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 Arthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifs
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: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/251700
For more information: (206) 323-7499 http://www.freeholdtheatre.org

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 atpseattle.com

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 brownpapertickets.com. The April podcast is now available for download at: www.thesandboxac.org/podcast.html. 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: www.pcs.org/JAW/

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.

Facing Up to Things by Kevin McKeon

Somebody asked me recently what was my biggest fear.

Going to prison, I said. Which is true.

So when that same person asked me why I was acting in Freehold’s King Lear, that tours to, you know, institutions of a punitive nature, I said well, it’s King Lear. Good acting parts, right? Shakespeare is a real challenge. I said it with a little too much zest, maybe, a bit over the top. I protesteth a bit too much. And they could tell I wasn’t being totally honest. The truth is, at my age, it’s time to face up to the things that scare me, and diving in head first into dark water is probably the best way. Which is what I should have said.

But it also seems ridiculous, a trifle, in the face of the mammoth effort on everybody’s part to make a tour like this happen. I know the dedicated people at Freehold work like crazy to get this tour booked, and I also have the utmost respect and appreciation for the institutions that open their doors to this incredible program. The bottom line is - this is risky business for everyone. Nobody is playing it safe. So sign me up. Good medicine, good company. Risk is where it’s at.

And the fear quickly disperses once the audience is met. What at first seems an impenetrable wall of hardened gazes and tattoos quickly melts away once there is any type of interaction. Asked any kind of reaction or comment on the performance they witnessed, incarcerated people are the quickest to put their response in a personal context. They are the first to recognize subtext, identify motivations of the characters, and relate that to their own experience. They have no filter, either. They usually speak exactly what is on their minds. Nothing to lose, maybe, but everything to appreciate.

So my learning curve is immense and ongoing. During the Julius Caesar tour in 2010 I was fairly freaked out most of the time. At one point during a performance in a crowded gymnasium at a maximum security-type environment, I was certain a riot was going to break out any second (I checked; nobody else felt this way at all). It was all I could do to stay concentrated on Shakespeare, without waving my hands in the air, falling to my knees and saying something un-Shakespeare-like, like Why can’t we all just get along, or something. But the other actors (very good ones) were all out there being utterly professional, so I resisted.

There was no riot, but a lot of Shakespeare’s words were said that day. I hope some of them had resonance, made some lasting impression, before floating off, out beyond the walls. I hope some people inside remember that day, those words and pictures. Maybe somebody was affected by them. I guess this is really why we do it, isn’t it? If we’re going to be risky, put fears behind us, let’s hope it means something to somebody. And I know that the audiences this tour reaches have the greatest capacity to understand, to be moved, and to have compassion for the human condition. As I struggle to get beyond myself and my own issues, ‘prison’ in all its contexts and connotations, seems the best way to make me a better, more honest, more respectful person.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Freehold Class Experience by David Hogan

In January of 2012, I enrolled in John Jacobson’s film course for actors and directors at Freehold Theatre.

The class had an enrollment of 18, I believe. 6 directors and 12 actors. Actors were grouped into pairs, and matched with directors for scene work. During the course, I was able to shoot four scenes and work with three different directors. The scenes were rehearsed in class, where we (actors and directors) received instruction from Mr. Jacobsen. When we were not rehearsing scenes in class, we were reviewing and critiquing scene work (filmed off campus, typically), or enraptured by Mr. Jacobsen’s brilliant lectures on craft, technique, and film history.

As a professional actor, with 12 years of stage experience, I found this course highly informative, empowering, and inspirational. For me, the most powerful lessons learned were: pursuing a need, dealing with obstacles (internal and external), and the importance of understanding and living through the character’s evaluation and expectation. These lessons – foundational principles – informed my choices during my preparation of Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain, a show I did with Book-It Repertory Theatre shortly after the conclusion of the course. In the rehearsal, as Enzo, I found myself using what I had learned to class to drive my choices. I truly believe that having just come out of class (continue my training), helped me create a unique and celebrated character. At Freehold, not only did I learn new techniques which I could apply to my work on film, but my understanding and appreciation of foundational acting principles were refreshed and strengthened by Mr. Jacobsen’s instruction.

I could not recommend Mr. Jacobsen’s classes any higher.