on their age, and the amount of the gift. If a single donor at age 65 created a CGA with $10,000, they'd receive a 5.7% annuity rate, or $570 annually. They would also be able to claim a deduction of around 50% of the value of the gift, as half of the value of the gift is charitable, and the other half is a benefit to them.

These mechanisms, often regulated like insurance, exist to create incentives to give. If theater, and the arts, is going to see a reduction in direct giving and corporate sponsorship, perhaps similar incentives could be created for landlords and/or renters.

For example, what if a theater owner or operator could donate half of the rental agreement to a producing theater company, effectively cutting the rental costs in half and then claiming the rest of the value of the rental as a tax deduction. That would mean landlords receive guaranteed write-offs, and companies have reduced bills. It would also reduce stress on landlords: even a deadbeat company that had trouble paying wouldn't be a serious problem, as half the value of the rental would be made up in a tax deduction regardless.

What's more, the value of the rental would not be the actual value the space at which the space was rented, but an appraised value of the rental space based on the market. Essentially, their are art appraisers and appraisers of home values: people whose job it is to assess the value of an asset. Rental space, in New York City, is an asset. So... what if a qualified outside appraiser would have to be employed to set a value on the rental space. That way, a company could write off the appraised value of half the rental, even if they discounted the other half for a theater company they believed in. It would work like this:

The appraised rental value of a space: $2000 a week
Donated amount: $1000
Rental price: $1000
Discounted price to the producer's favorite theater company: $800

Which means that even with a discount, the producer would be guaranteed the full other half of the appraised value. In effect, it would create an incentive to rent space inexpensively, effectively a backdoor donation to theater companies by the government, instead of direct grants and subsidies. It would be more useful, because it would affect everyone, instead of the lucky few with the capability to do extensive grantwriting.

Obviously, this doesn't exist. But at some point, neither did many charitable financial incentives.

Suffice to say, there are likely tons of problems with the wisp of smoke "what if" that I'm describing. But isn't it about time that theater caught up with the sophistication of other industries, when it comes to lobbying for tax incentives and its own economic health?

Wait...do we have lobbyists for theater as an industry at the state and federal level? Who can push for this kind of tax legislation? Who can argue for it?

If not...why not?

Over at Device

"11. Is There an Ethics of Comedy? In the Way That There Is an Ethics of Tragedy?

I had a dream last night in which I was giving a radio address on the ethics of comedy. What did I say? I cannot remember."

Find other similar bits of precious whimsy here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

OOB Venues Study Published

The New York Innovate Theater Foundation has completed a five-year study of Off Off Broadway venues. It's fantastic to see efforts being made to show the real, not anecdotal, behavior of Off-Off Broadway.

You can read the report here.

Some of the highlights:

  • Over 25% of OOB venues in both the West Village and Midtown area have either been demolished or repurposed into non-performance spaces in the last 5 years
  • 43% of all OOB venues are located in the West Side Midtown area of Manhattan
  • There has been a sharp decline in the number of OOB productions presenting work in the Theatre District
  • The East Village, which only accounts for 14% of the overall OOB venues, is currently presenting 30% of the OOB productions.

Quotes from the press release:

"The rate of the erosion of our stages is alarming. Over the last 5 years, we have lost 26% of the Off-Off-Broadway stages in the Midtown area. We have watched a steady decline in the number of productions that are taking place in the "theatre district." Even more disturbing is the fact that of the 30 Off-Off-Broadway houses in the Greenwich Village area, over 25% have already been lost and with the displacement of the theatres from the Archive Building, that percentage increases to 40%" said Shay Gines, Executive Director, New York Innovative Theatre Foundation.

"The research and information contained in this report not only substantiate the numbers needed to help effectively advocate for public policy change as it relates to small non-profit theatre in New York City, but it also creates a clear barometer of the passion and fiery commitment it takes to simply exist in the Off-Off-Broadway world." - David M. Pincus, Chairman, Theater Task Force, Community Board 4


A few things stick out to me.

The first is the localization of Off-Off Broadway around Midtown West. I think a shorthand that I use, and I've heard used, to describe Off-Off is "downtown" theater. Suffice to say, that's got to be revised.

The second is a list of now-defunct Off-Off Broadway spaces.

29th Street Theatre
78th Street Theatre Lab, 2nd floor (scheduled to close in 2009)
78th Street Theatre Lab, 3rd floor
Actors Playhouse
Bowerie Lane Theatre
Chelsea Repertory Company
Collective Unconscious
Creative Place Theatre
Culture Project
Douglas Fairbanks Theatre
Emerging Artists Theatre
Flatiron Theatre (where Blue Coyote Theater Group produced my play The Great Escape, on a personal note)
Greenwich Street Theatre
Grove Street Playhouse
Hinton Battle Dance Laboratory
Intar Theatre
John Houseman - Theatre 1 - OB space
John Houseman - Theatre 2
John Houseman - Theatre 3
Jose Quintero
Michael Weller Theatre
Nat Horne Theatre
New Perspectives Theatre
Oasis Theatre
Pelican Theatre
Perry Street Theatre
Provincetown Playhouse
Sanford Meisner Theatre
Show World Theatre
Studio Dante
The Tank on 42nd Street
Theatre 5
Trilogy Theatre
Village Gate Theatre
Vital Children's Theatre
Where Eagles Dare

And here are, according to the report, theatres currently in danger of eviction

Epiphany Theatre
Interborough Repertory Theater
The Wings Theatre
Theatre for a New Audience - OB space
13th Street Repertory Theatre

Quite a list. That's 36 closed Off Off Broadway venues.

It's also noteworthy to see that 84% of producing companies that responded to the survey note that they "Rent Various Locations" for their performances. 5% of producers responding claimed a permanent home. It shows how rental prices directly affect the community at large, and how the economics of rent are simply a central factor of what is produced Off-Off Broadway.

What do you see in this report? What alarms you? And, more than that, how can we use this information to make a positive change in Off-Off Broadway, and the New York Theater scene as a whole? If you're not from NYC, what here speaks to you from the perspective of your own locale? Are you seeing theater's close?

Let's also remember this: this report was done over the last 5 years. The economy is in dire straits right now. If this has been what's been happening for half a decade, what can we expect under far worse financial conditions?


This is good news.

Over at Phantasmaphile

My cooler-than-a-new-bike girlfriend Pam has a fantastic interview with artist Thomas Woodruff on her blog today.


Would it be fair to call those who opposed Jim Crow laws "intolerant" of white racists?

It's a strange world where those who oppose the codifying of bigotry are called McCarthy-ists.

Is marriage a complex question? No, actually, it isn't. Those who try to parse civil unions and marriages are simply engaging in sleight of hand - the end result of that argument is always the same. The truth is, marriage is a right, same-sex couples should have it, and anything less is prejudicial.

If you disagree with that view...well, you're wrong, but you're welcome to disagree. If you publicly support the financing of a Proposition that would force your prejudicial views on others, you have opened yourself up for public scrutiny.

If you feel persecuted: good. Maybe that will teach you not to take the persecution of others so lightly.

Question for you

What's got into you today?

Yes, I mean you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I think this

...is really cool.

Chicago Theater Database.

h/t Art

A dirty joke

WARNING: Childish, dirty humor and foul language to follow. For those bored at work, early, on a Wednesday.

A kid walks into a whorehouse dragging a dead frog on a string.

The guy at the front desk says: "Hey kid, what are you doing here?"

The kid looks up and says, "I want a whore."

The guy at the front desk looks at the kid, and his dead frog, and says, "You're, what, 8? No way."

The kid hands the guy a credit card and says, "I want a whore."

The guy at the front desk says, "I think we can arrange something" and takes the card. He turns to run the card through his makeshift credit card machine.

The kids says, "What a minute. I want a whore with syphilis."

The guy at the front desk stops, turns around, and says "We don't let professional woman like ours work if they're... sick. Only clean girls around here."

The kid takes his credit card back, and puts down a gold card. He smiles and says, "With syphilis."

"I'll get Wanda," says the guy at the front desk.

Not long after, the kid is led into a private room. He enters, dragging the dead frog on a string. Awaiting him is Wanda, syphilitic whore.

Ten minutes later, the kid walks out of the room, dragging the dead frog on a string, nods to the guy at the front desk, and heads for the door.

The guy at the front desk can't stand it anymore. "Hey, kid! I have to know. Why are you, at your age, in a whorehouse? Why did you want a whore with syphilis? And why, for fuck's sake, are you dragging that dead frog on a string?"

The kid says,"Ok, here's the deal. I've got syphilis now. I'm going to go home and do my babysitter. She'll get it. Then, my Dad'll drive her home, and he'll do her, and he'll get it. Then, he'll do my Mom, and she'll get it. And she'll do the milkman, and... that's the bastard who KILLED MY FROG!"


To quote a recent article in the NY Times...

On a smaller stage and with a smaller budget, some nonprofit theaters face similar problems. “These are very challenging times, as difficult as we’ve faced in 40 or 50 years,” said Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theater in Chicago. “I’m concerned about institutional funding from corporations and foundations. Over the next couple of years we’ll have to figure out ways to do as much with less, doing smaller productions, for example.”
Well... I guess the Goodman counts as smaller than, say, Radio City Music Hall. But the Goodman's balance sheet showed net assets of just under $52 million in their August 2007 annual report. Now, I'm sure that a fair amount of that is property, that their investments aren't performing very well right now, and that corporate sponsors (like American Airlines, Sarah Lee, Kraft Foods and Target) may cut back considerably on contributions. The Goodman, as with many other large non-profits, is about to go through a tough period.

But to speak of the Goodman as if its a relatively small house is bizarre. It's an institution that's been in existence since 1922. It's a minor quibble with the phrasing, maybe, but it belies blinders about how the majority of theater is made in the US, and under what conditions. Most companies margin of error, financially, is razor thin. I'm hoping we don't see a massive bloodletting as endowments die and corporate sponsors disappear.

To the Goodman, it'll mean fewer and smaller plays. To some companies, like Milwaukee Shakespeare, it will mean the end.

The article also notes that some producers see a possiblity of a creative boom. It's comforting to know that when there's less money to be made, and less security, the producers finally turn to risk. You'd think it would be the other way around. I, for one, am not holding my breath for a large scale festival of emerging works to appear on commerical stages once all the corporate sponsors disappear.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tonight - Revamped

I'll have short piece in tonight's Vampire Cowboy's event Revamped. The theme is 70s Soul.

Should be a fine time. No plans on a Monday? Drop by.

Here are the details.

Tonight at 8:30pm / HERE Arts Center. Tickets are $25.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Non-religious arguments

Just a quick thought:

Isaac posted this provocative question:

What are the non-religious arguments against gay marriage?

It's a fair question, and one worth considering. Here's one you might not have asked yourself lately, though...

What are the religious arguments in favor of gay marriage?

How about a little wisdom from Bishop Gene Robinson:

"When I first started my ministry, divorced people were not welcome at Communion and, if they got remarried, they could not receive the church's blessing. Now, neither of these things is the case.

"Jesus, out of his own mouth, says remarriage is adultery and yet the Church has determined in its own wisdom and by the lead of the spirit that God's leading us to a new place.

"It raises what I think is the real issue here. Did God stop revealing himself at the end of the first century, when the scripture was closed, or did God, as Jesus said he would, send his holy spirit to lead us into truth?"

The fact is, we tend to treat religious arguments as either unwinnable or unworthy of engagement. (That's not what Isaac's doing, by the way, he's simply looking outside the traditional boundaries of the argument.) But I do think that religious thought is not monolithic, and religious thought that praises bigotry is fringe thought, and should be treated as such.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I don't know

Tony's discussion made me think a bit about what I know, and what I don't, about content and writing.


I do not know if you should begin with a character, or if you should begin with a premise.

I do not know if you should write from a political point of view, or if you should work from a place of ambiguity.

I do not know if you should toss out structure, or if you should choose a structure and slavishly serve it.

I do not know if you should try to ape your heroes, or eradicate them.

I do not know if you should use intermissions, or if you should avoid them.

I do not know if you should write within the context of your peers, or focus on your audience, or imagine an audience, or write as if only you exist.

I do not know if you should create a collage, plan out your play ahead of time, or write off the top of your head.

I couldn't tell you if you should revise ruthlessly, or embrace your messes.

I can't tell if you should work within the frame of genre, or fight it.

I don't know if I would recommend swordfights, a kitchen table, or white robes.

I have no idea if it is harder to be funny or serious.

I don't know if fundamentalism is an absolute evil.

If there are only so many stories to tell, I can't imagine which ones you should be writing.

I don't know how to make a novel into a play, a play into a novel, or to pull a novel out of a play, or put a play into a novel.

I can't tell the difference between a poem and a "language play."

I have no recommendations to make about faith.

I can't tell the difference between David Mamet and David Mamet.

I don't know how to stage Ibsen anymore.

I can't tell you how much school is too much school.

I don't know your motivations; I don't know my motivations.

I don't know if epic plays are better than one-acts.

I don't have any beliefs about tragedy.

I cannot speak to my own experience, because I do not understand myself. And I don't understand your experiences either.

I don't know if you should tell the truth, or lie.

I do not know if I prefer Jung or Freud.

I cannot attest to the importance of songs.

I don't have a rule about sex and violence on-stage.

I don't know the monologue to scene ratio that makes a play work.

I don't have any idea how to achieve the theatrical experiences that I imagined existed when I first fell in love with the theater.

I don't know what you imagined, or what you do imagine.

I cannot interpret dreams accurately.

I don't know how long a play should be.

I don't know how not to repeat myself; but I can't write the same play twice.

I cannot endorse autobiography.

I write what I don't know. I don't know if you should write what you don't know, or do know, or make things up that no one knows.

We won this frickin' thing

I would like to direct your attention to this essay at the Huffington Post, written just after the Republican National Convention, by Adam McKay. Just because it makes me feel smug.

Great post over at Storefront Rebellion

Taking up Tony Adam's charge about content.
"Tonight, for the second year in a row, I took in the WTA's Actors' Scene Showcase, in which a bunch of actors, most fresh out of undergrad or grad school and new to the city, perform scenes for casting directors and theater nerds like myself in hopes of getting noticed. Because they're mostly just out of school, they perform stuff by playwrights whose work is currently getting noticed in schools, the ones who are regularly written about in American Theatre and taught in scene study classes: Neil LaBute, Sarah Ruhl, Martin McDonagh. My friend Brooke, a director and playwright herself, pointed out a double-whammy of my favorites: a LaBute scene from Autobahn ("That Neil LaBute just loves women so much") followed by Ruhl's Melancholy Play ("Okay, I get your whimsy thing now.")

Kids out of school, apeing what they learned in school that was written by playwrights writing what they were encouraged to write in theater school. Content what?"

Content with Tony Adams

Discussion going on over here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where you buy and what you buy

Just something I'm curious about...

Do you, dear reader, buy a lot of theater books and published editions of plays? If so, in what way?

Do you primarily buy online, through Amazon or a publisher's website, do you prefer to go to a favorite bookstore? Or some combination of the two?

Also, what prompts you to purchase a play? Have you ever bought a play you weren't very familiar with, simply out of curiosity? Or do you more than likely buy scripts you know to be exceptional and well-regarded plays, like Coast of Utopia or August: Osage County?

I ask this because I've been under the impression that most people buy well-regarded plays, but do so, in keeping with the cheerfully anachronistic lifestyle of most theater practitioners and audiences, at bookstores.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Letter from Martin Denton

I received this e-mail from Martin Denton at NYTHEATRE.COM this afternoon. I'd encourage everyone to give a little, if they can, to this fantastic place for growth, outreach and advocacy within the New York theatre community.


On Election Night last week, on the Facebook pages of theatre colleagues, I saw a phrase echoed over and over again: "Yes we did. The great work begins."
That second sentence--a quote from Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches--feels especially resonant to me as I look ahead to 2009.
I don't need to enumerate the challenges that the current economic situation is causing for the arts in America in general and for the New York theatre community in particular. Many theatre companies will be struggling to survive as audiences' discretionary income tightens and sources of funding for nonprofit organizations diminish. And cutbacks in arts coverage by mainstream media outlets will make it tougher for theatres to get the word out about the important work they are doing.
Nonetheless, I am honestly optimistic about next year.
Last May, our website nytheatre.com was honored by Manhattan Media's OTTY Awards for its significant contribution to the community.
In September, NYTE received the Stewardship Award from the New York innovative Theatre Awards, in recognition of our service, support, and leadership to off-off-Broadway.
These accolades affirm the value of our mission and the effectiveness of our new media programs (nytheatre.com, indietheater.org, nytheatrecast, mobile.nytheatre.com), NYTE Small Press (which will publish the tenth annual Plays and Playwrights anthology next February), and our outreach within the indie theatre world (for example, the 2nd Annual Indie Theater Convocation, which energized our community this past summer).
We are grateful for this recognition, and humbled by it as we look ahead to 2009.

It is going to be a year of remarkable challenges and opportunities.
To help fill the holes left by decreasing media coverage of all theatre (but especially indie theatre, the vital laboratory for new work that has always been our central focus), NYTE will continue to expand our corps of volunteer reviewers and contributors--the theatre artists who generously give of their time to provide much of the content for our websites and podcasts. We want to enhance their experience by reimbursing them for their travel during this theatre season, and by providing them with more ways to develop as theatre artists and to let audiences and readers know more about the work they're doing.

To help theatre companies reach new audiences, we will continue to expand our coverage of the indie theater scene. A variety of new features that we think will help readers more readily find the kinds of theatre they're most interested in will be popping up on nytheatre.com in upcoming months. And an expanded set of features on mobile.nytheatre.com is expected to be rolled out by mid-2009. As always, none of our coverage will cost theatre companies or audience members a penny--all of our content is free.
I'm also excited to announce two brand-new NYTE initiatives that are kicking off right now.
  1. To increase awareness of and respect for the contributions that indie theater makes to American drama, we're about to launch The Indie Theater Companion, a wiki-based resource that we hope will become a living online history of this important cultural movement.
  2. In 2009 we plan to move our popular Indie Theater Now podcast series to television. We will start working with Manhattan Neighborhood Network on development of a monthly cable access program next month. You will be hearing more about all of these initiatives soon!

Right now, though, I want to ask for your support.
If you read and use nytheatre.com, if you value the Plays and Playwrights anthologies that we publish, if you enjoy our nytheatrecast podcasts--then please make a contribution to keep these programs operational in 2009.
Give what you can:
  • Your $10 donation pays for round-trip subway or bus fare for two show reviews.
  • Your $25 donation pays for a month of web hosting for the Indie Theater Companion wiki.
Of course, larger amounts are appreciated as well!
You can make your donation using your credit card on our secure online website, http://shop.nyte.org/becomeadonor.aspx.
If you prefer to pay by check, please make the check out to:
The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.
P.O. Box 1606
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10156
Thanks for reading this and thank you in advance for your support--monetary and otherwise. The great work really is about to begin.

Best regards,

Martin Denton
Executive Director,
The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.
NYTE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and your deduction is tax deductible in accordance with federal and state laws.

Friday, November 07, 2008

News Flash!

Bullies are assholes who like to hit people!

The Most Damaging Wound

The Most Damaging Wound
opens tonight. It's a new play by Blair Singer, directed by our pal Mark Armstrong.

Definitely check it out!

Mark posted a series of videos to illuminate us about the show. Take a look.


Thursday, November 06, 2008


"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mark My Words

Next up: Cory Booker.

He rocks.

A good, concise piece of prose

...from David Cote.

The Heroic Imagination

A few months ago, I was listening to a TEDtalks podcast by Philip Zimbardo, psychologist an author of The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. He spoke at length about the worst parts of our human nature, but offered a caveat: the heroic imagination. He spoke of, and speaks of, the central role of the "the heroic imagination" is fostering the best in us. If we see our lives in the context of heroism, if we look for those opportunities to play the role of hero in our own lives, when those opportunities arise, however rarely they may, we seize on them.

Politics can feel decidedly cynical. It can feel systemically broken. It can even feel in the best moments, like a fool's errand. What, we ask ourselves, can we really change? We work our way down into miserable details. We ask what Democrats can do without a "filibuster proof" majority. We look at the overwhelming problems Obama faces in his first term, and raise our eyebrows. It's wonderful that he won, we say to ourselves, but what will he really do?

The truth is...what he's done is win. In doing so, he has created, and lived, the sort of narrative that can change lives. Make no mistake: we all live in a world of storytelling. We tell ourselves the story of our own lives each day; we watch fiction and we watch reality; but we process it all the same way. We see ourselves in the context of something larger, and we connect ourselves to that context.

The story of the last eight years, and even further back, has been one of deep cynicism. We have seen even our favorite politicians sign DOMA and humiliate themselves before the public. We have seen a worst case scenario in the last eight years: a perfect storm of nepotism, cronyism, fundamentalism, authoritarianism and criminality. We have seen our country torture. We have seen our country wage illegal wars. We have allowed our own civil liberties to be fundamentally altered and attacked. We have seen leadership that is beholden to no one. George Bush's only rebuke will be his legacy; he will not be prosecuted, he will not serve jail time. He will, for all he's done, receive far less punishment for his crimes than a young man might for selling pot.

It's the sort of story that makes a person dead, acquiescent.

Barack Obama offers more than policies (although we can hope, as adults, that he'll fulfill his practical promises). He offers a new American story; the sort we had always imagined to be true. He's created a new paradigm of what's possible; not just what's imaginable. And in doing so, he's offered food to the hunger in all all to be heroic. It will, it's my belief, make our children better, our workplaces better, our churches better, our citizenry more trusting of one another, our families stronger, and the world around us a little brighter. Not because in every instance human beings have changed, or because government has suddenly transformed; but because we can tell ourselves a true story and let it inspire us. On a grander scale than was available to us before.

Often, in the arts, we become so embroiled in evidences of human failing, and telling cautionary tales, that we lose the thread of the reason we do this. We don't serve the public by reminding them that they are weak; we serve them by reminding them that they can be strong. We help to define the parameters of human nature outside our immediate experience. We should remember to tell stories about blindness so that we can help people see. It's how we contribute to the public good. We know that has value. That's why the election of Obama has value: it is the sort of story that, in the telling, in the living, makes all of us a little more of who we are, and helps us see who we can be. As individuals, and as a people.

There is no use in denying that people can be bloodthirsty, prejudiced, manipulative, and cruel. There is no denying the proof in history that we can be fooled, torn apart, and made animals. There is now, also, no denying that we can take individual faiths in goodness and turn that into something real. Something that matches the worst of us; and can even suppress or destroy it. There is no denying that we can do right, be good, and change.

It's a good day to be one of the good guys.