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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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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.

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