Monday, June 21, 2010

Thanking the Gods for JULIUS CAESAR

Susanna Burney will be playing Cassius/Cassia in Freehold's upcoming production of JULIUS CAESAR. (photo above: Susanna Burney in rehearsal for JULIUS CAESAR)

Monday, June 21 – 8:30 a.m.

Just found out I’m not called till 9:45 this morning so I have a moment to write this blog for Kate and the good folks of Freehold and Engaged Theatre. I live the crazy, chaotic life of the freelance theatre artist which means any given day I could be caught up in three or more different activities—performing for schoolkids, doing a voice over, auditioning for (hopefully) my next gig, rehearsing, etc etc. This weekend was no exception and Sunday was my only day off (it usually is).

Every year or so I say to myself, I’m not going to act anymore. I’m not very successful at it (never worked at the Rep, ACT or Intiman) and there are other people out there who are so much better than I. Plus, I’m a woman, and there are grossly disproportionate roles for women than men and a grossly higher number of actresses than actors.

And then, out of the blue, I’ll get a call—like the one I got from the amazing Robin Lynn Smith, and I’m irresistibly drawn back in. I’d heard of Robin for years, but we’d never met. She wanted me to audition for Cassius (Cassia), to play opposite my dear old pal, Reggie Jackson (I was Emilia opposite his first Othello ten years ago). I’d looked at Julius Caesar a lot over the years, it’s always been one of my favorite Shakespeare’s—I’ve read for Portia, Casca, Calpurnia, and it never worked out, partly I think, because those parts didn’t quite fit in my mouth and my being. Cassius was a different story. As soon as I started working with the material to prepare for my audition, I felt it. I got his (her) hunger to be taken for what he’s worth, to connect with Brutus, to make the world right again, to undo this wrongly gotten and dangerous power. And the way Cassius is written—the logic of his words, the directness and indirectness that rides a driving desire for the world to be set right again. Thank the gods, Robin let me do it.

And we are deep into it now. One more week of rehearsal and I’m almost completely off book (Cassius has a lot of words!). There’s work to be done, but the ground has been laid. It’s still a minefield of unconnected dots, but there’s great people all around me to lead me onward. Reggie is a dream scene partner—so focused and so kind, so GENEROUS. Which I can say with all my heart about Robin. Who seems hell bent on giving 100 times more than anyone else can give, not to compete on giving, but because it’s necessary. She believes in the work that much. It’s in every fiber of her being—it’s captivating to watch her; that much focus, that much brilliance which she wisely keeps a little in check so we can find a little of our own brilliance to make it ours.

I’ve performed for a lot of different populations over the years. But never prisoners. This is a particular challenge and gift I am deeply curious about and grateful for. I wonder how they will relate to a character so bent on her own personal sense of justice. Justice and honor that demands every risk, even to the death. Robin and I talk about how Cassius is a woman in our production, and how her sense of indignation and powerlessness in the face of the current state drives her rage, drives her hunger to make her voice heard—at all cost. Shakespeare gives you a bottomless well of opportunity with his words, his rhythms and his dramaturgy. I’ll try to cram as much as I can into this short lived process. Oh, it’s 9:00! I’ve got a bus to catch.

Freehold will be touring JULIUS CAESAR to two prisons, a juvenile detention center and for the first time to Veterans at American Lake Veteran's Hospital. PLUS we have 3 Public Performances of JULIUS CAESAR for you to attend.

We hope to see you there.

Public Performances:

Wednesday, July 7, 6:30 pm
at Seward Park Amphitheater
Saturday, July 10, 8:00 pm at Broadway Performance Hall
Sunday, July 11, 5:00 pm at Broadway Performance Hall
Tickets: Pay What You Can
Reservations are not required but if you'd like to reserve a seat, email us at
Questions: call us at (206) 323-7499.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saying "Yes" to JULIUS CAESAR by Kevin Thomas McKeon

Kevin Thomas McKeon will be playing Julius Caesar in Freehold's Engaged Theatre production of JULIUS CAESAR this summer.

It's often difficult for me to be an actor because of family and work and financial considerations, but every so often a project comes up that demands that I put life aside and go for it. I wrestle with the task of being an actor anyway, always have; it's a love-hate thing (and a much longer blog post), that steers me away from seeking just ANY acting job.

But when Robin Lynn-Smith told me about Julius Caesar and what she was planning to do with it I had one of those moments where I saw a clear path in front of me. If I had issues about the selfishness of acting versus responsibility, this project by nature gave me a reason, larger than myself, to want to participate. The facilities tour, the audiences that we would encounter, the blind faith it would take to even mount such a show - all of a sudden the task ahead seemed incredibly self-less. It was the kind of project that, when I was much younger and idealistic, I imagined myself doing. And here was Robin, fearless, committed and incredibly enthusiastic, giving me all the right reasons to join up and be a part of it.

So here we are in the second week of a whirlwind rehearsal period. It's whirlwind because of all the stuff going on with the movement, music and pageantry aspect of the production, not to mention merely telling the story as actors. Can you spell a-m-b-i-t-i-o-u-s? Dude, it's all here. We got Gods descending from scaffolding, we got major-label quality musicians working on some incredible stuff, crafting it as we work. We got I don't know how many folks slithering and writhing and yelling and rejoicing and all it takes to embody Robin's creative tour-de-force. We used to do those trust exercises when I was an acting student (all young and idealistic) - you know - where you close your eyes and fall back into the circle, and trust that people will be there to catch you? Believe me, a lot of years have passed since then, but here I am, falling back into the circle (literally) and trusting the support. Hey! It still works!

Stay tuned ... more blog postings weekly from other JULIUS CAESAR Cast Members!
Public Performances of JULIUS CAESAR:

Wednesday, July 7, 6:30 pm at Seward Park, Amphitheater
Saturday, July 10 at 8:00 pm at Broadway Performance Hall
Sunday, July 11 at 5:00 pm at Broadway Performance Hall

More information on our Engaged Theatre Summer Tour: Engaged Theatre

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Freehold's Engaged Theatre Program Presents JULIUS CAESAR

Julius Caesar
by William Shakespeare

Directed by Robin Lynn Smith

Public Performances:

Wednesday, July 7, 6:30 pm
at Seward Park Amphitheater

Saturday, July 10, 8:00 pm
at Broadway Performance Hall and

Sunday, July 11, 5:00 pm at
Broadway Performance Hall

Tickets: Pay What You Can

Freehold will tour Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, directed by Robin Lynn Smith, to unique locations across the greater Puget Sound area, June 28 – July 11, 2010. Realizing the power of theatre to bring about an extraordinary communion between audience and performer is at the core of Freehold's mission and at the heart of our annual Engaged Theatre tour. Since 2003, Freehold’s Engaged Theatre has toured professional Shakespeare productions to communities with little or no access to live theatre. This year the tour will again include the Washington Correctional Center for Women, the Monroe Correctional Complex for Men, Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile detention center and New Futures housing community. We are also performing for the first time at American Lake Veteran’s Hospital for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The tour concludes with performances in Seattle for the general public.

This year’s phenomenal Engaged Theatre cast includes: Reginald Andre Jackson (Brutus), Kevin McKeon (Caesar), Sylvester Kamara (Mark Antony), Susanna Burney (Cassius), Sarah Harlett (Portia), Eva Abram, Kjerstine Anderson, Shawn Belyea, Trina Harris, David Brown King, Kirsten McCory, Lisa Norman, Kate Parker, Lori Evans, and Hal Ryder. The production will include live musical accompaniment with a score composed by Gino Yevdjevich of Kultur Shock, set design by Roberta Russell, and choreography by Butoh dancer Vanessa Skantze.

Cast across gender and race lines, reflecting the diversity of our audiences, this talented company will bring this story of power, corruption and sacrifice simply and vividly to life.