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).