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.