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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New York Times coverage of Spider Man

The New York Times coverage of the recent Spider Man preview brings up some interesting issues. Playgoer calls it this way:

"The truth is, what you see here is a blatant move by the Times to get in on the action. The action of All That Chat, specifically. Notice how they have their gossipy story online already, probably just a few hours after the firstSpidey chatroom post. No doubt the Times also assumed that Riedel would have a story in the Post--and he does."
I don't know. I think there's a lot of smoke here and no fire. Patrick Healy's job is to cover the goings on in theater business, but he's a bit handcuffed by the reputation of the paper. Should he not cover this much anticipated and discussed preview out of sense of decorum? Or should he and risk the derision of artists who feel that it's wrong to expose a work-in-progress to the public eye? He appears to have chosen to cover his story, which is all that can be expected of him. He's written an article about what actually happened and then interviewed the crowd about their responses. Is it entirely without opinion? No, but then again, I think there's something sort of old fashioned and odd about how theater journalists and producers have these tacit agreements about what is and isn't out of bounds, even as the public pays for the privilege of being patient.

This "work in progress" is, in fact, charging people upwards of $100 to attend it. I can get a whole lot of Spider Man comics and the entire Spider Man movie trilogy on DVD for less. If you're going to take a superhero property, outspend every Broadway show in history, use big names to create and (let's face it) sell your show, then you have to live with the downside of fame and glory, too. It's unreasonable to expect the public to wait reverently and quietly without any information, to spend their money, and for the press to treat this incredibly newsworthy show as if it they can't cover it until the producers give them the "go-ahead." I mean, the show is called Turn Off The Dark, after all. Isn't that what Patrick Healy is, in a limited way, trying to do?

Previews are lightly abused by Broadway producers, I think. If the previews are really dress rehearsals that are performed in front the public, why aren't the tickets free?Would a film producer say "Hey, I've got about 80% of this movie done, the special effects aren't complete, and I'm working out the story. I'd love to see what you think. That'll be $10!"

Obviously, that's a massive oversimplification and previews have a purpose. I don't see, though, how the audience (isn't that what it's all about) has an advocate if the press is careful not to piss off the producers and the producers are charging for an unfinished product. I can accept that it's a good idea not to review the show until it's officially ready to be opened (otherwise, you're not reviewing the actual vision and finished product) but... is all press coverage that isn't a fawning interview with the creative team akin to a review? I don't think so.

I do, though, sympathize with the actors. As a friend of mine said, the actors must be in a hell of a miserable working environment right now, and advanced coverage that exposes their foibles and pain can't help. The creative team can't be having any fun at the moment, and no one likes that sort of thing exposed to the public. Still...isn't that just show biz?

So...what do you think?

Do you think the Times coverage crosses an imaginary line? Do you think that Previews should be out of bounds and that Healy is, essentially, breaking a trust by writing about an unfinished work? Do you think too much emphasis is being placed on the business and not enough of the show's artistic ambitions? Or do you find yourself a bit skeptical when you hear Spider Man On Broadway and Artistic Ambitions in the same paragraph?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanks for the link Time Out!

For Thanksgiving

I know everyone on the Earth has linked to this, but I have to say that I can't imagine anything more in the spirit of Thanksgiving than the It Gets Better Project. If you want to have a good cry, watch just a few of these videos. Here's one recently posted by the employees at Pixar.

Monday, November 22, 2010

For the record

I love that the only thing that seems to make right-wingnuts act like the ACLU is the idea that someone might feel them up at an airport. As opposed to, say, torture or illegal wiretapping. Thou Shall Not Touch My Junk beats all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thoughts on Gatz

Last weekend, Pam and I had the opportunity to see Elevator Repair Service's production of Gatz at the Public. (Thanks to a few good friends who got us ticket as a wedding present.) It's one of those productions that "everyone is talking about," as they say. I don't need to tell most readers of this much about it: they perform the entire book, word for word, on stage.

Of course, there's a reason it's called Gatz and not Elevator Repair Service's The Great Gatsby. The production is not a reenactment of the novel; it's a celebration of the experience of reading a book. Housed in a dreary office space that might as well have been designed by Vogons, the company slowly emerges from this environment to embody Fitzgerald's characters. We see the "real world" slowly move to the background, and is eventually entirely supplanted by the reality of the theatrical experience.

I thought the production was exceptional, not exactly an insight. Nonetheless, it was a privilege to watch performers that are at the top of their game, who earned the right to be where they are, using all their available tools to create something pleasurable and insightful and ambitious.

I loved the length, which was about 7 hours including three intermissions and a dinner break. I loved it because a "full length evening" has gotten shorter and shorter. I'm just as guilty as anyone else. An hour and fifteen minutes with no intermission is becoming increasingly common, and I think it's a bit of a cancerous trend. One can tell a story in less time, always. Editing down to the bone has is the curse of Microsoft Word, I think. I could type out the story of Star Wars in a paragraph. The passage of time, though, is literally impossible to replicate. To feel yourself come to the end of a long story, especially one this well told, is uniquely satisfying.

I think we've mistaken spending time on things that aren't absolutely indefensibly necessary as wasting time. What is so wrong with the possibility of a moment of boredom, even if that moment buys you a far richer experience?

Any reservations I have about the evening were really a matter of personal taste, and not the level of competence on display. The Great Gatsby has never been a novel that I deeply connect to, and even as I found new appreciation for it by watching Gatz, I still wouldn't count it as novel I'm aching to revisit or spend more time with.

Furthermore, there is a pervasive sense of geniality throughout the performance, and that's not really my style. Elevator Repair Service is charming, winning. There is, though, not much danger to be found. I never felt scared or unsettled. That's not what was being sold, so I can't fault them for not providing it. I'm just someone who likes a little more bite overall, and Gatz is a lot more like a hug than a fist fight, even in its most dramatic moments.

Finally, as I watched, it occurred to me that Gatz is a director's piece, even as the actors are performing career-best level work. In fact, a lot of my favorite work is the product of strong directors (Ivo Van Hove, Robert Wilson). As a writer, it's probably worthwhile for me to explore exactly what that means to me. Not that I want to direct, but what it is about these pieces that excite me, and what about that excitement can I channel into my own work and working relationships.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This post, about the end of a storefront theater company in Chicago, is very raw. I'm sure there are others out there that relate to this feeling, this sentiment. Take a look.

Wasserstein Playwrighting Prize

I'm sure you know about this, but if not, the Times has a nice summation.

Wonder what Wendy Wasserstein would have thought of this mess. Also... this award is four years old. Four. Has it really exhausted the list of possible winners?

Update: Adam Feldman and Time Out New York carefully demonstrate the difference between blogs, open letters and journalism. Essential reading on the subject.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Swiss Miss

Really? Photos from Turn Off The Dark.

This is...

goddamn it.

Why isn't all this money being spent on 60 good plays on Broadway?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Tried to post something and then the video wouldn't work so I took it down.

In short...I will have to buy this, and it means rearranging my living room.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brandywine Distillery Fire text online

I've decided to post the entire text of Brandywine Distillery Fire online for a while, for public consumption. It includes the monologues published earlier this week, of course.

Click here to find the entire text, or the link in the sidebar.

If you're reading it and want to get an e-mailed version, obviously, let me know. mattfr - at - gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Keeping Up With Two More Joneses

Huge congratulations to Michael Colby Jones and Stephanie Fagin-Jones! Welcome to Alexander and Zachary, their new twin sons!

You two are fated to be exceptionally good looking, enthusiastic, loyal baseball fans!

For Colored Girls

I just realized that a film adaptation of a very influential play is currently running in movie theaters and very few members of the NYC blogosphere seem to have written about it, seen it, or noted it with much interest.

Is it because of the reviews? Tyler Perry snobbery? Is marketing sooo segregated that we're all more interested in The Walking Dead than this film of a famous play?

I'm not an exception. I haven't seen it either. This post isn't some veiled way to take the high road on the issue. I'm just curious why we've largely skipped this, even just weighed in on it? Unless there's some blog post I missed about this somewhere?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Monologue from Brandywine Distillery Fire - Opening

Also in Brandywine Distillery Fire ...

I've always been fond of the speech that opened that play. I figure why not share it here too? This was written for Moira Stone (and so it bears her name), and it borrows largely from improvisational material generated by the cast of Exposition.

On a side note: it's nice to share some of my creative work in this space. I don't do it that often, and I hope to remedy that.



She asked me if I would zip it up for her. I said I would. She turned around. I zipped her up. I don’t know. It could have been the way she turned around that made me start crying. But it was only a little bit of crying, and she didn’t notice it. Or she did notice it, and she didn’t say anything about it. She does that. She actively says nothing. Chooses zero.


She’s cheerful. She’s stuffed into this turquoise and coral dress like it’s a pig’s mouth and she’s an apple. Years ago, she was sitting in a pair of beige pants and only her bra sobbing into an ashtray. I was, what? Ten? Younger? She asked me to open a box of cigarettes because she couldn’t. Now, here we are. Here she is. I work somewhere, I do something, I’m married, I don’t think about being married. It’s all she thinks about. Being married.


When she dies… I wonder if she even will die. Will she? She could. She’s supposed to I guess. If she does, when she does, I’m going to just watch television and wear jeans. I’m going to flop down on a couch and watch TV until I just flick it off and then I’ll stare at the black screen and wait. Did you know that when the TV is off…it’s dreaming? Of Sanford and Sons and Car 54 Where Are You and waves and pixels and light trapped in tombs. Of light trapped underground in Paris. When it closes its eyes, it’s dreaming.

Monologue from Brandywine Distillery Fire - An Actor's Actor

In early September, you may remember, I wrote and co-produced a play called Brandywine Distillery Fire, directed by Michael Gardner and created with a wicked and brilliant ensemble. In almost every review, a particular speech was picked out as notably performed (rightly so) and notably written. As the play isn't as yet published, I thought maybe I'd share the speech here. It's a fun speech, maybe good for an audition or two. I think, for certain, actor's will appreciate it. It was written for Alexis Sottile, and so it bears her name.



I am an actor’s actor. I do all sorts of subtle things on stage that other actor’s appreciate. To them, perhaps, I’m almost transparently skilled. You might not realize what I’m doing, it might not be clear to you immediately, it might never become clear. To those of you in the audience tonight that have ever been on stage, though, I know you know what I’m up to. I know you see what I’m doing right now, and that you have tremendous respect for it. That you admire it.


You might be thinking “She’s trying to appear almost as if she’s not acting at all, a sort of less-is-more with a dash of heightened emotion.” That would almost be true, if I weren’t so calculating though laconic. You might be imagining that behind my eyes is a complex series of motivations. No, no. It’s less than that and more.


Look here. See this area of my face? You didn’t even think about the effect it has on the rest of your experience with my face. You can’t imagine how important this zone can be. There’s this book that only the actors here have heard of, a book called The Uneasy, which is by a Taiwanese child prodigy. That book highlights the importance of this area of the face. It is also known, far and wide, as the definitive text on sotto voce.


Actors see what I’m doing and know I’ve read that book. Actors see what I’m doing and they see the cagey way I circle a line and then attack when you least expect it. Actors envy, perhaps, my wicked way around a verb, the way I slide adjectives around my teeth, the way I seem to pull new nouns out of old ones. You might not. That’s why I’m not even really doing this with you in mind. You’re there, I see you. About as well as you see me.

Zombies > Vampires

Must say, the trend towards zombie-themed entertainment is a welcome shift away from the world of sultry, sullen and miserable vampires. Vampires are self-involved, overdramatic, oppressed, campy, and they don't even have the grace to be gory in a fun way. Zombie stories, with their focus on survival and interpersonal dynamics, just win for me. The cliches of the zombie genre ("Shoot 'em in the head!" "Run!" "We gotta stick together!") own, own, own the cliches of vampire stories ("It is hard to be immortal and pretty." "I ache to drink blood and hate myself for it.")

It helps that zombie stories also feature unabashedly over the top violence that can be both grisly and hilarious.

And you, dear readers? Zombies or Vampires? It's Monday, and this is about all the discussion I care to handle today.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A "historic" shift

The Democrats now only control one half of Congress and the Executive Branch.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The "historic shift"

Well, I can't exactly say that my prediction came true. A large shift towards Republicans in the House of Representatives did, in fact, come to pass. This is, though, a shift that comes largely because of public confusion, not public policy. The largest forces that have helped the country avoid an economic depression and collapse, federal spending, bailing out the auto industry, etc; are the very forces that voters have been convinced are a problem.

The "deficit" seems to be the largest problem for people, which strikes me as a significantly cynical piece of conservative slight-of-hand. By focusing voter anger on this issue, they have somehow hoodwinked the public into believing the Democrats ballooned the deficit (it was Republicans) and that the Wall Street Bailout was not done under Bush (and that even costs a fraction of what it was supposed to) and that deficit reduction, lower taxes and job creation can somehow co-exist easily in the same political universe.

In fact, lowering taxes helps balloon deficits and does not lead to job creation. Federal spending does not hurt the public...in fact, smart federal spending pays for schools, police and fire departments, provides public assistance during a major economic crisis, and keeps state governments from having to turn off the lights.

All that being said, the facts are not as cut and dry "good news" for the right as they might seem. First of all, almost half of their seat pick-ups were Tea Party candidates, who have all but promised to be a thorn in Republican leadership's side and to bring some truly wacky ideas to the table.

Also, Blue Dog Democrats largely lost. The Times notes that this lack of moderate voices might be a problem for Democrats...but I don't know. It seems like most voters discontent with Democrats was not that they lacked the desire to compromise. Instead, most progressives that were not energized lacked energy because their party was not hard-nosed enough about progressive values.

Republicans have now become tied to promises to reduce the deficit without raising taxes - which means cutting spending only. And of course, they have made no major suggestions about how they will do that - except completely absurd things like dismantling the Department of Education. They stated on the record that they will not touch entitlements or defense...which are the largest pieces of the federal pie. They've set themselves up - simply to gain power - to fail to match their rhetoric.

They've also said they would like to repeal health care reform...an impossible task without control of the Senate or a veto-proof majority.

Oh and ... the Senate. Suddenly small beer? I'm not so sure about that. Now that there is almost no way to achieve 60 votes in the Senate without crossing party lines, how will the Republicans use the filibuster to their advantage? Their own legislation will come up from the House and die in a Senate controlled by the opposite party. Frankly, more than 400 bills passed by a Democratic Congress failed in the Senate over the last two years. Do we expect that a largely splintered Republican-controlled Congress will have more success in Harry Reid's Senate?

The Tea Party, which helped the Republicans make massive gains in the House, actually did them serious harm in their bid to take the Senate. Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell lost in places that Republicans could have won (thank God). And it looks like, as of this writing, that Colorado and Washington State will remain Blue (very close races there), largely because of lunatic candidates.

Obviously, there's been a lot of bad news, mostly, to my mind, about how cynically and sadly the Republican Party has been able to - in only two years - convince voters to vote against their own interests yet again. But governance is a whole different animal. The great irony is that Democrats are not expert propagandists, but are better at governing. Republicans are great to obediently attacking and staying on message, but their actual ability to govern is deeply suspect. Let's see, now that some of the power in Washington lies in GOP hands, just what they do with it.

If the public was upset about gridlock, then we've done exactly the opposite of what will do any good. The "enthusiasm gap" was really the "Unfounded Rage At Imaginary Issues" gap. Rage might make you go and vote, but it's never stimulated the part of the brain that does us any good.

Things change fast in our country and your collective memory is getting shorter. I don't feel remotely like this bodes any which way for 2012, honestly. 2 years, as we can see now, is a very long time in politics.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Added to the blogroll

Matt Trueman.


I'm going to predict that we'll see better results for the Democrats than the dire reports have indicated. They'll keep the Senate, and if the Republicans do take the house, it'll be by the skin of their teeth.

We'll see if I'm wrong. Fun game, this punditry.

We'll also see, no matter what, media outlets declaring even a small gain for Republicans as a complete rejection of Obama's policies by the American People.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Does Theater count as an Art?

h/t Rob Weinert-Kendt

A few quick items

Trying to get back into the swing of blogging after some time away. Saw and read a few things recently, so instead of posting about each one, I thought I'd give a few thoughts about each. Capsule style.

The Social Network - I'm the last one to the dance on this movie, which was built up tremendously for me before I saw it. Movie of the decade and all that jazz. Expectation is funny that way. The movie, to me, is a Perfectly Acceptable Film with some good scenes and good acting, but it never really soared for me. There are great films I've seen in my life that made me sort of go "Wow this is working for me on every level." This film never hit that for me. It's got some writerly Sorkin-esque quick dialogue that was fun but entirely expected and the promised pettiness and betrayals that make a movie like this fun. But ultimately, too much of it happened over conference room tables for me to be blown away. I liked it, a lot, but it never made me want to cheer.

After my initial response, I was able to say: yes this is about how people ache for acceptance, about how seemingly new technology is just harnessing our desire for connection, and about the irony of a software that was built by misanthropes that does the math on how to be social. I mean, the ideas are there and the performances are there. It just never flew for me.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - Read this. Not a groundbreaking response: fantastic. I will say that the sheer number of people with what sounds like clinical depression gets to be rather overwhelming, but that reads true for the characters involved. There's something painful on every page, but it's also exhilarating. I've heard that some people think Patty Berglund writes a bit too well to be a convincingly true character, but I loved the sections in her voice. Her competitiveness and family dynamics just seemed heartfelt, cruel and authentic.

Little Foxes as directed by Ivo Van Hove - Pam and I saw Misanthrope a few years back and that production was absolutely one of the best things I've ever seen. There was something primal at play, and the way the characters churned in the stew of their own misery and hate, counterpointed Moliere... just floored me. Here, though, the text is not reimagined so much as turned up. The drama is nullified as actors hump the walls or spit in one another's faces. Without a constricting Southern culture to put the characters behavior into a context, it just all gets wiped clean.

That isn't to say that I was entirely unmoved or unimpressed. There's nothing but competence as far as the eye can see at NYTW. I'd much prefer to see something that goes for the gusto and misses with all it's might than something that has carefully trained to hit the "surprise me" "shock me" and "sadden me" buttons.

Qui Nguyen and Abby Marcus are moving to Minnesota - Say hi to my family out there guys! And Isaac Butler! And come back soon!

The Force Unleashed II - Man, I beat this video game in like 4 hours. Seriously.

Rubicon - What a great show! Very old fashioned: mature, smart, well-paced. The season is over now, but get it on iTunes or whatever. It's filmed in NYC, which means lots of great local actors (Christopher Evan Welch, James Badge Dale, Dallas Roberts) and locations. Also, my dear beloved Natalie Gold is all over that show and is awesome. Plus Keira Keeley!


There. That's out of the way. Maybe I can actually blog a bit now.