Q&A with Matthew Freeman
Tue Nov 17 2009
Exposition is the latest play by dramatist-blogger Matthew Freeman—although he might quibble with the term play. It's an experimental collaboration between the author, director Michael Gardner and a great-sounding cast dominated by downtown divas: Kina Bermudez, Maggie Cino, Anna Kull, Alexis Sotile, Moira Stone and Jennifer Gordon Thomas (pictured, along with Sean Kenin, token male). We're familiar with Freeman's humorous, pretension-puncturing, commonsensical blog, and we've enjoyed his smart, disturbing, darkly funny plays. So we had to ask about this mysteriously titled work, which begins a three-show run at Williamsburg's Brick this Thursday.
Time Out New York: Exposition. Does the title say it all? What does it say?
Matthew Freeman: The title is a word. Michael Gardner suggested it, and I'm not sure what prompted him to do so. Originally it was The Exposition. Then we shortened it. Because that's how we roll. Michael is allergic to definite articles. I love them. Half my plays start with The. This is what collaboration looks like.
Okay, so what's Exposition about?
Storytelling? I think that's how I'd boil it down. What are the things that plays do besides tell stories? Can you get on stage and not tell stories and still have a piece of theater that feels full and rich and interesting? Or is it just a big mess? Or is it impossible to remove narrative? Is it a fool's errand? We started from nothing, encouraged the performers to improvise, talk about whatever, then I'd go off and write and inject the spirit of what I'd been hearing and seeing into scenes and monologues. Michael then built the production from all these disparate elements. You'll hear about sea urchins and flails and poems and dog fighting and car crashes and amusement park rides. It works like gangbusters. I swear on my grave.
Why are you so damn abstract? Please answer in complete sentences.
I don't really consider myself abstract. I just try to write in a way that communicates my thoughts. Certain ideas can't be communicated without a sprinkle of abstraction. Trying to express certain ideas with a realistic drama would be like trying to describe a particularly troubling dream at a staff meeting. This is not to say I think realistic drama can't be absolutely brilliant; it's just not the form I chose for this piece. It's not about what works. I don't know what works. I just write what makes sense to me at the time, or what I feel successfully communicates the idea. Something like that.
This is a pretty short run, three days.
The short run is a practical consideration: The Brick Theater is full of Fight Fests and ninjas in December.
Will you be bringing Exposition back?
I'm not sure if there is a future plan for this particular "play" (which is really a whole lot of semirelated scenes and monologues), but I'd guess that there are future plans for honing the process we used to make this particular piece. I hope we can bring Exposition back if there's demand for it. I'm having a ball working on it. The cast is terrific. One of the biggest compliments I've ever received is that none of them quit after the first rehearsal.
How is it working with director Michael Gardner at the Brick? Who's been throwing more chairs?
Michael Gardner is a mensch. He sort of directs secretly. He calmly works things out, says about two definite things per rehearsal, and magically this fully expressed thought appears. It's a neat trick. I think we complement each other well, because I often make declarations with mock certainty and he allows this without actually punching me in the face.
And now the obligatory blogging question: What is the state of theater blogging today?
Hard to say. I know that for me, I'm increasingly wary of blogging because I am a playwright first, and feel no particular urge to piss off literary departments or get caught saying unkind things about Charles Isherwood or whatever. As I've become aware that people actually do, in fact, read what I write, I've become a lot more careful. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. I can't imagine I'm alone in that. I used to think that new bloggers would show up and enliven the conversation. They may yet. But now with status updates and Twitter and whatever, I think that dilutes the need to become a major content creator of your own. So, theater blogging may sort of fizzle out, or it may be just waiting for a new Rachel Corrie scandal or something interesting to happen. Because I think bloggers can still drive conversation; they just need something to chew on and fight about.
Exposition is playing Thursday through Saturday at the Brick. Get your tickets here.