Friday, October 16, 2015

Elizabeth Heffron Returns!

Elizabeth Heffron, one of our dearest faculty members, returns to the Engaged Theatre Project after several years of writing and producing her own work at some of the most prestigious theaters in the Pacific Northwest. We are simply thrilled that Elizabeth is back this year, and were lucky enough to sit down and chat with her about what's next for the Engaged Theatre project! 

Freehold: Tell us a little bit about your background as a playwright. How did you first become involved with theatre?

My interest in theatre corresponds with my arrival in Seattle after college.  I'd just had the epiphany that I didn't want to be a lab scientist -- after getting my Bachelor of Science in PsychoBiology -- and was sort of floating as to what to do with my life.  Everyone I met here seemed involved in some way with theater.  There were small houses everywhere, and I'd been looking for the right outlet for the things I felt I needed to say.  I think the first thing I did was run a friend's sound for a project at New City Theater's Directors Festival, and that was like a gateway drug... I was hooked.

What brought you to Freehold initially? What brings you back now?

Back in the day -- before Freehold was 'Freehold' -- I took classes with Robin Lynn Smith and Tony Pasqualini up on Capitol Hill.  Then, later, I came back to teach playwriting classes in the old Oddfellows Hall and here in Belltown.  Somewhere around 2005, I started working with Robin and the Engaged Theatre Project at WCCW, the maximum security women's prison near Gig Harbor.  I was part of this annual project for about five years, until I was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer, and had to sloooow things way down for awhile.

Tell us what you've been up to for the past few years!

Well, I'm still around -- 6 years cancer-free! -- and loving every minute on this whirling-dervish of a planet (that's a lie -- probably not every minute, but most of them).  I've  been on a fairly high-octane trajectory these last few years, earning my MFA in Playwriting from Hollins University, teaching at Cornish College of the Arts, and through the Young Playwrights Program at ACT Theatre.  I've been a member of the Seattle Rep's Writers Group and have managed to complete a number of long-term writing projects; including the play BO-NITA, which had a production at the Rep a few seasons' back.

How does the Engaged Theatre Project help you as a playwright? What are some things you've learned from the Engaged Theatre Project? 

Every time I go into WCCW, and meet the women, I am aware that 'there but by the grace of God go I...'  The fact that raw circumstances beyond our control, of birth, and class, and race stack the deck much higher against certain members of our society.  The cards many of these women have been dealt are  ludicrously unfair, and seeing how they come to terms with this essential inequity and then rise above these obstacles, to seek out beauty and hope and a changed way of being in the world, is really inspiring.

What are you most looking forward to teaching, learning, or experiencing with the project this year?

What is hitting me most this time -- from our first meeting with the women a few weeks ago -- is how deeply inter-connected we all are.  How each woman's individual life relates to the larger weave of the ultimate story we are creating as a nation and a people.  Like a series of fractals, every one of us is intimate and global, all at the same time.  I'm really looking forward to learning more about this year's participants and the voices they will bring to this work and the world.

The public performance for the Engaged Theatre Project at WCCW is scheduled for early April, 2016. To read a review of last year's performance, click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Student First Impressions, Fall 2015


Monday, July 6, 2015

An interview with G. Valmont Thomas

G. Valmont Thomas, one of our newest faculty members, has had a lively and legendary career in Northwest theatre (and beyond!) since the 1980's, and was once dubbed the "hardest-working actor in Seattle." We were lucky enough to interview him for the blog this weekend. G. Valmont Thomas will be teaching Voice Over with us this summer! Read on to learn more about him.

Freehold: Tell us a little bit about your background as a director and performer. How did you first become involved with theatre?

Well, If I go into detail about when I FIRST got involved with theatre, that story will take up too much space, so I will just say, it was in high school.
And I will name the woman who developed in me a love and a discipline for actually WORKing so that I could PLAY! Her name was Virginia Heidbrieder and she taught at Clover Park High School in Tacoma, WA. This woman saw something in me and worked to instill in me a love for this art form that hasn't been equaled by anything else since. I had the great luck to attend WWSC which is now WWU, in Bellingham, starting in 1977, the first year of teaching there for a man named Tom Ward who created a company there and taught us all that EVERYbody was needed to make theatre work. I have been extremely lucky in my career to have been part of a number of companies: The Bathhouse Theatre Company, The Seattle Group Theatre Company, The Empty Space Theatre Company, and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Acting Company. My BA is in Theatre Arts from Western Washington University, My MFA is in Directing For The Theatre from Penn State University.

What brought you to Freehold?

Believe it or not, I have been in talks with Robin Lynn Smith for quite a few years to join this group of teaching artists! We just always discovered that our schedules either conflicted, or never matched up. Finally, it worked out for both of us!

Can you share with us a memorable onstage or backstage moment?

One indelible memory took place in Ashland, OR on September 11, 2001. As soon as everyone learned what happened in New York City, we came together as a company to discuss whether or not we should perform that day. Many of us believed that performing was not a good idea. We cancelled the matinee performances to talk and finally decided to go on for the evening shows. Libby Appel, our AD at the time, reminded us that "People have traveled a long way to be here with us. We are the closest thing many of them have to family here in Ashland." We began each performance with a silent candlelight ceremony where we walked onstage as a cast and just stood with lit candles and everyone, actors and audience, focused on what our country had just gone through. I was in the Bowmer Theatre, and in the Elizabethan Theatre was a production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE wherein the first line was spoken by Antonio, "In Sooth, I know not why I am so sad." Every line we uttered sounded different that night, than it ever had before or ever would again.

Do you have a favorite project that you've been involved with? What are you working on at the moment?

One of the favorite projects I have ever been involved with is PARTY PEOPLE by a group of artists called UNIVERSES. I have been fortunate enough to perform in it with them at two theatres, OSF and Berkekley Repertory Theatre. It deals with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and The Young Lords. There is music, dancing, poetry, ensemble work, and incredibly poignant scene work. It is just indescribable. They are currently re-working it at Martha's Vineyard in preparation to perform it at The Public in New York. I am looking forward to a production of WATER BY THE SPOONFUL with Theatre 22 in September and October at West Of Lenin. That play takes place mostly online! Should be fun. Then in January I will be appearing in David Mamet's AMERICAN BUFFALO produced by TRUE COLORS Theatre in Atlanta, GA.

What has been your favorite voice over role?

Well, there are two, really. The first one is the "Day-O Guy" from the late, lamented Bon Marche's One Day Sale Radio and Television ads. It made folks smile a lot. The other one is one where I almost didn't accept the job. Blackstone Audio had secured the rights to O.J. Simpson's hypothetical account of the last days of the two people who were murdered at his home, called IF I DID IT and wanted me to narrate the audiobook. I decided that if I was going to do it, I would just have to "go there." It was very tough, but I have heard from people who could stomach it and people who couldn't. Either way, people got mad at the CD player while listening. I count that as a success.

What are you looking forward to teaching in your Voice Over class this summer?

Well, I am looking forward to helping each student identify their strengths and weaknesses when looking to convey emotion persuasively using only their voice. There is a certain frame of mind that one has got to discover for themselves to allow them to find success in the recording booth. Not only that, but there is a usually forgotten relationship with the engineer. As professionals, we don't often talk about it, so in this class, we are going to make a foray into the voice talent/client/engineer triangle that exists at EVERY AUDITION. Very often it is this triangle that wins or loses the job.

G. Valmont Thomas' Voice Over class starts this weekend. Sign up today!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Emboldened/Unsung Jazz Heroes tickets are now available!

Did any of you check out that fantastic piece in City Arts about our upcoming Engaged Theatre production, Emboldened? If you haven't, you should!

D'Vonne Lewis (left) and Reginald Andre Jackson (right)
Photo by Steve Korn

“When we’re playing well together and we don’t realize it and we’re in some other place, that’s where the beauty is,” Lewis continues. “But Buddy took it to that place and couldn’t handle it. Music can make you go crazy if you always want to get to that place. He always wanted to blow people’s minds every time he played, so much so he blew his own mind.” 

Read the full article by Jake Uitti here.
Buy tickets to Emboldened/Unsung Jazz Heroes here.

Emboldened poster with artwork by Jay Mason
Emboldened poster. Artwork by Jay Mason
Freehold's Engaged Theatre program, in association with Theatre Off Jackson, presents an immersive music and theatre experience commissioned by Freehold and produced in partnership with the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas and The Mahogany Project.

Emboldened/Unsung Jazz Heroes investigates the need to seek - both individually and collectively - an identity and a durable sense of self; and inquires into how necessity leads to the birth of inspiration. Juxtaposing stories from Seattle's historic jazz scene with the forgotten legacy of Buddy Bolden, the project examines the extraordinary internal worlds of these under-noticed souls and their struggle to break out of imposed limits - creatively and destructively.

A two-part experience featuring an interactive site-specific installation as well as an original play, Emboldened/Unsung Jazz Heroes will combine video, performance and music for a night of storytelling that will invite the public to encounter theatre - and each other - in a new interface.

The event features an original play, Emboldened: The Rise and Fall of King Bolden the First, byReginald AndrĂ© Jackson (winner of the 2010 AATE Distinguished Playwriting Award) about the life of Buddy Bolden, accompanied by an original score composed by D'Vonne Lewis (of Industrial Revelation, winner of the 2014 Stranger Genius Award in Music). The play will be prefaced by the live installation Unsung Heroes of Seattle Jazz, a contextual historic gallery showcasing the stories of Seattle's vibrant yet underdocumented jazz scene.

Freehold's Engaged Theatre program presents
Emboldened/Unsung Heroes
July 23, 24, 25 at 7:00pmJuly 26 at 5:00pm
July 31August 1, 3 at 7:00pmAugust 2 at 5:00pm
Theatre Off Jackson, 409 7th Ave S, Seattle WA 98104

Monday, June 29, 2015

An interview with Andre Nelson

This weekend we had a chance to chat with Andre Nelson, a new instructor who's teaching Step I: Intro to Acting this summer. You may have seen him in various shows around town, including Bunnies at Annex Theatre in April. Andre's been involved with Freehold's Engaged Theatre tour for years, but this is his first time teaching with us. Welcome, Andre!

Freehold: Tell us a little bit about your background as a performer. How did you first become involved with theatre?

AN: I've been acting since age 10, when I played Cupid in a murder mystery at a winery. I was hooked soon after and began studying theatre intensively at an arts magnet program in my high school. 

Unfortunately, I had a rotten experience in the theatre program at my first college and swore off acting forever. A few years later, however, I had an epiphany while flipping burgers as a line cook in Portland, Oregon: I couldn't escape my need to act nor would I be happy without it.

Long story short, I finished up my BFA at Cornish College of the Arts and have been working professionally in theatre since.

What brought you to Freehold?

I first worked with Freehold doing their Engaged Theatre tour of King Lear to Washington State Prisons a few years back. It was an illuminating experience, and I am grateful I had the chance to connect with easily the most attentive, appreciative audiences I've ever encountered.

Tell us about a memorable onstage or backstage moment.

One memorable moment I had as an actor was my first entrance in a scene. It was the murder mystery I mentioned, in which I played Cupid in green tights and an oversized, ruffle-sleeved white shirt to boot. I was apparently too young to be trusted to make my entrance by myself, so someone was in charge of letting me know it was time for my one and only entrance in the play. Unfortunately, no one came to tell me. One of the actors on stage had to improvise and run backstage to grab me. It was an amusing, albeit embarrassing introduction into the crazy world of theatre!

Do you have a favorite role that you've played? Which role(s) would you be interested in playing in the future, and why?

One of my more memorable roles was playing the character Louis from Virginia Woolf's The Waves, an adaptation directed by Sheila Daniels at Cornish College of the Arts. Not only did I have to learn an Australian dialect and play an uptight social outcast, but I also got the pleasure of giving life to Woolf's beautiful poetry. 

I've always wanted to act in a Chekhov play - any of them really but Cherry Orchard and The Seagull in particular. Every character he wrote is well rounded and fascinating. 

What are you looking forward to teaching in your Step I class this summer?

I'm looking forward to getting to know the students and being inspired by them. I can't wait to learn from each class in order to grow as a teacher and give them the best experience possible. 

Step I: Intro to Acting runs on Monday nights, starting July 13th. Sign up today!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All's Well photos and 2015-2016 ETI Applications

First off, congratulations to the 2014-2015 ETI folks on their fantastic run of All's Well That Ends Well!

Thanks to Michael Brunk of NW Lens for taking these amazing shots! More photos can be viewed on our Facebook page.

Also, we've opened our 2015-2016 ETI applications up once again due to popular request, so get them in while you still can! The deadline is Wednesday, July 1st at 5:00pm. Auditions will be held on the evening of Thursday, July 9th.

To apply:
- Email your theatrical resume, headshot, and 2 letters of reference to

Freehold's Ensemble Training Intensive is the only independent 10-month certificate program for dedicated actors in the Pacific Northwest. Our central aim is the development of core acting skills that are as delicate as they are vital, and too often overlooked. ETI was created for the serious student who is ready to commit to the next level artistically, and professionally. ETI empowers emerging professionals with a dependable inner and outer process so that they can make a meaningful contribution to the community at large. 

More information about our ETI program can be found on our website.

Monday, June 22, 2015

2015 Summer Quarter Acting & Theatre Classes at Freehold

Hello friends of Freehold!

With June well underway, we hope you're keeping an eye on the start dates for our summer quarter classesHere's the full lineup below:
Emerging Series

Intermediate Series

Writing Series

Workshops and Clinics

Also, an update: our new summer office hours are Monday through Thursday, 10am to 4pm. Have questions about registration? Feel free to call us during office hours at (206) 323-7499.

Happy summer, everyone!