Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beginning and Advanced Acting Classes at Freehold in Seattle this Winter Quarter

We are privileged to have highly acclaimed artists as faculty. Our students range from the beginner who has never taken an acting class to the advanced trained student looking to continue their practice.

There is truly something for everyone.

Freehold's Winter Class, 2012 Line-Up:

Step I: Intro to Acting with Meg McLynn
Step I: Intro to Acting with Sarah Harlett
Step II: Acting with Text with Sarah Harlett
Step III: Scene Study Text Intensive with Annette Toutonghi
The Actor's Homework with Annette Toutonghi
Alexander Technique: For The Actor's Toolbox with Cathy Madden
Auditioning with Annette Toutonghi
Directing and Acting for the Camera with John Jacobsen
Improvisation with Matt Smith
Intermediate Clown with George Lewis
Meisner: Instrument with Robin Lynn Smith
Movement with Paul Budraitis
Playwriting II: The Playwright's Vision with Elizabeth Heffron
Shakespeare with Amy Thone
Solo Performance and Presentation with Marya Sea Kaminski
Spoken Word and Performance Poetry with Daemond Arrindell
Stage Combat with Geof Alm
Voice-Over with Gin Hammond

We also have a little space in 2 of our Fall Classes:
Public Speaking with Gin Hammond
Verse and Voice with Kimberly White

Check out our Winter e-newsletter with great articles from faculty and students:

To register for a class:

If you're looking for outstanding training in a supportive atmosphere,
Freehold is the place.

Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio
2222 2nd Avenue, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 323-7499

Monday, December 12, 2011

Memories of Freehold: "What Splitting My Pants Taught Me About Being Human or Lessons from Personal Clown with George" by Cathleen O’Malley

At the time I registered for George Lewis’s Lecoq-based “Personal Clown” class (Spring 2003) I was, frankly, a little wary of clowns. My opinion of the form was unfortunately tainted by the unoriginal, often-fearsome, pop culture representations of clowns, scary or worse--dilapidated sad sacks with frizzy scarlet hair and a forced attitude of mirth that provoked in me (as for many people, I suspect) a major case of the willies, if not the urge to violence. I had not yet encountered the work of Jacques Lecoq, nor George as teacher, but a combination of the intriguing class description and the awed testimonials from former students convinced me to take the plunge and risk having my mind blown.

During the first week of class, we were given the task of assembling a costume. Intrigued by the vague notion that clowning was somehow related to “failure”, my first attempt resulted in an unsightly head-to-toe ensemble of ratty men’s long johns, pre-stained with indelible grime and sweat and salvaged from the discount rack at the Capitol Hill Value Village. “No, no no!” George rolled his eyes and turned me away with a dramatic flourish of his hands. “What are you WEARING? What is that--men’s underwear? And all the same color--totally wrong!”

I arrived at the next class decked in stripes and jaunty black polyester ankle pants, gloves and (I wince)...a beret. This was my attempt at a “Euro” look, sort of cutesy and androgynous, with a dash of...Parisian street performer? In spite of my efforts, the result was lame and I knew it from the moment I crossed the threshold. George was similarly unimpressed. On that count, it was fortunate that the costume did not last long.

The performance I had prepared (now long wiped from my memory by subsequent events) had tanked, and I was exposed, stock-still and grasping desperately for a new “bit” as my classmates gazed back at me blankly. I deployed the best of my moves--a super-controlled, yogi-like headstand, with my legs rising flat as a board. No response. A freestyle hip hop combination--not a chuckle. Having run out of ideas, my performance quickly devolved into a halting montage of yoga asanas, fake tap dancing, gazelle leaps and rhythm gymnastics across the space, all in an attempt to elicit a reaction from the audience. They remained stone faced. In a burst of desperation, I plunged into a full split--and it was then that the seams gave way.

For anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of studying clown with George (or anyone)--a bit of context. One of the most standard clown exercises is deceptively simple and exceeding provocative. Each instructor has their own approach, but the basic task is this: “Enter. Make the audience laugh.”

While in sketch comedy, a character enters a constructed world and interacts with it (to comic effect), a clown enters an empty space, in which she creates a world with and for the audience.

Getting to that point takes some goading. We all have--as I discovered painfully over the course of Personal Clown and beyond--tricks and habits that we employ towards our basic human desire for love and approval. The role of the clown instructor--like a semi-sadistic Ring Master--is to poke holes in these pretensions, towards the end of revealing the authentic character underneath--open, vulnerable, whole and complete in her imperfections.

Rrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip. Silence. A breeze. A sinking realization.

“Excuse me miss,” George’s eyes were sparkling “Is there something the matter?”

“Uh.” Clown class had happened to fall at the tail end (no pun intended) of laundry week and, me-at-22 was frantically combing my memory to unsure if I had dressed myself that morning with something recognizable as underwear.

“Weren’t you in the middle of a dance routine?”

“Uh, um.” I am slowly inching my way back towards the tall black flats marking the entrance to the space, and thus, safety.

“Are you holding something behind your back? What’s wrong, miss? Is there a problem?”

The class was in complete uproar and George wasn’t letting me off the hook. An unfortunate blush boiling and spreading up from my neck, I set about the task of recreating my fake tap, gazelle-leaping, yoga asana, rhythm gymnastic routine, all the while clutching the flapping fabric at my back end, two pant legs separated cleanly from top to bottom, held together only by the front zipper, waste band and my desperate efforts. One-handed dance moves were the only available option for the pathetic little clown on the stage. Careful, labored spins eventually gave way to a sort of gawky virtuosity as the laughter of the audience loosened my breath and I began to play. When I finally made my exit to enthusiastic applause, I paused for a moment backstage, quivering and stunned.

“That,” George’s voice rang out, “is called a Gift from God.”

In the empty space of the ring, we learned, the clown emerges though authentic response to the audience, the environment and the circumstances that arise. Thus, every accident is an opportunity; every failure, a springboard for creation. Personal Clown taught that it is our uniqueness and, most poignantly, our failings and flaws that most delight the audience, if we are willing to bring them to the stage--and it is through the red-nosed clown, the smallest mask, that our humanity shines. A lesson to live by, onstage and off!

Cathleen went on to study Lecoq-based Physical Theatre at the London International School of Performing Arts. She now lives and works in Bethlehem, PA, where she is the Education Director and an Ensemble Member of Touchstone Theatre.

George Lewis will be teaching Intermediate Clown at Freehold this Winter Quarter.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Secret to Working with Teenagers by Daemond Arrindell

Freehold Associate Partner and Faculty Member Daemond Arrindell and Teaching Artist Carter Rodriquez have been working for the last several months with several teenagers in our Engaged Theatre residency. Here are some of Daemond's thoughts on that experience.


The secret to working with teenagers is all in the snacks. If one can tame the raging hunger that distracts them beyond all things, then maybe you stand a chance. Because you might get past the hunger, but THEN what are you going to do? They've likely seen or heard things that are a ton more exciting than what you have to show them or talk about on YouTube last night. And it was flashier on YouTube. And it had back up dancers. And a soundtrack. And Eminem made a cameo. So what else have you got in your bag of tricks? Juggling? Forget it unless it involves pyrotechnics.

So what? Well there is always ... honesty. Talking. TO them. WITH them. There is always showing them who you are and then asking them about themselves. and then asking them MORE about themselves. There is suspending judgment - kinda like you wanted adults to do when you were a teenager - and engaging, and believing what they say and dare I say it: trusting them. And then doing that again. And again and again.

I think one of the secrets of working with teenagers is forgetting at times that you are adults and they are teenagers and remembering that YOU are a person and THEY are too. Thinking of yourself as part of the group and becoming US. This is what Carter Rodriquez and I do with our kids in the Engaged Theatre program's residency at Washington Hall this fall. We talked, sure, but we listened a ton too. We let down our guards and then we listened more. Then they let their guards down and we listened even harder. And we believed in them. And TOLD them we believed in them. Rinse, repeat and add lots of snacks. Because none of the above works unless you feed them.


The original performance by youth entitled "We Are Tomorrow's Today" with the Detention All-Stars is a partnership of Freehold's Engaged Theatre and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. Performances were held on Saturday, December 10th at Washington Hall. For more information on our Engaged Theatre residency work, go to: Engaged Theatre Residencies

Memories of Freehold: Freehold Inspires My "Little Dance" by Sharon N. Williams

Whenever I’ve worked with Freehold, they’ve made an impact on my life. And my result to said impact is always the same. I end up doing a crazy dance, I start grinning from ear to ear, and I may even jump up and down. Because that is what Freehold has meant to me. This organization has brought insurmountable joy in my life and to my quest to pursue my passion.

When I first started my organization, The Mahogany Project, George Lewis contacted me. I was sitting at my desk at my day job when George asked if I would be interested in participating in the Studio Series. I was calm on the phone but it took all my strength to stay in my chair. I maintained my professionalism. I didn’t give a definite "yes", I asked some questions and then told him I would get back to him soon. As soon as I hung up the phone, I was on my feet and doing my little dance. We showcased an excerpt from the first play I had ever written a few months later.

The second time I did my little dance was when I decided I wanted to take the solo performance aspect of my repertoire to the next level. What better way to challenge myself than to sign up for Marya Sea Kaminiski’s Solo Performance course? And what a challenge it was.

Now, the first week of the class I was feeling good. I went home with a bunch of ideas for pieces to create for the class. Week two, I went home and I had nothing. I started to feel like I didn’t belong. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even edit the material I created after the first class! I confessed this to Marya and she encouraged me to just come to the class. So I did. I even told my class that I couldn’t write anything. But it didn’t seem to matter. We just continued with the class. I finally got my voice back a week or so later, but I still had doubt on whether not I belonged. I constantly questioned if being a solo performer was right for me.

At the end of the course I ended up sharing a story that I’ve never shared before and that to this day I still can’t share with my family. But the response I received from the audience that night and the feeling I had after sharing my story was one that made me jump up and down, do my little dance, and grin from ear to ear. By the time you read this I would have performed my second one act solo performance and I already have plans to create many more. Big shout out to my Solo Performance class for sharing this journey with me. I miss you guys.

The third time Freehold made me do my little dance was when Robin Lynn Smith called one morning to ask if I would consider being a teaching artist for the Engaged Theatre program at the Washington Correctional Center for Women, The Ordinary Heroes. The morning Robin called I’d been thinking that I had wanted to focus on storytelling for my next show. I would ask my family and friends to write stories for me to share in my next solo piece. I had already spoken to one of my friends that same morning and she agreed. But when Robin called, I had to play it cool. She shared with me the details of the project. And I shared with her, how I wasn’t and had never been a teaching artist. I could tell she wasn’t accepting "no" for an answer. She believed I could do it and she wanted me to be on the team. I played it cool and even though I knew I was going to do it as soon as she asked. I told her I would think about it and let her know. Little did she know when I hung up the phone I jumped up from my desk, did my little dance, grinned from ear to ear, and then called one my colleagues to tell her the awesome news.

I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into that prison for the first time. I’ve watched television and movies just like you, so I believed in whatever stereotypes there were about prison. To my surprise it was exactly like television. Well the shell of the experience is exactly like television, but when you walk into that room with the women and the door closes, it doesn’t seem like prison. The women look like you and me, talk like you and me, and have issues just like you and me. We always give them an exercise hoping that they will take it and run with it. They always exceed our expectations and everyone involved with this project goes on a life changing journey. The women we are when we walk in isn’t the same women that walk out. I’m not just saying that for the teaching artists.

Freehold has showcased my work, helped me develop my work, and has helped shape me as an individual. There are many other times Freehold has caused me to do my little dance, to grow as both an artist and a person. I can honestly say that Freehold is one of the organizations that I have to give much respect and love to for aiding me in pursuing my passion. Thank you Freehold for 20 years of joy.


For more information on Sharon Williams' work on The Mahogany Project, go to:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Chat with Faculty Member Paul Budraitis

Paul Budraitis is a director, actor, writer, and solo performer, as well as a teacher of acting and stage movement. In Seattle, he has worked with On the Boards, the Degenerate Art Ensemble, Annex Theatre, Balagan Theatre, New City Theatre, and Cornish College of the Arts, among others. His solo performance (IN)STABILITY premiered at On the Boards in February, and his production of David Mamet's Edmond received a Seattle Times' "Footlight Award" as one of the best productions of 2010. Paul received a State Department Fulbright grant to study theatre directing at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy (LMTA) in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he earned his master's degree under the mentorship of visionary theatre director Jonas Vaitkus. In Lithuania, Paul worked with the National Drama Theatre of Lithuania, the State Youth Theatre of Lithuania, the Kaunas State Drama Theatre, and Oskaras Koršunovas/Vilnius City Theatre (OKT). He has assisted directors Jonas Vaitkus and Oskaras Koršunovas, and most recently acted in a contemporary re-imagining of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by acclaimed Finnish director Kristian Smeds and performed at the Vienna Festival.

Paul, we're excited that you'll be teaching a Movement class with us at Freehold. You've been teaching at Cornish and now you'll also be teaching at Freehold. What, in particular, do you enjoy about your teaching work?

Teaching is a learning process for me, because every time that I propose a concept to a new student, I'm checking back in with the concept myself. It’s always a rewarding experience to be able to recognize a particular problem a student is having and then to be able to provide specific advice that addresses it. Seeing the proverbial light bulb go off in a student’s mind as they discover a new level of confidence in their ability is probably something that all teachers love about their job. It’s great to be able to watch those moments of discovery add up over the course of a semester and to know that you’ve helped someone develop a deeper overall understanding of their craft.

You're a director, actor, writer, solo performer and teacher. As you began your own training, what came first, your work as an actor, writer, director? How have they informed each other over the years?

I started my career as an actor and worked that way exclusively for several years. Along the way, I developed an ever-increasing curiosity about directing and writing, and eventually began experimenting with both. My first major directing project was an adaptation I wrote of a Herman Melville short story called “Bartleby the Scrivener” which allowed me to combine both of these interests in one project. Since then, I’ve continued working in all three areas, which has helped me gain a more well-rounded understanding of the process of making theatre, as well as a deeper understanding of my collaborators and the specific challenges they face.

I understand that you received a Fulbright grant and studied theatre directing at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy in Lithuania. Can you share one or two memorable experiences of your time studying and working in Lithuania?

It’s difficult to know where to begin, because I have so many memorable moments from my time overseas. One that comes to mind off the top of my head is when I was acting in a student production of Aleksandr Vvedensky’s “Christmas at the Ivanov’s” that toured to the Baltijskij Dom Theatre Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. We performed the play in Lithuanian, and the touring budget didn’t allow for a translator, so we wound up performing for an audience that literally didn’t understand a word we were saying. It was an intimidating situation, but ultimately I found the physically expressive style of the show allowed the audience to understand the actions and intentions of the characters quite well in spite of the language barrier. Having people laugh and react enthusiastically to my work while knowing that it had nothing to with them understanding the words I was saying was an experience that I won’t ever forget.

You recently acted in a contemporary re-imagining of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by Finnish director Kristian Smeds and performed at the Vienna Festival. What was that experience like?

It was remarkable, a true gift. Kristian is a director who is on the cutting edge of developments in contemporary theatre, and it is always great to have an opportunity to collaborate with him. I inevitably walk away from these experiences with a newfound perspective on what theatre is capable of and with new questions for myself about how I want to create the theatre that I create. For example, this particular performance took place in a refugee housing area on the outskirts of Vienna, with the first part of the performance involving the actors playing soccer against a team of Somali teenagers on a beat up dirt field. We lost the game in a sudden-death shoot out, and the kids rejoiced as if they'd just won the World Cup. The main action of the play took place in a garage-sized tool shed that allowed the actors and audience to develop a focussed and intimate connection over the course of the evening. It can be said that the creation of this intimate, human connection was actually one of the primary goals of the performance. I could go on describing the project for a long time, but for anyone who might be interested, there are links to the entire performance on Vimeo (see below). If you have an English version of the play, it’s possible to follow along.

Cherry orchard 29-5-2011 intro and football from Ville Hyvönen on Vimeo.

Cherry orchard 29-5-2011 first half from Ville Hyvönen on Vimeo.

Cherry Orchard 29-5-2011 second half in Vienna with German subs from Ville Hyvönen on Vimeo.

You have a great line in your Movement class description where you reference one of Meyerhold's favorite actors, Igor Ilyinsky who said "Technique arms the imagination." How does the Meyerhold's Biomechanics work allow for the "arming of the imagination?"

The imagination is limitless. Our bodies are not. By studying Biomechanics, a student is making the effort to develop the expressive capabilities of his or her body in a new way, essentially working to make his or her artistic process more responsive to the limitless impulses of the imagination. To put it another way, for an actor, knowing the body means knowing the artistic palette. The more an actor understands his or her palette, the more they are able to unleash the power of their imagination. An actor can never know what new challenges will arise in a rehearsal room, so he or she must prepare to engage any possibility with confidence and joy. Biomechanics is a practical, no-nonsense way to accomplish this, which is why I enjoy passing it on to others so much.


Paul will be teaching a Biomechanics Intensive: Arming the Imagination Fall Quarter 2012 at Freehold. For more information, go to: or call us at (206) 323-7499.

Freehold Faculty Upcoming Performances

Freehold is privileged to have exceptional faculty members. Here's just some of the work around town that they are involved in during the coming months ...

Gin Hammond along with Freehold ETI alums, Phillip Mitchell and Melissa Topscher are developing their piece, Man Catches Fish, at Key City Public Theater's New Works Festival in Port Townsend, February 19 - Saturday, February 26.

Sarah Harlett will be performing in January, 2012 in open rehearsals of a laboratory investigation of King Lear as part of Freehold's Engaged Theatre program. In the Summer of 2012, the fully mounted production of King Lear will be produced by Freehold's Engaged Theatre program and will tour to unique communities throughout the northwest.

Freehold Teaching Artist Carter Rodriquez and Freehold Faculty member Alyssa Keene are performing in Theatre Schmeater's Reckless with Freehold Faculty Member Carol Roscoe directing. Runs through December 17th.

Darragh Kennan is performing in Sylvia at the Seattle Repertory Theatre running through December 11th.

George Lewis has been directing Le Frenchword who will be appearing at the REBAR January 13,14, 20, 21,27, 28 Friday and Saturday nights) at 8PM. According to George, "The last section has been completed - this is the whole tamale, finished and polished, as mixed a metaphor as ever you hope to behold."

Cathy Madden will be one of the presenters at Freedom to Act: 2012, Freedom to ACT: 2012, The Conference on Acting and the Alexander Technique, January 13-15, 2012, New York, NY.

Billie Wildrick
will be performing in The Billy Joe Show Holiday Spectacular with the Dusty 45's on December 10th at the Triple Door.