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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, March 19, 2008

The Value of Theatre

A lot of bloggers today (see list at Scott's blog) have decided to write about "the value of theatre" today.

My contribution is... when is the last time you asked yourself what the value of a painting was? Or the value of the movies? Or the value of opera? Or PBS? Maybe you said "Christ why is there American Idol?" but you weren't being serious. You know why it exists: the same reason the Christians were fed to the Lions.

We simply know, in our bones, that in order to live full lives, we must engage with something beyond ourselves, something that expresses abstractions and feelings. There is a difference between understanding something and experiencing it. We may be able to know where "fear" comes from by studying the brain and evolution; but to feel "fear" is something else. We may be able to track the chemistry of love through the body; but when you see and feel love, you are a whole, not the sum of your parts.

Theatre is simply one more way in which we experience the world. We slow it down, break it a part, present it as a re-enactment, through the lens of some creative impulses.

It's another way to write poetry, to tell stories, to paint a picture.

And, despite the almost constant cries that it is endangered, we make quite a bit of it, every day, all over the world.

Does its value have a measure? Ask yourself: is it valuable to you? If it is, it has value. You are no less or more important than any other person. I am not sure why or how to quantify that. I just feel that it is so.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Right now I'm in the middle of reading "The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" by Lewis Hyde, an excellent discussion of exactly this kind of question. Its basic premise is that a work of art of any kind is a gift, and as such is transmitted from the artist to his/her audience via the mechanisms of a "gift economy", even if he/she earns money for the work. But we don't live our lives in a "gift economy", we live in a "market economy", and as a result artist and their work have difficulty being valued and considered important to the world, because we only have one vocabulary for explaining something's value, the vocabulary of the market, and therefore art and artists become marginalized and have to spend a lot of time defending their work as "valuable" in terms of a market economy vocabulary, which leads to a lot of "apples and oranges" thinking. I'm hugely and clumsily simplifying, but it's a fascinating, inspiring read for anyone who makes art and struggles to define its "value". Check it out.