Monday, November 29, 2010

Freehold Faculty's Upcoming Performances

Sarah Harlett is in A Christmas Carol at ACT running November 26 - December 26. Read a recent interview with Sarah Harlett on Sarah will be teaching Intro to Acting and Acting with Text at Freehold this Winter Quarter.

John Jacobsen's show - The Artist Toolbox will be airing nationally on public television starting Jan 7, Also, the film John directed, Arthur, is done and being entered at Cannes and Sundance. John will be teaching Directing and Acting for the Camera at Freehold this coming Winter Quarter.

Alyssa Keene will be acting in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol at Seattle Public Theater from December 3 - December 24 and also coached dialects for ACT's production of A Christmas Carol. Alyssa is also going to begin rehearsals for Hardball with LiveGirls. Alyssa is teaching in Freehold's Ensemble Training Program (ETI).

John Longenbaugh's play Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol is at Taproot Theatre now through December 30th. He is also having my short play A Wild River published in December's City Arts Magazine.

George Lewis is directing the Bash Theatre Company in the 1920's Russian comedy, The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman. It will be performed at the Ballard Underground, December 3 - 19, 2010. Info at George is also directing Le Frenchword's Fancy Mud which will be performing at The Jewel Box Theatre, December 5 and 6 and 7:00 and 8:30 pm both nights, $15.00. George is teaching in Freehold's Ensemble Training Program (ETI).

Shanga Parker will be in All My Sons at Intiman in the spring, 2011 and Pilgrims Musa And Cheri In The New World at ACT in the summer, 2011. Shanga will be teaching a Suzuki Workshop at Freehold this Winter Quarter.

Billie Wildrick will be performing in A Christmas Story at the 5th Avenue Theatre and then Vanities. Billie will be teaching Acting Through Music at Freehold Theatre this Winter Quarter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Character vs. Caricature in Performance by Kristin Alexander

Somewhere between dress rehearsal and opening weekend, I sold out for cheap laughs. A theater critique might – or might not – have been the catalyst. Or perhaps I misinterpreted a director’s notes. Or maybe I was just testing the limits of “going big.” The reason doesn’t matter; it was the wrong choice.

“There are some people who will always laugh at caricature,” my assistant director, Julie Weinberger, said during a pre-show pep talk.

She and Gold From Straw’s artistic director Aaron Schmookler both knew I was capable of more. So did I. As I digested their advice, I heard a third voice. Freehold Artistic Director Robin Lynn Smith wasn’t in the Green Room, but her words were in my head:

“What do you want?” “Where are you coming from?” “How is your partner affecting you?”

Nine intensive months of Meisner Technique training at Freehold had prepared me for living authentically in imaginary circumstances. Even in a world of silliness, slapstick and “aw–shucks” moments like John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, reality has a place. Combining Schmookler's vision of what critics describe as "deft physical comedy" with Cariani's "unapologetically romantic fable," the play is a hilarious, heartfelt reminder of what it means to be human. The cast of six is made up of new and old friends including Lori Evans, who was my Meisner classmate and is currently enrolled in Freehold’s Ensemble Training Program.

For the next performance, I prepped longer and answered those critical questions that all actors must ask themselves. Successful acting is based on a simple premise: “You are enough.” When the lights came up, I played a character instead of a caricature. I laughed. I cried. I connected.

And you know what? The audience laughed even louder that night.

Kristin Alexander and Lori Evans can be seen in Gold From Straw Theatre Company's production of Almost, Maine through Nov. 27 at Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. Info: 253-301-8004,

Alexander also serves on Freehold’s Board of Trustees.

Photo above:
Kristin Alexander as "Marvalyn" and Alex Smith as "Steve"
Photo below: Lori Evans as "Sandrine" and Aaron J. Schmookler as "Jimmy"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artist Moll Frothingham - Art Work at Freehold

I’ve always loved windows at night. Windows with lights in them: sometimes filtered through red or green curtains, sometimes blue and flickering from a television screen, sometimes revealing entire scenes enacted within the room and other times showing only the corner of a ceiling.

Walking down a darkened street and seeing those signs of people’s lives has always touched me in a way that is both inspiring and humbling. It is similar to how I feel watching great theater—because in both cases, I am reminded of how much of ourselves we keep hidden from the world, with only glimpses showing.

The best plays, the best acting, reveal the subtext beneath the words and hint at the vast depths of emotion and experience which all of carry around with us but few of us ever share. Instead, we laugh or cry with a character who can embody those feelings and fears and flaws that we guard so closely. And even as we protect our secret selves, there is a unique essence in each of us that shines forth—our own lit window in the night.

This is the beauty and necessity of all of the arts and the charge of artists everywhere: to capture on a visceral level the experience of being alive—in all its terror, tenderness and glory—so that we have a sacred space in which to let down our defenses and reconnect with those deepest parts of ourselves and those around us.

Seattle native Moll Frothingham is a long time Freehold community member having taken a number of playwriting and acting classes at Freehold. Moll's work can be seen hanging at Freehold through December 10th (Freehold, 2222 2nd Avenue, Suite 200). Moll received her BA in Theater from Smith College in Northampton, MA. Her studies in theatrical lighting first exposed her to the evocative power of light and color on the imagination, which she continues to explore in her art. Urban settings and the night are other themes which fascinate her. If you have any questions or comments, or wish to purchase a painting, you can contact Moll by email: or

Images above include: Photo of Moll and her art work

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"You have to keep doing your show" by Darragh Kennan

So....I just performed Hamlet in front of 90 4th graders and did a talk back with them after. ....Not sure but I'm pretty convinced a lot of it went over their heads....but you never know....and yet, I'm pretty sure....

Oddly enough, I thought of my ETI students, thought, what would they think about this experience? What do you do in such a situation, oh, and by the way, the 90 4th graders came half an hour late! (not their fault, busing concerns)

Well, you just have to do your show. You can't do some alternate version, you can't not try, you have to give it your all even in those weird circumstances where you know the 9 year olds in the front row that are squirming in their school skirts haven't the vaguest notion of what you're talking about. You have to keep doing your show. And yes, it sucks, and yes, it's hard, but, it's your work and you can be proud of it and look into the eyes of your fellow actors and believe in the work you've created. That was today.

Tomorrow, who knows? A new student matinee and an evening show and a whole new lease on life. As my mentor once said, you could be digging ditches. Right?

On opening night for Hamlet I had to teach for ETI at 9 in the morning. I was feeling sorry for myself, but then I got there and was filled with inspiration and love and desire for the work and I realized it was the best thing I could have done that morning, was teach that class. These students are hungry. They are working hard, creating imaginary circumstances and playing in the black box of Freehold and forming lifelong relationships and artistic bonds. My hat is off to them.

Performing Hamlet has taken over my life. Both in good and bad ways. I feel like I am young again, like a student of the theatre, completely absorbed in the play I am doing and nothing else. That's refreshing and great. But then the balance of keeping things in check, things I tell my students, could be a little more healthy. It's great to be a teacher because you always are holding the mirror up to your own actions reflected in your words.

Darragh Kennan can be seen in Hamlet at Seattle Shakespeare Company through December 5th.

For more information on Freehold's ETI: Freehold's Ensemble Training Program

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Takes a Village to Write a Solo by Melissa Topscher, ETI 2010 Member

Okay Self, you have one week to write, stage and perform a five minute solo show that will compel, entertain, and otherwise stupify your audience: a roomful of performers preoccupied with doing the same thing and a bona-fide genius teacher. Since that week has passed and you’ve just spent three hours watching viral videos that started on someone’s Facebook page and ended with a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig to a surprisingly catchy song, you have 6 hours before you perform this. What are you doing?! Why do you do this to yourself every time Melissa, Crap!! Stupid!

This is just a taste of the panic I experience every week in Freehold's Ensemble Training Intensive's (ETI) Solo Performance class with Marya Sea-Kaminski, but the truth is this class incorporates everything we are learning at Freehold. When working in a pressure cooker, you quickly figure out how to trim the fat. It’s like freestyle cooking. Throw in a little inspiration from the world around you, some acting technique, a healthy dose of structure, a strong sense of character, a purpose to tie it all together, and a full pot of coffee when the clock sneaks its way to 2 am and you find yourself just starting to roll up your sleeves to dig
into the good stuff. This is the moment you have suffered for all week. No more procrastinating, the whining voices have ceased, you have dropped into the creative realm. You dance in it because those hours of agony spent thinking, always thinking so hard, too hard, about what is going to make the piece good, have culminated forcing themselves up against the floodgates until you burst through and the creativity flows into those oh so thirsty places in your soul. Drink it up commrades!

We’ve learned to get to the heart of things quickly while working with Marya, and what I’m gaining from this class is a sense for how important a strong central character is, and how rich your performance becomes when you create a whole person on stage. At first I wondered, “Why are we studying solo performance in an ensemble training program?“ Now I see the significance. When you are creating characters from scratch all of their idiosyncrasies, their habits, their opinions stem from a place very close to you. It is a good exercise in character development because you start to see how you can take qualities you discover in a character close to your range of knowledge and continue on this path to reach characters that are written for you. Characters who you, at least initially, have great distance from.

There are many ways to get there. So far we have explored autobiography, outside sources like written publications or overheard conversation, physical mimicry, and dialogue. Through all of these projects I have started to hone in on my process and have noticed patterns in the other actors. Some actors get a feel for a certain structure and work around that, some are very physical, some are abstract storytellers. With so many creative minds in a confined space one thing is for certain; we are never bored in this class.

Every week we see sixteen original works. Performances I never could have dreamed up. The talent is phenomenal and the bar is raised higher with every assignment. The spirit of ensemble could never be more alive in this solo performance class. Every piece feeds the next, and these sixteen individuals could only be more invested in each other if they built us bunk beds in the green-room.

For more information on ETI: Freehold's Ensemble Training Intensive

Photo at Top: Melissa Topscher
Photo at Bottom: Caleb Slavens performing a solo performance piece in ETI.