Thursday, December 8, 2011

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:

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