Monday, December 17, 2012

My Meisner Journey, Part Two. By Alexandra Gobeille

Here's part two of Alexandra's posts about her experience in Freehold's Meisner training (so far) this year. To read her first post, go here. **************************************** In our Freehold Meisner training, we started with exercises, known as the Word Repetition Game, consisting of two students sitting across from each other, one voices a simple observation about the other, and they repeat it back and forth, over and over. “You have blue eyes” is an example. It felt inhuman and robotic at first, hard to keep a straight face and awkward staring into someone’s eyes for 10-30 minutes at a time. We’re never that intimate with anyone in real life. But this was the stripping down of old, bad habits and weeding out false behavior. Stanislavsky said acting is learning new habits.

So little by little, week by week, we practiced, in class and out, gradually developing the exercise. From material observations like “you’re wearing a black shirt” to physical-“you’re leaning closer” to behavioral-“you’re attacking me”, and emotional-“you’re upset”. We progressed from changing the words every 10 minutes, to voicing anything, anytime, whenever it hit us. Robin encouraged us to start tuning our awareness, our whole body soft focus, to behavior (physical+psychic emotional energy), and detecting behavioral changes in our partner. She motivated us to start letting go of old habits and defaults such as thinking, reasoning, being correct or entertaining, apologizing, explaining or self-referencing, playing games (i.e. sarcasm), blocking, manipulating the moment or your partner, pretending and many more. Many of our bad habits are due to self-consciousness, and many take us right into our head, our intellect. Meisner built the exercises to eliminate all intellectuality from the actor’s instrument, because it pulls us away from the life, wonder, and truth of the present moment. Away from the spontaneous truth within us.

Robin has us say this: “I am more interesting than the greatest actor that ever lived.”

Our authentic selves, our truth may not always be great; it may be ugly, messy, scary, but it is the lifeline of acting. The honest behavior we strive to enable comes out of our instincts. A rule of the exercises is: Don’t do anything unless something happens to make you do it. This is liberating because all you need is right in front of you and will inevitably trigger your instinct. If you allow it. We just have to remind ourselves to breathe, relax, let go, and let reality take us for a ride.

Robin gave us William Esper’s candid example to demonstrate – “When you step on a nail, do you first think about how you want to react before screeching in pain?” No, you immediately respond from your gut, without thinking. The spontaneous happens in spite of you. We started to see more and more of this in class, when our partner work took us to very surprising places - hilarious, awkward, hostile - all kinds, that no one could have ever planned or predicted. A natural improvisation was created.

To foster this, my peers provide a safe, supportive environment and Robin impassions us to be brave. To listen to our instincts and run with them, whatever they may be. She illustrates this beautifully: We have a school of fish inside us every moment; it’s not about getting the right fish, it’s about picking any one that comes.

Next up: Part Three of Alexandra's Meisner Journey.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Studio Series May Make You Wanna Jump Back and Kiss Yourself! by Amontaine Aurore Woods

In 2009, I began writing a new one-woman play. I also decided that year to apply to perform a 20 minute excerpt from it for Freehold’s Studio Series. Having performed in the Studio Series before, I knew that it was an effective tool for moving forward in a supportive, intimate, and dynamic environment. I was excited (and a little nervous) at the prospect of taking my piece from page to stage (as we say in The Biz); a crucial step that is rife with challenges.

I worked with director, Tikka Sears, on the project, as I have with several of my other one-woman shows. She’s the bomb (in the best possible and least violent connotation of the word)! Working with her and getting the piece up on its feet is always a highly transformative process, and entirely different from relating to words and ideas on a piece of paper. Now it breathes air. The characters begin to inhabit my bones, speak with my tongue. The situations become real and palpable. The steady drip, drip, drip of the adrenalin fuels the engines, and the pressure of knowing that you will soon be sharing the work with an audience arouses, stimulates and basically, at last, gets your butt in gear.

Bringing new work to an audience is risky business for a person like me, one who is sensitive to criticism. I do not relish critique. But … I ain’t dumb either. I am experienced enough to realize that honest critique is a necessary element to success.

Sometimes in my personal life I hesitate to speak my mind for fear of the repercussions. But as an artist I am driven to bold truth telling, to giving voice to issues and situations that live in the silence, the darkness, or on the fringes of our culture.

When I had the idea for this play that would eventually be called Free Desiree, I wondered how a show that had as its backdrop the revolutionary socio/political dynamics of Black identity in the 1970s would be received. I find that until a play is performed in front of an audience, it remains something of a mystery. One can rehearse in isolation until the cows come home (or ‘til Brad Pitt gets ugly, for those of you that prefer somewhat shaky invention to folksy cliche). But you’re operating in a bubble until you put the stuff out there and experience the dynamic interchange between audience and performer. The nervous giggles or outright laughter, the sighs and little gasps here and there, the silence, are all telling. The fresh viewpoints and clarity gained from feedback become precious tools for charting the path through rewrite and rework. In my case, the audience responses infused me with new energy and encouraged me to keep developing the work.

In 2010, I received a Creation Project performance grant from the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas (CD Forum) to continue the development of the show. This allowed me to finish the writing and an opportunity to workshop another excerpt. In 2012, I received a grant from the Puffin Foundation, which assisted me in presenting the now 75 minute full-length production for a successful run in Seattle and on Orcas Island. Free Desiree will get a facelift in 2013 with a new multimedia component thanks to my receiving a City Artists grant from the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. My goal is to tour the show nationally in 2014 and beyond.

It’s been a long and passionate journey with this particular labor of love. Without opportunities, like the Studio Series, which gave me the initial platform to experiment and present the seed of the idea, it would have been much more difficult to take the work into full development. Over the years, the Studio Series has served me well as a container from which to explore, experiment, discover and refine my art. Thank you, Freehold! My appreciation floweth over. Now … excuse me while I kiss the sky.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Meisner Journey: Part One. By Alexandra Gobeille

I honestly don’t know where to begin.

My Freehold Meisner class has been a flood of revelation, emotion, joy, struggle, and inspiration. I have experienced and witnessed the beginning of a great transformation, starting at our core. Robin Lynn Smith is our fearless leader, masterminding this unpredictable adventure, empowering and inspiring us every step of the way. She brings an immense awareness and knowledge to the course, of not only Sanford Meisner, but influential artists and teachers from all over the world. She has incorporated Eastern philosophy, from assigned reading like Herrigel’s “Zen in the Art of Archery”, to Tai Chi based energy work and principles of other martial arts.

Every class is unique. The warm up, movement exercises, guided imagination and free association activities, group work and discussion, introspection and writing, partner work and direction … have all varied and contributed to the strong foundation we are building. They have brought the teachings to life, so we actually experience what we are learning in our bodies, in our full beings. This training has started to cultivate access to more of our subconscious. Each class has contributed to … setting me free.

Free from old acting habits of pushing, indicating, holding. Free from social habits of politeness, self-protecting, apologizing, and faking. Free from thinking. It has been said that it takes 20 years to become an actor. Because during the first 20 years, we are constantly thinking about everything we are doing. Meisner declared the Foundation of Acting is the Reality of Doing.

It’s so simple. Yet our brains automatically intellectualize it, along with every moment we encounter, because we have been conditioned to lead with our heads. Rationalize, think before you speak, get it right, be interesting, edit, edit, edit! And in other words, lie. How many times a day do we actually tell the truth? Follow our gut impulse, our instinct? Recognize behavior in others and hold them accountable? Demonstrate the emotions we are truly feeling? Probably not many. We don’t for legitimate reasons though - our safety, for one. I wouldn’t recommend telling the person on the bus that they’re creeping you out … unless you enjoy getting socked in the face. Or telling your boss they’re being a real @#$%^*$&$#^@ … I doubt they’d say how much they appreciate your honesty and that you made them feel bad.

These social and behavioral protection mechanisms serve a crucial purpose in a civilized society, but they are not useful for our acting. So how do we knock down the solid brick walls, peel back the obstinate layers of ego, fear, and being in a hurry-the three enemies of acting? Well, Sanford Meisner thought of some brilliant ways.

More on that on my next blog post!

Part Two of Alexandra's Meisner Posts can be found here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Exceptional Acting Classes in Seattle at Freehold Theatre

Freehold Theatre offers exceptional acting classes in Seattle. Since 1991, Freehold has offered acting classes taught by working professional actors, directors and playwrights including Amy Thone, Darragh Kennan, Marya Sea Kaminski, Gin Hammond, to name just a few. Whether you are an absolute beginner or a working professional artist, Freehold has a class for you.

Our Winter Quarter classes are now open for registration with most classes beginning in January 2013.

Explore the YOU You Don't Know

Winter Quarter Classes

Step I: Intro to Acting, Section 1 with Stefan Enriquez
Step I: Intro to Acting, Section 2 with Christine Marie Brown
Step II: Acting with Text with Sarah Harlett
Step III: Scene Study Text Intensive with Annette Toutonghi
Meisner: Instrument with Robin Lynn Smith
Advanced Voice-Over: Video Games and Character Voices with Gin Hammond
Auditioning with Darragh Kennan
Film Directing Course with John Jacobsen and Robin Lynn Smith
Making Theater in Community with Elizabeth Heffron
Improvisation with Gary Schwartz
Movement with Paul Budraitis
Public Speaking with Gin Hammond
Shakespeare with Amy Thone
Singing for Actors with Lucia Neare
Stage Combat with Geof Alm (prior stage combat experience required for Winter Quarter)
Voice Over with Gin Hammond

For more information or to register for a class:

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Oh My God, Robin Smith And John Jacobsen Teaching In The Same Room?" By John Jacobsen

You couldn’t be more excited about this than I am. I think Robin is the greatest director who still says hello to me, and that TheFilmSchool and Freehold have partnered up to offer a hands on directing course with her co-teaching is an extremely exciting opportunity for any one thinking of becoming a serious director.

There aren’t may directing courses offered in Seattle, so this is a rare chance to flex your creative talents with the two of us watching over your shoulder which sounds a little creepy, but I know will be inspiring. When I teach acting, I often pass on a quote from Uta Hagen who said, “Actors must be director proof.” She said that, as do I, because there are so many directors who do not know their craft. This is a sad state, but not a new one, and Robin and I designed this course to do what we can to improve the quality of directors working in Seattle and raise the bar.

Directing is HARD. You have to know a little about everything, and a lot about a few things. You lead the entire production creatively. You inspire, you teach, you nurture, and you push.

But without craft, you are dead before you begin. I like to say I want to be the smartest person on the set (which isn’t easy because there are often A LOT of really smart people in film, and in theatre), but that means I must know my craft. You can’t just wing directing – too many people try this and hence, Uta’s comment. You have to know what you’re doing and the only way to know is to learn the craft and then practice, practice, practice. That’s the path we hope to push our directors (and actors) on in this class.

Directors have to know text. It’s a director’s job to get a new script in shape, ready for production, and to do that, you have to know what makes story work. The text in a script is like a map: we use it to find out where we are going – but how we get there is up to the actors and the director. It’s our job to mine the gold of the material using the clues in the map and to look deep below the lines and action into the thoughts of the characters. This course starts with hands-on text work, learning how scenes are structures and how to discover motivation, action, and sub-text and then play it specifically, moment to moment and with honesty and courage.

Directors are the only people who can talk to the actor so the director/actor relationship is critical. The director takes his/her discoveries and work on the text, and translates that to the performer so it jumps off the page and comes alive. Actors also want to work with directors who understand their specific language. When a director understands the actor’s language, they will be able to communicate with the actors more efficiently, which will help them to achieve more believable and well-grounded performances. This course has high quality actors in the class that directors will work with, so learning the language to work with them is critical.

And while some may, with justification, argue that directors must know camera, I will suggest here that what directors need to know next is actually editing. When we focus on how to cut a scene to tell a story, that focuses us back into the script, back into the performance, and yes, back into the shots. By knowing editing we learn how to shoot. What will cut, what to cut, when to cut. So this course teaches directors not only to plan their multiple shoots with us using storyboard and shot lists, and develop a method for doing so on all future shoots, it also has directors thinking ahead to plan their edit and shoot and cut their own work themselves.

We’ve designed a course that both Robin and I would love to take. That is, if we weren’t the instructors. We’re both, I think, really excited to be in the room learning from each other, and from you, our talented charges that apply for this course. Join us and let’s all work to raise the bar.

To apply for the Film Directing Course:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Playing with Swords by Emily Fortuna

As an actor eager to maximize the variety of characters that I can portray, I strive to diversify my skills as much as possible. I find I grow the most through the rehearsal process with a role, but with the audition process I don’t have this luxury. There’s a catch-22 – I won’t be considered for these new roles if I don’t show any potential in that direction to begin with. So, I develop these skills on my own time, in hopes that they the seeds will one day have the opportunity to blossom into some fantastic future role.

Stage Combat is one such seed that I wanted to plant, or in the words of Sanford Meisner “add to my actor’s toolbox” to open up new opportunities as an artist. Being passed over for that next Buffy the Vampire Slayer role simply because I hadn’t practiced the skills is a position I simply don’t want to find myself in. This experience was particularly highlighted before taking this class when I worked on a role for a film that did involve combat (surprise!). My unfamiliarity at the time only allowed me to think about the basic mechanics, rather than focusing on the safety of my partner and the overall scene.

Geof Alm’s Stage Combat class has helped me firmly plant this stage combat seed in the ground and get it sprouting. He has patiently shown us that at the root, the stage combat is not hard, but it’s certainly important to practice, practice, practice so we can have the technique in muscle memory, which allows us to focus on other important parts of the fight—like not actually hurting anyone! This dedication to developing technique has helped me make progress not only with stage combat, but also other skills in my acting toolbox that need development, such as physicality.

So far we’ve learned how to attack, parry, and bind with rapier and broadsword, as well as a variety of unarmed punches. We’ve also learned how to fall, roll, and react without hurting ourselves. I look forward to seeing what the rest of our quarter will bring. Plus, it’s fun to play with swords.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Biomechanics Intensive: Arming the Imagination

Paul Budraitis will be teaching a Biomechanics Intensive this fall at Freehold. Here's some information from Paul on his upcoming class:
Biomechanics is a system of actor training developed in the early 1920’s by legendary Russian actor, director, and teacher, Vsevolod Meyerhold. Through this training, Meyerhold sought to develop actors whose work would convey a physical precision, an acrobatic lightness and agility, and a heightened rhythmic sensibility. The technique emphasized the development of skills from traditional, non-realistic theatrical sources such as commedia dell’arte, Russian folk theatre, circus performance, Japanese Kabuki theatre, east-Asian dance, and pantomime. Soviet ideology eventually put a tragic end to Meyerhold and his work. He was executed in 1940 for practicing “formalist” theatre (as opposed to the officially-sanctioned social realism of Stanislavski), which was considered “antagonistic” to the Soviet people. Although the teaching of biomechanics was officially forbidden, the system was passed on secretly as an oral tradition until the “glasnost” period and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union.

The training is intensive and physical. Over the course of two intensive weekends, the class will explore a wide range of basic individual and ensemble floor exercises, individual and partner work with physical objects, as well as exercises that develop the body’s rhythmic and expressive abilities. Actors who undertake the training can ultimately expect to experience an increased sense of balance through awareness of the physical center, ability to move from the physical center, awareness and expressivity of gesture and physical form, heightened reflexive dexterity when working with partners and physical objects, and increased awareness and agility in ensemble work.

It’s important for anyone considering undertaking the training to understand that Biomechanics is not a system of acting or a method to create a certain type of theatre. Instead, Biomechanics should be seen as a valuable part of an actor’s personal palette of technique, helping to develop control of his or her body in an expressive and grounded way. This being the case, it can be rightly said that training in Biomechanics is beneficial to an actor’s work regardless of the specific aesthetic of any future project. From Miller, to Beckett, to Lecoq clowning, anything and everything in an actor’s future can benefit in some way from this work. It is in this way that training in Biomechanics is not unlike the honing of technique involved when a pianist practices musical scales or a ballet dancer puts in time at the ballet barre. One of Meyerhold’s favorite actors, Igor Ilyinsky, once said: “Technique arms the imagination.” This is ultimately what the training seeks to achieve, the “arming” of the actor’s imagination.

November 10 - November 17
Saturdays, 1:00 - 5:00 pm
Sundays, 2:00 - 6:00 pm
$220 Discounted
$265 Full Price
Tuition is based on household income

To register:

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 2011, and his production of David Mamet's Edmond received a Seattle Times' "Footlight Award" as one of the best productions of 2010

Paul was the recipient of 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 worked as an actor on a contemporary re-imagining of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by acclaimed Finnish director Kristian Smeds and performed both in Lithuania, as well as at the Vienna Festival. Most recently, Paul acted with fellow Freehold faculty member Marya Sea Kaminski in Riddled, directed by Braden Abraham.

As a teacher, Paul has worked as a lecturer in the acting and directing faculty of the LMTA, teaching acting and stage movement, and he is currently an adjunct instructor at Cornish College of the Arts, as well as a faculty member at Freehold Theatre Lab. He has taught the Biomechanics technique of Russian theatre director Vsevelod Meyerhold at the LMTA, as well as to students at Freehold, Cornish College of the Arts, and the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Incremental Progress by Rebecca Tourino

What gets in the way of your writing? Is it a creative block? TV? A day job? A smartphone? On stage, obstacles to progress are what make drama dramatic; at the desk, they’re what make writers curse. There’s always something in the way.

Right now, I've got two somethings – adorable little Somethings, ages 4 and 1.

"Mama, I want you to play with me," says One.

"Cracker!" asks the other.

"Just a moment," I answer, squinting at the computer screen, where one of my characters is wooing the other. "I’ve got a little writing to do."

"Cracker!" repeats Something Two.

Since I’ve become a mother I’ve become adept at doing more than one thing at a time. I can carry on two different conversations at once while cooking dinner and playing unending rounds of tic-tac-toe. Writing a scene while feeding the baby on my lap shouldn’t be too challenging, right? I figure I ought to be able to field questions about robots and amp up my character’s central conflict simultaneously.

Sometimes, I can.

Then someone gets hurt, or someone won’t share; a nose starts bleeding or another needs blowing; a belly empties, a laundry basket fills, and . . . where was I?

Be patient, I self-coach, as my characters threaten to expire from ennui. If I can't write this morning, I'll do it this afternoon. If I can't this afternoon, I'll get to it tonight. Not tonight? Then tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow!

Progress is dizzyingly incremental. It can get discouraging.

"Mama, I want you to play with me."

"Sweetheart, please," I beg. "Please, I just need a few more minutes."

My children are teaching me the meaning of the word perseverance.

"Mama?" asks my eldest.

"I’m going to cry!," I gasp. "I just! Need! One! Minute!"

"Well, if you cry, I’ll give you a kiss!"

Breathe, I remind myself, as my characters seek out illicit substances to dull the pain of my neglect. If I can’t have two hours, I'll use one. If I can't have sixty minutes, I’ll use thirty. Twenty. Eleven. Three.

These days, if I can get one coherent thought from my brain onto my computer, I find myself beaming. Because you know what? It’s a step forward. My writing may feel like it's always in process, but so are my little boys – and so am I. My children will not always be children, but I've been telling stories on paper since I was six. I’ll always be a writer.

And my manuscript will always be right where I left it, waiting for me.

Rebecca will be teaching Playwriting I at Freehold this Fall. More information on our upcoming class with Rebecca Tourino: Playwriting I

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Freehold Awarded a 2012 Mayor's Arts Award

Freehold was honored to participate in the Mayor's Arts Award Ceremony at the Seattle Center on Friday, August 31st with our other Mayor's Arts Award winners.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Mayor's Arts Awards, 10 recipients were honored this year. In addition to Freehold, the other Mayor's Arts Award recipients for 2012 are: KEXP 90.3 FM, Li Hengda, choreographer, dancer and artistic director, Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Buster Simpson, public artist, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, TilibSedeb (Singing Feet), Duwamish Tribe youth performance group, The Vera Project, all-ages arts venue and Olivier Wevers, dancer, choreographer and artistic director.

Thank you to all who nominated Freehold for this great distinction.

Here is a link to the video of the event (Freehold's speeches begin at 18:50).
Here are some photos from the event ...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Solo Experience by Sarah Steinberg

(Sarah pictured far left.)

When I decided to move to Seattle in early 2010, the first thing I started doing was looking for an acting school. I looked online and came across Freehold. Shortly after arriving in July, I started taking classes and was hooked on Freehold from the start. One of the things on my to-do list was to take a Solo Performance class. I’d first taken one in LA about 6 years prior and it changed my life. Not only did I find that I loved the solo performance medium, but I was encouraged to continue with it by people in the audience and by the time I got to Seattle and Freehold I was already taking notes for a new show.

Nothing bonds you with your classmates like taking a solo performance workshop. I believe you bond much faster since the material that each person is writing can be personal and you’re making yourself vulnerable. I’m still in touch with many of the classmates I met in my Freehold class in the spring of 2011.

The Solo Performance class was taught by Marya Sea Kaminski. We learned soon into the class that we’d be losing Marya halfway through and that Matt Smith, a Freehold Improv teacher, would take over. I have to admit: this was not welcome news at first. The subject of my show, mental illness, was extremely personal to me and I felt comfortable working with Marya and trusted her. She is an amazing teacher to work with. I hadn’t taken any classes with Matt and didn’t know him. Luckily, I liked him right away and it was nice to have two teachers with very different approaches teaching the class.

Our time with Marya was spent writing. And writing. And writing. She gave us lots of writing exercises and prompts and it was like writing bootcamp, which I loved. By the time Matt came along, our stories were taking form and he’d start us out doing improv games and exercises – which was completely different from what we did with Marya. I don’t know about my classmates, but I found the change in teaching style freeing and I believe the piece I performed during our last class was better for it. The writing prompts that we received from Marya helped us shape what our pieces were about. She would have us write lists, and some of the elements from the lists would wind up in our pieces. When Matt took over the class, we discovered new things during the improv process, which allowed for our pieces to grow and shift and change organically. While my piece would ultimately end up being about mental illness, I kind of talked around it at first until Marya gently nudged me in the right direction and encouraged me to take risks with the evolving piece. What culminated was a piece I never thought I’d perform in public that took place in the psych ward of a hospital and which was well received by the audience. The audience liking it was a big relief.

Marya was incredibly supportive and before she left, she encouraged me to develop what I’d written into a full-length show. It was nice to get that validation, since that was my intention. At the end of the show, a friend and classmate from another Freehold class also encouraged me to develop it. Thanks to Marya, Matt, and my classmates for their invaluable support, I felt like I was on my way to developing my piece. The last night of our solo performance workshop was one I’ll never forget. Me and my fellow classmates, all very brave souls, performed our final pieces for our invited guests. In addition to my friend Scott’s support, it turned out that my piece was my classmate George’s daughters’ favorite one. She told him that she liked the “Hospital Lady” the best. I had a fan and was grateful for it.

This past April, I previewed the next draft of my show – 10 minutes worth – at the Stone Soup XX Fest 2.0, and it was well received. When I decided to submit my show to the XX Fest, I realized I needed a director. Luckily, I didn’t have to look too far. A fellow classmate from Marya and Matt’s solo performance class, Krista Erickson, stepped forth and we worked together and she proved to be a tremendous director.

Following the XX Fest, I wasn’t sure when I’d perform the next phase of the show. While I knew I would eventually, I didn’t have any imminent plans. Recently, I applied for a Seattle City Government CityArtist grant and figured I’d put up the next version on my show sometime next year. Then practically out of the blue, I was asked by the local nonprofit Sound Mental Health to take my show to the next level. They created a special fundraising event around my show, in conjunction with two local authors who co-wrote a moving memoir called Perfect Chaos. On October 30th, I’ll be performing the next version of my show – Call Me Crazy - at The Hyatt Olive 8. The purpose of our event is to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. If this is a cause that’s important to you, please join us on October 30th. Tickets are $75. More information can be found at

Note that Marya Sea Kaminski will be teaching Solo Performance at Freehold this coming Fall Quarter. More information:

Photo above: From L-R: Sarah Steinberg, Krista Erickson, Jonathan Reis, Krista Erickson, George Shannon, George Tramountanas (wearing mask), Jon Locke, Kelly MacDicken, Ryan Sanders, Cameron Chaussee and Priscilla Umemoto.

Unknown Endings by Christine Marie Brown

Going into the King Lear process I was excited, curious and a little hesitant about performing at Monroe Correctional Complex for Men as part of Freehold's Engaged Theatre tour. How would we be received? Would they enjoy the play? Would I feel safe? The only other time I’d visited a prison was in Maryland (where I grew up) when I was in high school. I guess the teachers thought it’d be a good idea for us to get “scared straight” — maybe some of you remember this program? It was not a pleasant experience being yelled at by inmates who were hoping to put the fear of God into us in the hope that we’d all steer clear of penitentiaries. So, my frame of reference rested between that high school field trip and some pop-culture fare like HBO’s OZ. Despite this, I was eager to meet the real people who were going to be our audience.

And then they turned out to be so enthusiastic and involved in the story.

They were so vocal; talking back to the characters when directly addressed, surprised by the violence, and eager to laugh. When it was over, they stayed to shake our hands and ask us when we’d be back for a future performance. Such gratitude. So many presumptions debunked at once.

For those of us who know this story so well, it felt magical to experience it with an audience who didn’t know the play. It left me with a longing to connect more personally. I would get my opportunity for that when we went back for a workshop.

Back at Monroe a few weeks later, we wait in a classroom space with linoleum floors and fluorescent lights for the men to arrive to the workshop. They slowly trickle in; men of varying ages and races, some smiling, some uncertain of their choice to be there. I relate to that feeling. I am out of my element; self-conscious, aware of every handshake, of every time I say my name. I was looking forward to this but I am caught off guard. Here I’m not performing; there are no lines or costumes or sets to hide behind, there is no script. Who am I in this place? What can I possibly offer? But I do want to see what, if anything, there is between us. What divides us? What connects us? Thankfully, there are people like Robin Lynn Smith, Daemond Arrindell, Reggie Jackson and Sarah Harlett with me who have done this many times before. I look to them. They are my signposts and my talismans for this journey. They seem to be so at ease.

Once we get about 30-ish guys, we begin. This number of participants is really encouraging. In addition to the 7 of us, our Assistant Director Meme Garcia is working a small, child-size puppet named Sophie. Many of the men are drawn to the puppet. We start by asking the men to throw out themes from King Lear onto a big piece of construction paper. Then we begin the theatre games by creating tableaus based on the King Lear themes and then move into improv exercises. We discover quickly that these guys are ready to play, there is no testing the water here - they jump in, head first. It is beautiful, fun, and inspiring.

But the most amazing part of the day is when we have time to share some original writing. Based on prompts Daemond gives us, we have to write a letter to a fallen hero — could be someone we know, could be a fictional character or a famous person we have looked up to. We write our letters, in silence, separately. When our time is up, Daemond tells us all we must write another letter - from our fallen hero back to us - a response to the first letter. We hear audible groans, but we all write. When our time is up on the second letter, Daemond opens the floor for sharing. All of us from Freehold are prepared to read to get the ball rolling if need be. They have been so game with all of the activities, but this is different, personal. Will they want to share?

Several hands shoot in the air. And after the first man has read, hand after hand goes up as we progress. They have been told they don’t have to share or that they can read a small part of what they have written, but each of them gifts us with BOTH letters. The men write to family members, famous idols, and 2 even write to Santa. Their letters are, by turns, funny and gut wrenching -- some are even raps. A few men can barely get through reading what they have written they are so choked up. The guy next to me gently encourages a struggling fellow inmate, “Take your time, brother.”

But what is most moving are their response letters. When they take on the voice and walk in the shoes of the ones who have hurt them, the amount of compassion and understanding is so well articulated. I am heartened, humbled, undone. In some letters, the need to forgive and be forgiven feels so palpable; it’s as if there is another presence in the room with us. And I am blown away by their openness, these hulking men whose frames are shaken to the core by reading aloud their stories of betrayal, loss and abandonment. The circle of sharing begins to feel like a thin place; we feel things happening which none of us can see. But the air is shifting, one story at a time.

Last, one man asks to hear from Sophie, our puppet-child, and the lone female voice who ends up reading before our time is up. She writes of an older sister who has left before showing her the correct recipe for fairy food. We find out from the sister’s letter that she has gone to camp—and will be back for Sophie and the fairies. We are grateful for a happy ending, smiles abound. Last, as Robin leads us, we take a breath together as a group. We inhale, and then exhale - and I am gone.

What is it we have just gone through together? It feels like a blessing - or might it be that the fairies have been with us? In any case, my face is leaking as I shake these means’ hands. I thank them and wonder when I can come back. I have forgiven myself my awkwardness, my fear, my assumptions and I feel a bit more human. I am ready to laugh, open to cry, grateful.

Annette Toutonghi (left) and Christine Brown (right) in King Lear. Photo by John Ulman.

Freehold Faculty Members' Upcoming Work

Amy Thone, Sarah Harlett, Kate Wisniewski are all in Upstart Crow's All-Female Production of Titus Andronicus. September 6 - November 7, Thursday-Saturday: 7:30 pm, Sunday: 4:00 pm, Lee Center for the Arts. Tickets are all PWYC and all proceeds will go to the actors. Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets.

Hans Altwies and Amy Thone will be performing Antony and Cleopatra at Seattle Shakespeare Company in November. Hans Altwies will play Mark Antony and Amy Thone will be Cleopatra. Hans will be also playing "Teach" in American Buffalo at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in January.

Gin Hammond is currently the vocal and dialect coach for The Pullman Porter Blues which is premiering at Seattle Repertory Theatre, then moving on to Arena Stage in Washington, D. C.
Gin is also the dialect coach for Skriker. It will be a rare opportunity to see a large, top-notch cast and amazing production values (including an aerialist) outside of one of the big theaters, not to mention a fully realized version of one of Caryl Churchill's trickiest plays. Gin also did more voices for World of Warcraft: Enchantress, Mirana, Vengeful Spirit, and Drow Ranger. In 2013, Gin will also be in Book-It Repertory Theatre's Huckleberry Finn. Jane Jones will be directing a small cast where each actor will embody multiple roles (male/female, young/old, black/white, etc.) April 16 - May 12, 2013.

John Jacobsen's show, The Artist Toolbox, starts airing again on PBS across the country this fall. John will also be teaching a brand new three quarter course on directing with Alison Narver at The University of Washington this fall.

Marya Sea Kaminski will be traveling in October with her co-teacher Daryle Conners and nine students to Paris, France for their first Writing on Location workshop.

Meg McLynn performed on September 8 a one-night tribute concert, celebrating the career of the fabulous Patsy Cline. Meg will also be onstage at ArtsWest, performing the role of Rachel Jackson in the Northwest premier of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson", running Sept 19--Oct 20. More info at:

Paul Mullin is having a reading of his very latest play Philosophical Zombie Killers about scientific and philosophical investigations of human consciousness at the Bathhouse Theater in Green Lake on Oct. 15. And his new play Ballard House Duet will be world premiering at Washington Theatre Ensemble produced by Custom Made Plays. Also, Paul wrote one of The Betty Plays which will be premiering in September at Theater Schmeater. More information at

Matt Smith's solo show All My Children was selected for the Fringe Encore series. Matt will be back in NYC in mid-September for additional performances at the SoHo Playhouse. Schedule: September 12 at 8:00 pm, September 14, 7:00 pm, September 16 at 5:00 pm and September 17 at 8:00 pm.

Billie Wildrick will be heading to Broadway to perform in Scandalous: The Musical with previews beginning October 13. Tickets: Scandalous.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rediscovering the Bard by Alyssa Keene

Signing up for a Shakespeare Intensive seemed exciting, slightly impetuous, and a bit daunting. After 13 years of acting on Fringe and LORT stages and everything in between, I had only been in one Shakespeare play... as a tiny blue kabuki cowboy singing Sons of the Pioneers songs. I hadn't had any verse on my lips in a long time.

Additionally, I am a teacher and Amy Thone, the instructor for the class, is a colleague of mine at Cornish College of the Arts. I teach voice and speech and many years ago grew tired of the way that Shakespeare was used as the go-to author for voice and speech text. Frankly, I had grown weary of Bardophiles. I wanted a way to come back to this text, find the wonder in it while casting aside the groupies, and possibly find a new way in to teaching voice and speech.

Amy Thone spoke to us about meter and using it in a way that finally turned on the lightbulb over my head. I taped my text over my kitchen sink while washing dishes and bobbed up and down to learn my lines. I read plays again until the language felt fluid before my eyes. As a voice teacher, I was familiar with highlighting comparisons in a text, but I had never thought of them as a form of persuasive speech. Suddenly, my dry technique had a fire under it, a need, a hungry pursuit.

I watched my classmates of varying levels of skill and experience crack open, grow, find passion and clarity. Their bravery and intellect was invigorating and their openheartedness was palpable. Everyone rooted for each other in their work and we gave both criticism and praise. Amy demanded more of me as an actor than I can remember in many years. The specificity, clarity, and ballsiness that she helped me find was new territory... And in the end, I found my own love of the Bard.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Exceptional Acting Classes in Seattle this Fall at Freehold Theatre

Freehold’s highly acclaimed fall Acting, Improv, Voice classes (and more!) are now open for registration at Freehold Theatre in Seattle. Freehold Theatre is a Seattle acting studio and theatre that for 20 years has been providing extraordinary theatre and fantastic classes taught by exceptional faculty. Be sure and sign up now as our classes fill quickly!

We are privileged to have highly acclaimed artists as faculty including Marya Sea Kaminski (2010 Stranger Genius Award for Theatre), Amy Thone (2007 Stranger Genius Award Winner for Theatre), Annette Toutonghi (YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, Seattle Repertory Theatre), Matt Smith (starting in the movie "Outsourced") and many more. Our students include the beginner and the advanced trained student. There is truly something for everyone!

Here is our complete list of our great Fall 2012 class offerings ...

Fall Quarter Classes

Step I: Intro to Acting, Section I with Meg McLynn
Step I: Intro to Acting, Section II with Meg McLynn
Step II: Acting with Text with Stefan Enriquez
Accelerated Intro to Acting with Sarah Harlett
Step III: Basic Scene Study with Annette Toutonghi
Acting for the Camera with John Jacobsen
Auditioning with Annette Toutonghi
Improv with Matt Smith
Meisner: Foundation with Robin Lynn Smith
Public Speaking with Gin Hammond
Solo Performance with Marya Sea Kaminski
Stage Combat with Geof Alm
Voice with Gin Hammond

Registration is available online at or by calling us at (206) 323-7499.

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

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

A Very Human Communion by Joshua Holguin

Freehold’s Engaged Theater Project, King Lear was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever undertaken. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and firmly believe in the power of bringing theater to underserved communities as a way of fulfilling human communion.

In my experience at the Women’s Correctional Center, it was incredibly challenging to stay focused and contain my own anxiety. My sister battled with heroin addiction for three years, which almost killed my mother, (death being a fresh concept in my mind, Grandma Holguin had passed away only a few weeks before), the fear of those memories and the thought that I might’ve performed for my sister rattled my nerves she could’ve ended up in prison or dead. The memories gnawed at the back of my mind, and the exhaustion of working through those events and the project itself made me realize, I needed help. I have an old habit of locking myself into my head, and I realized I couldn’t do that anymore, I reached out to the cast and crew of the project and the support and love I received was enormous, it was sincere and it snapped me right back into a very good place.

This project turned into a very human communion united under a similar cause, it became a whetstone to sharpen my own abilities, I’m eternally grateful. Every audience on tour received us with generosity and an unprecedented ability to engage with the work, the Engaged Theater Project is a necessary endeavor, bringing theater into realms that are uncomfortable, strange, beautiful, and human shows the versatility of theater and the incredible dynamics that can occur when we struggle through the past into the future.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Improving by CT Doescher

A life in theatre has many joys and challenges. Ideally, if we play our cards right and keep our ears sharp, we are able to find directors, writers, peers who challenge and inspire us, whom we trust and who trust us. Creative artists who make us brave to do something truly new each and every time.

The practicalities of that can be trickier. As actors, we get cast based on ways of working that we already do, in projects that we then need to work relatively quickly on (four weeks of ready-set-go!), and frequently with people who don’t know us, who may not appreciate when we start taking risks that don’t offer immediate and obvious results.

Which is fine. And then a few of these happen in succession, at varying intervals, and a year or two goes by, and one show and the next start feeling the same, a little. We avoid working in ways that are uncomfortable or that require more time or that don’t yield sure results (there’s no time! they won’t rehire me!), and don’t pay as much care to making sure we keep expanding as artists. And the weakest parts of our craft are completely avoided—there’s no time to expose those and deal with them, so we muscle through the best we can.

Taking Tyler Polumsky’s Creating a Character class was a great gift for me. It gave me a chance to take purely physical work—work which I freely admit is not my strongest suit—and give it time and attention. On some days it felt wonderfully free and redemptive: “Hey, look, I’m working in ways that are really opening me up!” and on some others I would hear my loudest, meanest critic shouting in my ear the whole
time, and be half a second from walking out the door, I’d be so frustrated. But I’d stay.

Sometimes improving is being the worst one in the class. Sometimes improving is letting yourself be mediocre for a while. Sometimes being “the class’ worst” is your personal best. Sometimes you fail, your ego bruises, and you need to go home, pat yourself on the back, sleep on it, reassess, bring it back. (Swearing a lot helps, too.) Sometimes you surprise yourself and do something awesome.

Working on your weaknesses—be it verse for one, physical for another,imagination for yet another, concentration for yet another—can be ego-busting business. It’s also where a lot of one’s vulnerabilities sit. It’s also where it’s most easy to mine for gold, since it’s the territory most left unexplored. Who knows what artist lies inside us, uncultivated because we can’t get past the topsoil to the good stuff down deep?

I leave Tyler’s class with a new understanding of fundamentals I already had, and excitement to approach material with new, risky ways of working. I feel less shy about exploring roles in more physical ways. I created things that didn’t exist before. I fought ten rounds with my critic and lived to tell the tale. I also met some great new peers, which was alone worth the price of admission. And even though that critic’s voice tried to shout me down:

I improved.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meisner with Robin: Acting to the Bones by Meredith Smith

The Meisner Progression at Freehold is easily the most exciting and rewarding thing I've ever done as an actor and perhaps as an individual as well. Witnessing the passion and talent Robin brings to the stage is such an honor. The personal attention she gave each student and the intensity she brought to every class was unparalleled. With her, no moment was wasted.

With Robin Lynn Smith as the guide, it was a rich and challenging nine-month ride. We did exercises from Meisner and a whole bunch of others that required great internal work. Whether it was tapping into personal fantasies or building specifics around a relationship, we had to bring what moves us so we could in turn move the characters. The more internal work, the deeper you could go. It gave me tools that are now my personal weapons I will take forward to develop my everyday experience and my craft. And, doing this with 16 others is an amazing opportunity - there is so much learning from watching!

Each class challenged us to feel and participate in the world on stage down to the bones, and to watch others do the same. To go on this journey was a process in unmasking. Something we are each capable of, and can be all the more powerful because of it.


Freehold's Meisner Progression is a 3 quarter, 9 month class which begins in September and runs through June, 2013.

If you would like to schedule an interview with Robin to explore the possibility of being admitted into our Meisner Progression, please email or call us at (206) 323-7499 to schedule a 15 minute interview.

The Meisner Progression is rooted in the work of Sanford Meisner and has evolved with other influences. Classes run twice a week, 5 hours per class in the evening (total of 10 hours of in-class work a week) over each 12 week quarter. The fall schedule will be September 16 - December 18, Sundays and Tuesdays, 5:30 - 10:30 pm.

Prerequisites: Freehold's Step III: Scene Study or equivalent training and performance experience.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meisner Progression Interviews Available - August 1

Meisner Progression Interviews with Robin Lynn Smith
Wednesday, August 1, 5:40 - 8:00 pm

Interviews are available with Robin Lynn Smith for Freehold's 2012-2013 Meisner Progression, a 3 quarter, 9 month training program based on the work of Sanford Meisner. Classes run twice a week, 5 hours a week in the evening over each 12 week quarter. Check out the great testimonials from previous Freehold Meisner alums at the bottom of this blog post. The Meisner Progression is taught by Freehold's Artistic Director and Freehold co-founder Robin Lynn Smith.

To schedule an interview or for more information, contact Freehold at (206) 323-7499 or email us at our contact page. Please bring a resume detailing your theatrical and performance experience and be prepared to speak about why you are interested in participating in the Meisner progression. Prerequisites: Freehold's Step III: Scene Study or equivalent training and performance experience. Interviews will be roughly 15 minutes each.

The Meisner class description for the 3 quarter progression is as follows:

Meisner: Foundation: Step I - Fall Quarter, September 11 - December 18, Tuesdays and Sundays, 5:30 - 10:30 pm

Through cumulative exercises based on the work of Sanford Meisner, the actor learns to be habitually available to and affected by life that is actually happening in the moment, and to fully release instinctive, uninhibited responses. The class culminates in a work with text.

Meisner: Instrument: Step II - Winter Quarter, (Dates to be confirmed)

Students continue the exercises from Foundation, supplementing them with work in personalization, preparation, and other tools in order to access a meaningful inner life and "make real" the text and imaginary circumstances.

Meisner: Text: Step III - Spring Quarter, (Dates to be confirmed)

Applying the work from Foundation and Instrument to scenes, students focus on detailed, in-depth text and character work -- analysis, subtext, particularization, and moment-to-moment process work on scenes.

Robin Lynn Smith is a Founding Partner and Artistic Director for Freehold Theatre Lab Studio in Seattle. She has worked for the past thirty years acting, directing and teaching in Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and New York where she directed where she directed CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre. She has directed in Regional Theatres and is presently directing Freehold’s Engaged Theatre Program which tours Shakespeare productions to prisons, projects, and tent cities, for which she has directed OTHELLO, CYMBELINE, A WINTER’S TALE, THE TEMPEST, and THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. At Freehold she directed the award winning production of Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL, THREE SISTERS, AN ALTERED LIFE, and VERONIKA FALLING. She was an Artist in Residence at the Seattle Repertory Theatre with Dan Sullivan, and directed several productions including MARVIN’S ROOM, FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE, and CITY OF GOLD, and the developmental workshop of Elizabeth Heffron’s NEW PATAGONIA. She has also directed in Seattle at ACT, On The Boards, The Empty Space, New City Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Intiman where she is an Affiliate Artist with Bartlett Sher. She has an MFA from NYU TSOA, and she is currently on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. She is featured in ACTING TEACHERS OF AMERICA, and she is a member of SDC. She is the 2008 recipient of The Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award.

Testimonials from Freehold Meisner Alums

"Meisner for me was really transformational and not just for the acting but really just for the rest of my everyday life. Meisner really strives you to live in the moment and to react to things as if it is the first time, being genuine and authentic. I do some commercial work on the side and I’ve been told that there is a new quality to my acting and that is 100% related to the work from the class. There is another piece that I got out of Meisner which was unexpected which is that it actually changed the quality of my day to day life … it allowed me to be more present in my life … it makes life much more interesting." - E.J. Gong

My Meisner Progression Experience by Bob Rousseau

I should say that I think calling the class "The Meisner Progression" isn't quite accurate: it really should be called "Meisner and A Whole Bunch of Other Cool Shit Robin Knows". You work through a lot of the exercises and learn the techniques that you would learn in a typical Meisner program, but Robin also brings to the table a whole host of other tools and exercises in areas like movement, meditation, text examination, and preparation, so that you end up with a much meatier experience.

I liken working with Robin to working at a gym with a personal trainer: rarely does anyone push themselves as much as a personal trainer will push them. The trainer's going to make you do those extra sets of push-ups and sit-ups that you might give yourself a pass on, and while you may grouse at times, inside you know that your muscles are getting stronger month by month. Robin pushes you to work your imaginary muscles farther than you ever have - farther than you probably have thought possible - and when it's over, you realize how much stronger those muscles have become, and how much better prepared you are to face the challenges that come your way.

It was through working with Robin that I acquired one of the most important things any actor can get - an actual process on how to bring a role alive. While I've taken other classes from some extremely talented instructors that included some discussion of methods for examining text, the bulk of what I typically got was notes by the instructor as though they were directing me in a play. That is very valuable stuff, but it doesn't really give you much of a process for starting work on a role on your own, nor do you get much of a glimpse of the variety of techniques that have come to light in the theatrical world. Robin gave us tools we could use to bring the character to life in ways that went beyond what was on the printed page, and thereby make those scripted words come even more alive. And I think a huge part of that came from her making us push the limits of our imaginations for nine months.

And about those books about Meisner's techniques - while I now think part of the reason they didn't grab me is that they aren't very well written, to pick up the sports analogy again, you can read a book about playing golf, but actually having someone guide you who really knows what they're doing is going to make you much better at the game and a whole lot quicker. (Now that I've been through the progression at Freehold, I actually recommend you not read the books). And on top of all of that you get from Robin, if you're lucky like I was, you'll go through the progression with a group of actors that also work hard at it so that you feel challenged and inspired to keep up. You inevitably feel closer to those who took the journey with you. There are other talented folks teaching at Freehold who I also look forward to working with in time to focus on areas we didn't have time to cover during the progression with Robin, but I know that my ability to present truthful work grew by leaps and bounds during the past nine months.

To sum up, if you're not sure whether taking the Meisner progression at Freehold is worth your time, let me help you decide: YES! Absolutely! Be grateful that the gods have aligned the planets so that you have this opportunity and grab it!

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Working with Freehold on King Lear by Annett Mateo

When Robin and I first chatted about using puppets in King Lear I was thrilled both to be working with Freehold Theatre and to be doing puppets for Shakespeare! I have certainly done this before; I am one of the originators of Drunk Puppet Nite, an adult puppet cabaret. In many other cultures puppetry is a much more broadly accepted form of art as opposed to our culture that views it primarily as a children’s medium. This is a very exciting time for puppetry as that perception is just starting to change here, this production is just one example of that. However most of my work is still for children’s theater, specifically the Seattle Children’s Theatre which is wonderful because I get to do many fun and fantastic things. So the challenge of making puppets for Shakespeare for adults I was really excited about.

Robin had some clear ideas about how she wanted to incorporate puppets: the Fool and Gloucester were to be puppets for sure. We also tried out an idea of making puppets of some of the Knights that ransack the dinner scene. She had a workshop in January and working with some crude prototypes we were able to refine what we wanted the final puppets to be like. Out of that workshop also came her desire for a number of additional puppets that got dubbed ‘the 99%’. These puppets were to represent the disadvantaged under Lear’s rule and generally be other bodies during the performance.

The Fool (pictured in photo at top), though it is in somewhat standard courtly fool garb is most unusual aesthetically. The most striking example of this is that it has no feet! I am not sure how this particular design decision came about but it gives the Fool a strange somewhat otherworldly appearance. Robin had found a wonderful picture of an ancient carved puppet and we emulated that in the creation of the Fool’s head including reproducing the tone of the dark carved wood. The face is so full of character and fits the role well. Choosing to make the Fool a puppet was brilliant as Fools have traditionally been rather strange people.

The Gloucester character as a puppet was a daring choice as the role is so significant to the story line. It works quite well and lends an extra dramatic air to the part after he has his eyes, literally in this case, gouged out. This puppet was extra challenging as it has to have so much functionality built into it and still look more or less person-like. It is also a challenging puppet to operate because it has to do so much.

One of the ideas to come out of the workshop was to have the hoard of Knights (a hoard in this particular case is actually six) throw paper. The actors were creative in making this happen with the prototypes but in order to make it easier for them during performances I came up with the idea of making their hands small slingshots! It worked great: paper balls end up all over!

I came up with the idea of using large forks, spoons and other utensils for the hands of the 99% when Robin mentioned that she wanted to start the show with them interacting with the audience, begging or just chatting with them. This gives the audience investment in the show as they can relate to these ‘folks’ who were just among them and are now part of the story. Puppets work really well in this capacity of engaging marginalized societies, such as the very young, the elderly or the incarcerated for instance. Puppets are at the same time sub-human and super-human. They are not as threatening as live people but can also do things that people can’t do such as loose eyes during the course of a performance, or fly or become talking animals. This is especially the case for people who have trouble relating socially; puppets are the essence of a person without all the possibly confusing or conflicting nuances of displayed emotion. They are basically generic people which we can create to be very specific for a performance, a wonderful tool for theatre.

Working with Freehold on King Lear has been a great experience; a chance to work with a Theatre I have not worked with before and doing puppets different from my usual style. I will be thrilled to see how traditional audiences respond to Robin’s wonderful interpretation of this story.

Photo at top: Dan Morris, photographer.
KING LEAR has public free performances (donations warmly accepted) on July 12, 13, 14 at 8:00 pm and July 15th at 4:00 pm at Seattle University's Lee Center for the Arts. Reserve your free ticket(s) here:
Tickets will also be available at the door (and if a show is sold out, we will have a waiting list at the door).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finding Out What I Didn't Know by Ann Eisenberg

As a new playwright, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’d been writing fiction for many years, and I had taken Playwriting I and II with Elizabeth Heffron, but I hadn’t yet worked with actors, a director or an audience. The New Play Lab changed all that.

The twice-a-week, month-long format of meeting with fellow writers created a safe place to take risks, develop and revise my play. Elizabeth carefully guided us through structure, voice, character development, plot and various issues that came up as we wrote. But those intense writing development classes were only the beginning. At the end of the month we met with our directors and discussed our plays. Then we auditioned actors and rehearsed.

One of my characters, Patty, began as a minor character, but in rehearsal she came alive. She suddenly had the actress’s dark hair and forceful body language. I went home that night and wrote many more lines for Patty and reworked the scene altogether. The director pointed out that my character knew information before being told, and that, too, sparked my imagination. Ultimately I wrote a much better scene and the changed the direction of the play.

During the two performances of our scenes in front of a live audience I was very nervous. After the first performance I was told my characters were flat, after the second I was praised for their depth. I learned the importance of separating myself from my work, allowing the audience to have their responses and not taking things personally. I took risks, I made mistakes, I had successes and I learned. I learned that I want to continue on this magical playwriting path of discovery, mystery and humanity.

Photo above: Ann Eisenberg's play being read at The New Play Lab in 2011

Monday, June 18, 2012

Freehold Touring Shakespeare's KING LEAR

Freehold will tour Shakespeare's King Lear, directed by Robin Lynn Smith, to unique locations across the greater Puget Sound area, July 1 – July 15, 2012. 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 Shakespeare productions to communities in non-traditional sites. This year the tour will perform for the general public as well as for a number of underserved populations including Joint Base/Lewis McChord, Washington Corrections Center for Women, Monroe Correctional Center for Men, Harborview Medical Center and Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile detention center.

When asked why she chose King Lear for this year’s tour, director Robin Lynn Smith responded “I am inspired by the human struggle to know ourselves, and the attempt to look fiercely at the truth of our existence –framed by limits of isolation, separateness, bewilderment, blindness; and the limits of our time here: aging and death. And it’s a great story.”

King Lear is a story of brothers, sisters, fathers, daughters and sons who have the trappings of their lives ripped away. They are maddened, cast out, disowned, and blinded. They struggle to stay true to their bonds with family and friends, to learn humility and compassion, to forgive and empathize with those unlike themselves, and to love in the face of certain loss. They must employ tenacity, faith and resilience as they search for reconciliation and reunion. This great story of these two families poses these questions: How do we come to know who we truly are? How do we burn through pride and the appearance of things to that which is authentic in our relationships? How do we learn compassion? How do we let go of our attempts to control, deny, delude ourselves, and learn to endure -- together?

Freehold and the artists of Engaged Theatre return eagerly year after year to this work for the creative inspiration it confers on all of us as well as for the opportunity to experience and share in the power and “communion” that occurs between our performers and enthusiastic audience members. To quote, Robin Lynn Smith, Director of King Lear:

We are privileged to perform for our extraordinary audiences and have been amazed by what we continue to learn about art, humanity, identity, existence, diversity, compassion, and community when we create theatre that breaks the mold.

The cast for this year’s performance of King Lear includes: Eric Ray Anderson, Christine Brown, Erwin Galan, Jose J. Gonzales, Sarah Harlett, Joshua Holguin, Reginald Andre Jackson, Robert Keene, Shanelle Leonard, Kevin McKeon, Andre Nelson, Anthony Pasqualini, Luisa de Paula, Jesse Sherfey-Hinds, Annette Toutonghi, Kayla Walker.

The production will include live musical accompaniment with a score composed by Gino Yevdjevich of Kultur Shock, set design by Montana Tippett and puppets by puppet master Annett Mateo. Cast across gender and race lines, reflecting the diversity of our audiences, this ensemble will bring this story simply and vividly to life.

Freehold’s Engaged Theatre tour 2012
King Lear by William Shakespeare
Director: Robin Lynn Smith
Set Design: Montana Tippett
Costume Design: Hannah Stern
Lighting Design: Joshua Tillman
Puppet Design and Master: Annett Mateo
Composer: Gino Yevdjevich
Musicians: Beth Fleenor, Michael Owcharuk
Movement Director: Jessica Jobaris
Fight Choreographer: Jesse Sherfy-Hinds
Stage Manager: Jeremiah Givers
Assistant Director: Amelia Rose Garcia-Cosgrove
Assistant Set Director: Kaillee Kieran Coleman

Public performances of King Lear:

July 2, 6:30 pm, Seward Park, Amphitheatre
5898 Lake Washington Blvd. S., Seattle
July 12, 13, 14 at 8:00 pm, Seattle University Lee Center for the Art
901 12th Avenue, Seattle
Sunday, July 15, 4:00 pm, Seattle University Lee Center for the Arts

Tickets are Free but Reservations are Requested: Brown Paper Tickets Link:
For more information: (206) 323-7499

Robin Lynn Smith, Artistic Director of Freehold has directed in Seattle at Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT, On the Boards, The Empty Space, New City Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Intiman. She has an MFA from NYU TSOA, and she is currently on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. Robin is the 2008 recipient of The Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award, and was recently honored by SDC, as a finalist for the 2010 Fichandler award.

Freehold's Engaged Theatre program is funded in part by: National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, Mayor's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, 4Culture, City of Issaquah Arts Commission, West Star Foundation and Seattle Police Foundation.

Freehold Awarded a Mayor's Arts Award

Freehold was honored to learn that it has been awarded a Mayor’s Arts Award for 2012. To mark the 10th anniversary of the Mayor's Arts Awards, 10 recipients will be honored this year. In addition to Freehold, the other Mayor’s Arts Award recipients for 2012 are: KEXP 90.3 FM, Li Hengda, choreographer, dancer and artistic director, Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Buster Simpson, public artist, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, TilibSedeb (Singing Feet), Duwamish Tribe youth performance group, The Vera Project, all-ages arts venue and Olivier Wevers, dancer, choreographer and artistic director.

Mayor Mike McGinn will present the awards at a ceremony on Friday, August 31 at noon at the Seattle Center in partnership with Bumbershoot: Seattle Arts and Music Festival. The Mayor’s Arts Award is an annual award which seeks to recognize the accomplishments of artists, arts and cultural organizations and community members committed to enriching their communities through the arts.

Freehold engages people from all walks of life in cultivating the audacity of spirit through the practice of theatre. A creative haven since 1991, Freehold is a thriving collective of artists, teachers, and students collaborating to explore both the mind and the heart. Through education, experimentation, and performance, Freehold continues to work toward a theatre practice that illuminates the human condition, and serves the full, diverse spectrum of our community. Freehold provides a place that nurtures:
• Risk in all aspects of the practice, including acting, playwriting, directing, solo performance, spoken word, improvisation, and devised work.
• Research and experimentation in training and performance for working artists, inspired novices, and
willing audiences of every inclination.
Freehold is a Laboratory for working professionals, a Studio for emerging artists, and above all a Destination where anyone with an inquisitive spirit can join in the celebration of the inherent risk of being human.

Upon hearing of the Mayor’s Arts Award announcement, Robin Lynn Smith, Freehold Founding Member and Artistic Director, expressed her appreciation noting:

"We are honored to be one of the recipients receiving the Mayor's Arts Award this year. In recognizing Freehold, you are recognizing all of the individuals who have collaborated with us in practice over the past 20 years. We are very grateful for all of those in our community who have given so generously of their time and hearts: fellow artists and teaching artists, our lab members, students, audience members, residency participants and the larger arts community."

Freehold’s Theatre Lab provides a forum for experimentation by professionals, the development of new performance material, and the rediscovery of classics. The Lab enables artists to explore new work - and new ways of working - in order to forge a deeper connection between actor and audience, self and community, life and art. The Theatre Lab’s two programs are the Engaged Theatre program and the Sandbox Artists Collective.

Freehold’s Engaged Theatre program was created in 2003 and has developed partnerships with organizations that represent culturally under-served populations in our larger community. Freehold tours to these unique populations with professional productions of Shakespeare and partners with them to offer theatre residencies which culminate in a performance of original work for an invited audience. This summer Engaged Theatre will tour King Lear to our partner organizations including: the Washington Corrections Center for Women, the Monroe Correctional Complex for Men, Echo Glen Children’s Center, Harborview, Joint Base Lewis/McChord as well as to the general public. Our dedication to enabling artists to explore new work can be seen in our formation in 2008 of the Sandbox Artists Collective, a membership based collective of working theatre professionals formed as a place for mid-career artists to explore their craft in the company of their peers.

From introductory sessions for the curious to master classes for practicing artists, Freehold’s Studio offers an extraordinary range of disciplines and styles to help students develop a comprehensive understanding of theatre craft and acting. Over 100 Seattle Theatre professionals have given back to the community as Freehold Faculty. Some of our esteemed faculty over the years include: Jerry Manning, Y York, Bart Sher, Robin Lynn Smith, George Lewis, Brian Yorkey, Amy Wheeler, Kurt Beattie, Geof Alm, Timothy Piggee, Amy Thone, and Gin Hammond.

Charlie Rathbun from 4Culture extolled Freehold’s contributions recently:

“Freehold holds a unique place in the Seattle arts community, as a training ground for theater artists of all ages and experience, as a laboratory for experimentation, and as a critical touchstone for our region's thriving theater community. It is Seattle's only professional theater organization whose mission is directed not toward production and presentation, but toward the fundamental power of the performer and the depth of the theatrical experience.”

It is a privilege for us to do the work we do and to enrich and be enriched by others in the process. We concur with this comment from an inmate from the Monroe Correctional Complex who, after watching an Engaged Theatre performance, eloquently shared about how art can change lives:

“The problems his character’s have are not so different from my own. I reflected and was lost in the show for two hours. I left feeling alive and dreaming of the future. I left feeling validated as a man. I left with the beauty and softness inside that art creates. I left questioning myself in a good way. I was not alone. I have many friends who were similarly touched by the offer of your art. I think we all were starved for beauty. You gave that to us.”

We hope to see you on Friday, August 31st at the Mayor's Arts Award Ceremony at noon at the Seattle Center!

Freehold Faculty Members Upcoming Work

Sarah Harlett, Reggie Jackson, Annette Toutonghi will be performing in Freehold's Engaged Theatre Summer Tour of KING LEAR and directed by Robin Lynn Smith. Free public performances on July 2nd at 6:30 pm at Seward Park's Amphitheater and July 12, 13, 14 at 8:00 pm at Seattle University's Lee Center for the Arts and July 15 at 8:00 pm at Seattle University's Lee Center for the Arts. Reserve a free ticket here: KING LEAR.

Gin Hammond will be directing and performing in a show called Man Catches Fish, (a piece co-created with Freehold faculty and alums including George Lewis, Jessica Jobaris, Mark Lundsten, Phillip E. Mitchell, and Melissa Topscher). Performances will be in August in Nanaimo, B.C. as part of the second annual Fringetastic Festival. They hope to travel the show to the festival in Adelaide, Australia during the winter. More details at

Elizabeth Heffron's play Mitzi's Abortion will run July 12-25th, in Washington DC. See: Mitzi's Abortion. Elizabeth will also have a short radio play in the Sandbox Radio Live! 5: An Unexpected Twist, at West of Lenin, on July 23rd. Free tix available at The April podcast is now available for download at: Elizabeth's play BO-NITA was selected for the JAW Playwrights Festival, at Portland Center Stage, and will receive a staged reading on Friday, July 27th, directed by Braden Abraham. For more info, go to:

Darragh Kennan is performing in Seattle Shakespeare's As You Like It from May 30 - June 24. For more information: Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Paul Mullin recently received a 4Culture Individual Artist Project Grant to develop a new play dramatizing current scientific and philosophical investigations of human consciousness. The play is tentatively titled Philosophical Zombie Killers.

Amy Thone and Sarah Harlett will be in Upstart Crow's Titus Andronicus with Amy Thone playing the title role.

Matt Smith will be performing at the FringeNYC Festival this August, with All My Children. There will be five performances between August 14 & 26. Dates and locations to come.